The Rio games, being held in a country still reeling from a defacto coup (by neo-liberals against a left wing President) and a depressed economy, isn’t quite going according to plan. From the diving pools turning green, sinks falling apart in the Olympic village, traffic and transport problems (they bused people from one venue to a metro station, only for it to shut by the time spectators arrived trapping them in the middle of no where!), etc. At least nobody’s come down with Zika thought…..yet!
And of course there’s also been several controversy’s about the running of the games. The road during the cycling proved to be dangerously slippy, doubly so when it started raining. One of the athletic heats had to be re-run (due to heavy rain, it was obvious that the initial run should have been called off). And more recently there have been some questionable disqualifications in both the men’s and women’s 10 km swim.
And of course this all before we talk about arguably the two major issues, the Russians and many empty seats. We’ll talk about the seats first. While the Rio organisers have tried to put a brave face on it, claiming the bulk of tickets were “sold”, anyone with a pair of eyes will have seen the large blocks of empty seats, even for events like the 100m final or the finals of the swimming events.
Now the IOC will probably argue that they are trying to introduce new sports to a different part of the world, there’s never been an Olympics in South America. However, I would question how it was that they could not do something, e.g. give tickets away to the sporting federations for these individual sports. Alternatively, just lower ticket prices to make them affordable to anyone, even if you have to charge just a penny (Ryanair style pricing), perhaps even give them away for free. Or maybe they fear the boys from the Favela’s getting in and holding up a medal ceremony!
One suspects the bulk of those empty seats are in fact corporate allocations . However, scared of the high crime rates and Zika, the hob nober set got given tickets, but then decided not to show up. In truth what these empty seats expose is how the decision to award the Olympics to Rio was a decision made in smoke filled rooms, with the aid of brown envelopes. It was never about the sport, no more than letting the Russians compete was about doping, but about politics and privilege. An opportunity for the elites to show off….and make a bit of money during the building of facilities (that will likely be empty and derelict in a few months time).
There are many theories about the Green pool. Mine is that one of the Russians just dropped their drugs in it. Of all the Russians to participate none was more controversial than Yulia Efimova (previously convicted of doping, recall that the Russian whistle blower was denied the opportunity to compete for this very reason). Her excuse? Oh why Michael Phelp’s has been caught taking drugs too. Which is true, he did once indulge in some hash (outside of competition)…..a known performance dis-enhancing drug.
Personally, I think any athlete who wins more than 4 medals should be required to smoke a spliff before competing in any event, to give the other athletes a chance! It would certainly make things interesting…..particularly when you consider what would happen in the dressage!
If there’s any group of Russians who we can be sure aren’t doping its their divers….who managed to both get zero…maybe they found Phelp’s secret stash? Jokes aside tho, if anyone thinks that doping begins and ends with the Russians, you are very naïve. And while I hate to be a party pooper, but of the events the UK is currently doing well in, rowing, cycling, the power events, these have been the very sports rife with doping in the past.
It worth keeping in mind that the amount a gold medal winning athlete can make is not small, there’s few gold medallists who won’t be millionaires (if they aren’t already) through prize money and product endorsements. With that much money at stake, not only is it no surprise that doping is going on, athletes should be practically throwing themselves over the line…..and funnily enough the 400m women’s race was won by an athlete diving across the line. And a little earlier another athlete qualified for the next round of an event by also throwing himself over the finish line.
I’ve seen this happen often enough at athletic events over the years, to believe its not a coincidence, its an attempt to gain unsportsman like advantage, while remaining within the letter of the law. And one has to note that if this is what’s going on its very dangerous. Runners can be going 30-40 kmph by the time they finish, crashing to the ground at those speeds is risky (I know cyclists who’ve ended up in hospital after falling at half that speed….and they had a helmet on!). Its just a matter of time before someone tries this and winds up splitting their skull open in front of a live TV audience.
So there is a need I’d argue for a rule change. That an athlete must be on their feet when they cross the line. There is a precedence here, many sports ban certain manoeuvres that could be dangerous (e.g. certain types of moves are banned in the fighting events as they could result in serious injury). In horse racing, the result is only considered official if the rider is still on the horse when it crosses the line. So a simple rule change would nip this trend in the bud.