Sunday 21st August saw the close of the Summer Olympics 2016 now the hype has calmed down and tv has returned to its usual schedule and we have had a minute to reflect on the event. Honestly, it seems to me that there was so much scandal this year, more than I seem to remember from Olympics past. Was Rio 2016 the most contraversial yet?
In the months leading up to the games, the build up was less than spectacular to say the least and much like the Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014, lists of problems have surfaced which exceed the length of Greg Rutherfords long jump! We all remember the trending #SochiProbs well, Rio did not escape the scrutiny on social media and earnt itself it’s very own #RioProblems (Give it a search, there is some comedy value to be found there!)
In the run up, we heard reports fearing the spread of the Zika virus, infrastructure concerns, water pollution and financial crisis as Rio De Janeiro declared a state of financial emergency threatening the collapse of public services and much less their ability to honour Olympic commitments. This declaration was made with less than 50 days remaining before the start of the games.
It is fair to say though, that this state of apprehension seems to be a reoccurring theme with the Olympics which tends to subside once the games begin as the focus switches to the competitors, the games and any hints of scandalous activity. A cameo appearance from Vanderlei Cordeiro De Lima lighting the cauldron also ignites memory of previous Olympic game scandal.
One of the earliest reports from the games that I remember reading was Ryan Lochte being ‘robbed at gunpoint‘ – which as we know now did not happen but ironically, pre the start of the games the US said that their athletes were at risk due to the crime epidemic! The cheek hey!
It is not uncommon for reports to be focused on behind the scenes scandal such as that above or the Brazillian synchronized divers whose partnership is over as a result of a ‘marathon night of sex’, but taking into account the sheer size and scale of the games, it was inevitable that there were going to be some bouts of scandal spilling over to the main event. There were demonstrations of some extremely unsportsmanlike like conduct and sore losers.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be aware of at least some of the various political issues of late which undoubtedly reared their ugly heads from time to time. The Judo mat became a stage for a standoff of Middle East politics when Eygypt’s Judoka Islam El Shehabh refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Or Sasson. Aware of the fact that Judo does not require a handshake between opponents, the IOC felt that this went against the spirit of the games and was extremely unfriendly and thus the disrespectful act did not go unpunished, El Shehabh was consequently removed from Rio and reprimanded by the IOC, of course this followed from having already been booed by the spectators.
If only the crowd booing came to a halt in the Judo though, disappointingly this was not the case. French pole vault, silver medalist, Renaud Lavillenie was brought to tears as he took his place on the podium whilst being booed by the crowd for a second time in 24 hours merely for competing against the Brazilian pole vaulter. This is the 21st century and I am glad to hear that these actions were not condoned and they have been branded inappropriate and shockingly unacceptable worldwide. Fans have a big role within sport and proper etiquette needs to be maintained at all times, the onous of sportsmanlike conduct does not stop with the athlete.
Fortunately, this year we were also witness to some heroic acts of solidarity and unity. Sportsmen and Sportswomen are key figures of influence throughout many communities and it is not uncommon to see these figures leverage their positions to raise awareness to causes close to their hearts. Thankfully, there were some class act athletes who highlighted how to approach such issues in a respectable manner.
Feyisa Lilesa was seen finishing his race with his arms in the air. Initially, many passed this off as a gesture of celebration when in actuality, this gesture demonstrates solidarity with the people of Oromos. A very powerful but very appropriate and peaceful way of using the Olympics to insight widespread awareness of the Oromos protest and political crackdown.
If are not aware of the fact that North & South Korea have been and are technically, still at conflict where have you been?! Rio saw that the conflict was completely disregarded by artistic gymnasts Hong Un-Jong and Lee Eun-ju from North and South Korea asthe two captured a moment of unity in a selfie which has been hailed as representing the spirit of the games.
As the games progressed, the vibes continued to shift and we became inundated with heartwarming photos and stories of support and encouragement.
Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agastino were awarded the Pierre de Coubertin award, also known as the International Fair Play Trophy, which has only been awarded 17 times throughout all Olympic history. During their race they collided and both fell to the ground, Nikki stayed back to pick Abbey up and make sure they finished the race. The committee felt that this display of Olympic spirit needed to be acknowledged and rewarded and what better way than with such a rare, prestigious trophy.
At the close of the games there had been falls on tracks and fall outs off the tracks, athletes had been booed, pool water turned green, emergency services greeted athletes and spectators alike holding ‘welcome to hell’ signs at the airport, the stands were half empty, the food was terrible, there were incorrectly oriented flags and unidentified music in place of Nigerias national anthem needless to say Rio left us with plenty to talk about! Was it controversial? Absolutely. Was it scandalous? Absolutely. Did the controversies add to the event? Absolutely.
Regardless of opinion as to whether it was the most controversial Olympics to date or not, people will soon forget antics from the likes of Bolt’s celebrations with female companions and the iconic sentiments of the acts of bravery and sportsmanship that unfolded in Rio will undoubtedly resonate throughout the years to come.
P.S. huge shout out to team GB bringing home a whopping 67 medals 27 of which were gold! Go team.
Also a quick shout out to the Fiji Rugby team for winning the country’s first ever gold medal!