Archive for the ‘Rio Olympics’ Category

Rio-A Review from the Leather Chair.

Monday, September 5th, 2016

I am the first to admit that I was one of those doom and gloom merchants who predicted that the Rio Olympics would end in tears because of water pollution, lack of security, empty seats, doping crisis and touting scandal. Thankfully I was wrong and notwithstanding a few glitches, it proved to be a roaring success particularly if you happen to be a Brit.

Firstly congratulations to Osain Bolt and Michael Phelps for confirming that they are two of the greatest Olympians ever. Swimming events are too similar in my book which enables swimmers of Phelps’ caliber to win a shed full of medals which is almost impossible in any other sport, but nevertheless I don’t wish to denigrate his fantastic achievement of 23 gold medals over 5 Olympic Games.

I watched my first event on the first full day of competition which was the men’s  road cycle race. Now cycling is not my idea of sports entertainment, but I was awe struck by the spine tingling downhill finale to the finishing line with cyclists exceeding speeds of 60pmh. There were several casualties on the descent which made it more intensive viewing.

Almaz Ayana blew me away when she won the ladies’ 10000 metres breaking the world record by 14 seconds. British rowers got the ball rolling for their team with a couple of gold medals preparing the way for a total of 67 medals (27 gold) by Team GB. Justin Rose proved to be a class act winning gold in the men’s golf tournament. The Brownlee brothers, who sound as if they are characters from W E Johns’ “Biggles” books, won gold and silver in the men’s triathlon.

Andy Murray successfully defended his Olympic title in the men’s tennis tournament, and Nick Skelton competing in his seventh Olympics finally won an individual gold medal in the Equestrian event at the spritely age of 58.

Amongst the sporting extravaganza, we were entertained by a narrative twist. Pre-Games, the US media warned how their athletes were at risk from Brazil’s crime epidemic; Post-Games, US officials apologized after four US athletes made up a story about Rio gun crime as cover for vandalizing a gas station for their night out . A US statement condemned “lapses in judgment and conduct”.

Back to  Olympic action, American gymnasts provided breath taking athleticism on a range of apparatus. How on earth could Monica Biles perform back flips on a beam only 4 inches wide? I had trouble simply standing on the damn thing when I was a pimply teenager in secondary school. Maybe it was the acne that put me out of whack. Kudos also to Matthew Whitlock, the first British gymnast to win a gold medal in gymnastics, and to prove it was no fluke he won a second gold for good measure.

There were many other firsts for the British team in Rio. The ladies hockey team won an inaugural gold by defeating defending champions Holland after an exciting and exhilarating penalty shoot out. The mercurial Mo Farah defended his 5000 and 10000 metres titles surviving a fall in the longer race. Even so, I wish he wouldn’t act like a dick head  when he’s crossed the finishing line.

Speaking of dick heads, Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, attacked Rio organizers for taking no action over foreign fans booing Russian athletes (most of whom were banned for drug taking) – accusing officials of failing to uphold Olympic integrity. Mutko said crowds were “not sporting” and must be controlled. “Organizers must protect the competition, and the competitors.”

In contrast a Fiji police spokesperson adopted a relaxed view during the public meltdown that followed their rugby sevens gold: “there is disruption on the roads, congestion, it’s chaos here. But, ah-we’re unconcerned.”

Quote of the Games came from an exasperated official, Mario Andrada. Explaining why organizers couldn’t be expected to just fix the green water in the pool overnight: “Chemistry is not an exact science.”

The sporting moment of the Games, exemplifying the true spirit of the Olympics, was Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino helping each other finish the 5,000m. Hamblin: “When I went down it was like: ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?’. And suddenly there’s this hand on my shoulder, like: ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this!’ A little later than expected, but I have finished this post too.

It’s Olympic Time Again

Friday, August 5th, 2016

It’s difficult to comprehend that it’s four years since Britain won a record haul of medals at the London Olympics. As I write this piece, the opening ceremony to the Rio Games is less than two hour away. And yet the Olympics are already shrouded in controversy.

Some of the star golfers, Spieth, Johnson, Day, and McIlroy  pulled out of  the Games because of concerns over the Zika virus and an apparent lack of security in one of the World’s most dangerous cities. The Russian track and field team are banned from the Games because of drug and substance abuse, but the IOC in their infinite wisdom decided to leave the fate of other Russian participants to the individual Sport’s Governing Bodies who promptly decided to allow Russians to participate in all the other sports.

Participants in water sports such as sailing, rowing and canoeing could be at severe risk since Rio’s sewage system is pumped directly into the ocean. It sounds mela dramatic, but it was reported that body parts were recently washed up near the beach volleyball venue. It was also determined that the air quality would not meet the standards of the Western World.

Two or three athletes were mugged in the Olympic Village, and yesterday a Moroccan boxer was arrested for attempting to rape two chambermaids in the Village. Meanwhile Team GB athletes have banned Brazilian cleaners from entering their rooms after kit was stolen.

A Greek athlete has been expelled after failing a drugs test, and Olympic athletes from several nations have posted videos in the internet showing horrendous conditions inside the Olympic Village. It’s not surprising then that the multi-millionaires of USA’s Dream Team (basketball) have chosen to stay on a luxury cruise ship moored in Rio Harbor.

Day one of competition is yet to begin and we already have had sufficient drama to provide material for the complete works of Shakespeare, a Greek Tragedy and a British “Carry On.” Indeed it is a farce. The Olympic competitors are mere pawns in what has become a giant financial circus; lining the pockets of drug barons, media moguls and fat cats in the financial capitals of the world.

It was rumored that Brazilian football legend, Pele, would light the Olympic flame, but he has declined the invitation due to ill health which is very convenient, so has not to tarnish his reputation with this debacle. Another significant individual who will not be present at the Opening Ceremony is Brazil’s President. She is currently suspended from office facing impeachment over allegations she manipulated the Government budget.

But despite the pollution, security issues, muggings, and allegations of sexual harassment, the IOC has buried its head in the sand of the beach volley ball court, and declared that the event is to celebrate ecology, diversity and joy. Fingers crossed, let’s hope we are not counting body bags on a daily basis.