Exclusive: Secret judging scandal rocks Beijing 2022.

Exclusive: The world’s best freestyle skiers and snowboarders are in shock after learning that judges have been using a hidden category to decide the medallists at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

Anonymous sources have revealed that judges have been been rating competitors according to how many social media followers they each have, in addition to Progression, Amplitude, Variety, Execution and Difficulty, in events such as Ski and Snowboard Big Air, Slopestyle and Halfpipe.

“Judges have been scoring competitors according to their popularity on social media,” revealed a spokesperson for judges, on condition of strict anonymity.

“After tallying their scores for the five standard categories, judges then add the number of followers each athlete has on the major social media platforms, in order to create the final score, which then determines the medal winners.”

The judge explained that the secret category was added in Beijing for many reasons, the most salient being that freestyle skiing and snowboarding are sustained by social media.

“Freestyle events like Big Air, Slopestyle and Halfpipe are all devoted to image – just like social media itself. Thus, adding social media presence to the judging criteria was a natural progression.”

Judges reportedly search for athlete profiles on Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat and, to a lesser extent Facebook, before the competition. As the event is being held in China, greater emphasis is being placed on an athlete’s presence on Tik Tok, and Chinese social media site Weibo.

“Do you think Eileen Gu won gold based on her jumps alone?” suggested the judge in hushed tones.

Gu has about 2 million followers on Weibo, and 147,000 plus on Tik Tok, which is Chinese owned and known as Douyin.

Judges also confessed that they welcomed the addition of the new category, which has stunned those within the sports.

“It gives us a way to distinguish between each run,” they admitted.

“Let’s face it, every athlete is basically doing the same trick, one after the other, so this way we can more objectively score the athletes. Assessing a snowboarder’s Cork 720 Mute against another’s is actually quite complicated.”

Judges initially attempted to sneak in a new category in the women’s events. Points were to be deducted if the athlete didn’t have two strands of hair cascading down her face from under her helmet.

“This might be, maybe, possibly, potentially… why Tess Coady only won bronze in Slopestyle. Maybe,” suggested a judge.

“But virtually every woman was doing it, so it didn’t help us to differentiate. Thus, the natural solution was to use social media popularity, which is more objective – you either have 700,000 Instagram followers or you don’t.”

Athletes and team officials are horrified at the subterfuge of event organisers, and have taken to social media to express their anger and demand answers from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Federation internationale de ski (FIS) and Beijing 2022 organisers.

The governing bodies were reluctant to comment, but did say that if they had told athletes and officials of the new category prior to the games, athletes would have simply ‘bought’ more followers for their respective accounts.

Judges decided to take the risk of revealing this highly-classified information in order to assist young people aiming for gold at future wintersports competitions.

“Kids, get out the camera,” they declared.

“Get out the GoPro and the selfie stick, and film everything.”

“Film yourself at the halfpipe, on the jumps, at the park. Film yourself on the way to and from the park, film up and down the chairlift and to and from the slopes. Post about your favourite outfits, music, food, shoes, TV series – everything, even film your dog. Then like, poke, share, retweet, comment and subscribe like crazy”

“Because if you don’t, you’ll never win freestyle gold.”

Australia kicked out of Olympic Winter Games.

The Australian Olympic Winter Games team is in disarray after the the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forced it out of Beijing 2022 on the eve of competition.

Athletes, coaches and team officials were thrown out of the athletes village and onto planes bound for Australia just hours before the official opening ceremony, due to the appointment of Hancock Prospecting as a major sponsor of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC)

“Gina Rinehart and the mining activities of Hancock Prospecting threaten the very existence of the Olympic Winter Games,” began a brief statement from the IOC.

“Rinehart’s enormous fossil fuel mining and cattle farming businesses are major drivers of climate change. The subsequent accelerated warming is melting ice caps and creating less snow throughout the world.”

“Without snow, there is no Olympic Winter Games.”

The decision to announce Hancock Prospecting as the major sponsor of Australian Olympic teams until 2026 does not sit well with the IOC, and for this reason the Australian team was ordered out of the village, and out of the games. The governing body also disagrees with the decision to award Rinehart an Order of Australia (AO) in the recent Australia Day honours.

“The sponsorship arrangement also covers the Pacific Games in 2023, though there may not be many Pacific Island nations left in 2023 if Hancock Prospecting continues its climate destroying practices,” continued the statement.

The shock announcement denies any Australian athlete the opportunity to compete at the games, including those with realistic medal chances. The AOC was given no opportunity to appeal the decision.

International media has already highlighted the fact that the majority of the snow at Beijing 2022 is man-made.

“If the climate crisis continues, even man-made snow will not suffice for winter sports,” continued the IOC spokesperson. “Man-made snow is only effective if the ground is cold enough. If not, the snow simply melts, and conditions resemble late season skiing in Australia.”

The decision means that the Australian Olympic Committee is also banned from sending athletes to future competitions such as the summer and winter versions of the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games.

Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates refused to comment of the sudden decision, explaining that he was waiting for Gina to tell him what to say. Meanwhile, Minster for Sport Richard Colbeck said the decision was of no major concern, because Australia wins so few medals at such events compared to other countries, such as China and The USA, that Australia shouldn’t bother competing in the games at all. Plus, he prefers cricket.

Rinehart, meanwhile, was unfazed at the announcement and its motivation.

“Personally, I couldn’t care less if some young Aussie kid wins a medal for twirling themselves up in the air on a snowboard. I only threw some of my pocket money at this to keep sports-mad Aussies under my spell, and to stop them from forcing the government to take real action on climate change.

“It’s amazing what you can do to the Aussie people if you pretend to like sport.”

Image: Patrick Hamilton

Sunbaking to Debut at Brisbane 2032

Sunbaking will make its Olympic debut at Brisbane 2032 and residents of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are expected to scoop the medals. Sunbaking is the first new sport to be added to the program after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared it an official sport.

“We are enormously excited to add this popular Australian tradition to the program for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games,” began a statement from the IOC. “The decision to classify sunbaking as a sport was made after reviewing images of thousands of people sunbaking without masks at Bondi, Coogee and Bronte during Sydney’s recent COVID-19 lockdown.”

Residents throughout Greater Sydney were required to wear a face mask every time they left the house during the extended lockdown, except when exercising or for religious reasons,

“…confirming that Australians are sun worshippers, which provides further reason to include the sport.”

The IOC sought advice from former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard, as well as Waverley and Randwick councils, all of whom allowed people to sunbake without masks, congregate in groups and flaunt the rules that applied to other areas of Greater Sydney. This helped greatly to sway the IOC.

Eastern Suburbs residents are already favoured to sweep the medals, even though the games are 11 years away.

“The eastern suburbs region is blessed with wonderful beaches which are the perfect training ground for elite international sunbakers,” explained Itan Allova, the newly-appointed high-performance director at Sunbaking Australia, which will be based at Bondi Beach.

“Local sunbakers also enjoy the support of regional authorities who allow them to train every time the mercury rises, even when residents of other parts of Greater Sydney are locked out of these specialised training facilities.”

The announcement is expected to attract even more people to local beaches in the coming months as Sydneysiders seize the opportunity to represent their nation at a home Olympics. Sunbaking is open to all ages, shapes and sizes, including children, meaning some sunbakers in Brisbane could be even younger than the skateboarders.

Sunbaking will take place alongside Surfing and Beach Volleyball, creating the historic opportunity for an athlete to win gold medals in separate sports at exactly the same time.

Competitors will be judged according to criteria such as consistency of tan, depth of tan and avoidance of tan lines. Sunbakers exhibiting signs of sunburn, or the British Tan, will be eliminated, and use of performance enhancing substances such as tanning oils is prohibited.

Critics argue the inclusion of Sunbaking discriminates against people from landlocked nations, and even residents of western Sydney or the Blue Mountains who live miles from the beach, to which the IOC replied:

“Well, we included Surfing.”

Image: Apostolos Vamvouras

First published in The Beast magazine, November 2021

Are LGBTQIA+ people being exploited?

Embracing the LGBTQIA+ community is trending. Corporations, governments, organisations and high profile individuals in Australia are embracing or being seen to embrace people from this community. This is a sign of a fairer and more equitable world, but is it also an example of exploitation?

Are LGBTQIA+ people being used by organisations to improve their public image or to distract the public from the organisations failings in other areas?

Why would they do this?

Support for inclusion and diversity is trending. Organisations seen to support the cause can position themselves as responsible corporate or social citizens, especially if they can successfully publicise this support. The organisation is less likely to be labelled unethical, and can also use inclusion and diversity to distract the public from their unethical or questionable practices in other areas – unethical practices which are destructive to society, including the LGBTQIA+ community.

AGL

AGL is an Australian energy company with one claim to fame: it is Australia’s biggest polluter. Australia is one of the world’s biggest polluters. AGL epitomises the exploitation of the LGBTQIA+ community for Public Relations (PR) purposes and distraction.

The AGL website states that:

“In 2014, AGL implemented a LGBTQ+ Inclusion Strategy, and in 2015 we were rated as one of the best performing first-time entrants to the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI). Our employee-driven LGBTQ+ network, AGL Shine, was created in 2014.

In September 2015, AGL announced our support for marriage equality in Australia. Our position was strongly endorsed by the AGL Board, our senior management, and AGL Shine members.”

What exactly is involved in supporting marriage equality?

Posting a message on the company’s official platforms stating support of marriage equality. Not particularly difficult. AGL made the statement in 2015, when the movement had gained such strong momentum that same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia in 2016. Hardly groundbreaking or brave.

The statement continues:

“In 2020, we were proud to be awarded Gold Employer status for LGBTQ+ inclusion at the AWEI Awards. This is the third year we have been awarded Gold Employer status.”

How hard it is to promote inclusion and diversity?

Including people of diverse backgrounds essentially means treating people fairly.

How much does inclusion and diversity cost?

To have been continually awarded for inclusion, the company must have made some financial investment.

How much does transitioning to renewable energy cost?

In the short term, a lot. In the long term, AGL would apparently make a profit because the global economy is embracing renewable technology. Convincing shareholders to invest in diversity and inclusion seems much easier than convincing them to invest in renewable energy. AGL is a business and bases all of its decisions on profits. Transitioning to clean energy is undoubtedly more expensive in the short term than embracing the LGBTQIA+ community.

Interestingly, while AGL was publicly supporting marriage equality, it made a deliberate decision not to transition to renewable energy. The company had apparently appointed a new boss in 2015, who was tasked with overseeing a move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. However, pressure from the then Minister for the Environment, Josh Frydenberg, convinced the company to reject clean energy sources and continue burning fossil fuels.

AGL wins considerable social credibility and brand enhancement through its inclusion polices and support for marriage equality, at exactly the same time that it actively rejects a transition to renewable energy.

Coincidence?

AFL

The Australian Football League runs the premier Australian Rules football competition in the country and is well-known for its support of LGBTQIA+ people. It has held a ‘Pride’ round since 2016 to promote inclusion and diversity.

The AFL is more public in its support of this issue than other major sporting codes, and this could be motivated by honest intentions or by its commitment to its women’s competition, AFLW, in which many players are openly gay. Cynics might argue that the governing body is chasing the pink dollar, but that criticism is not constructive.

Interestingly, despite having held a Pride round since 2016, not one male AFL player has come out as gay. Are there any gay AFL players?

The AFL appears sincere in its acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, is the organisation equally sincere in its attempts to tackle racism and misogyny? The AFL also holds an Indigenous round (since 2008) and claims to embrace women, not just those involved in the ALFW.

However, just days before this article was written, a popular AFL player, Taylor Walker, was outed for a racist comment during an Aussie Rules football game, and his public apology was widely criticised as inadequate. This followed revelations earlier in 2021 of widespread racism within the Collingwood Magpies club, one of the nation’s biggest, as well as the brutal racism directed at former player Adam Goodes. The racist attacks on Goodes were so vicious, incessant and damaging that they forced him to quit the sport, and they spurned two documentaries.

Treatment of women within the AFL is also far from ideal. Numerous players have been found guilty of misogyny, harrassment and even assault of women, and this history of toxic masculinity is documented in The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.

Thus, the AFL has failed to sufficiently address issues of toxic masculinity and racism, but derives positive publicity from its support of the LGBTQIA+ community.

IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was praised for its decision to allow an Australian female Rugby 7s player to wear headgear with a rainbow coloured design. The rainbow design promoted awareness and acceptance of issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, and commentators explained that the Australian player was given ‘permission’ by the IOC to wear the protective equipment with that particular design.

According to media reports:

“Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman threw his support behind the celebration and Williams for lodging the request.

“It’s wonderful for our athletes to celebrate their identity as well as promote all of our Olympic sports as safe and inclusive,” Mr Chesterman said.

“I’d like to thank the IOC for their support in allowing Sharni to wear the headgear and thank Sharni for sharing her story with us during the games.”

The IOC has been the subject of countless articles and documentaries questioning its ethics and accusing it of bullying and rampant corruption. Furthermore, Olympic athletes are given strict and detailed instructions to refrain from any form of protest or activism on any issue at any time during the games. But, they let a rugby player wear rainbow headgear.

Tiwi Islands Mardi Gras

The Tiwi Islands lie to the north of Darwin and are home to Indigenous Australian communities. In 2017, 30 Tiwi Sistagirls, or transgender women, travelled to Sydney to take part in their first ever Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The inclusion was hailed as a victory for the Sistagirls and the LGBTQIA+ community in general. The inaugural journey received widespread media coverage and many organisations associated themselves publicly with this event. They could be accused of jumping on the bandwagon (or float).

Some of these organisations, including government departments, are responsible for solving many of the problems which plague remote communities such as those on the Tiwi Islands. These problems include societal decay, low life expectancy, loss of language and culture, drug and alcohol abuse, poor school attendance, violence, incarceration, unemployment, poor literacy and numeracy, and discrimination.

If the mainstream media and organisations celebrate the participation of Tiwi people in Mardi Gras, does it create the impression that life is improving on the Tiwi Islands and for Indigenous Australians in general? Does it distract Australians from the reality of life for Indigenous Australians and the need to do something about it?

Furthermore, how hard is it to get Tiwi Islanders to Mardi Gras? How hard is it to book a few flights and hotel rooms?

How hard is it to effect real change in Indigenous communities? Apparently very difficult. According to Pat Turner, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, only two of six Closing The Gap (CTG) targets were on track: early education and Year 12 attainment.

This means that after 12 years since the release of the first CTG report, little or no progress has been made in areas such as child mortality, employment, life expectancy and education.

Once again, it could be said that LGBTQI+ people are being used to distract the public from the failures of various organisations.

Supporting LGBTQIA+ rights is important. It is a question of equality and fairness. It should not be exploited for positive PR by organisations seeking to distract the public from their unethical or incompetent practices in other areas, or to shield the organisation from public criticism.

Image: Vector Stock

IOC announces new sport on eve of Tokyo games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has added Jousting to its official program in an effort to ensure the Tokyo 2021 games are completely COVID-safe.

“Jousting makes a welcome addition to the Olympic family,” read a statement from the IOC.

“We are very excited to add the ancient sport to the Equestrian program and did so for one very good reason: social distancing. Jousters will not pass within 1.5 metres of each other while competing because if they did, they would be smashed with a jousting stick and fall off their horse. In this way, Jousting is very much an extension of Fencing – a very long extension.”

“The sport forms the centrepiece of our COVID-safe games and it will not replace an existing sport. Jousters wear harnesses, or armour, which helps stop the potential spread of infection, and if they sneeze, they will sneeze straight into their full-face helmet and not onto anyone else.”

Jousters will compete on horses supplied to them, as all horses must have been in Japan for at least 12 months prior to competition, in line with strict quarantine rules. Riding a new and unknown horse is expected to add to the unpredictability and excitement of the event. Competitors, meanwhile, are ready to make their Olympic Games debut despite the very short notice.

“The IOC scoured the web for historical medieval re-enactment societies to find jousters, and the response was overwhelming. Jousters from all over the world immediately completed the application form and contacted their respective National Olympic Committees. Some even had patriotic medieval uniforms already made, and we look forward to seeing these on display in Tokyo.”

“Our other new sports also encourage social distancing. Skateboarders compete one at a time, sport climbers do not share the same rock wall, and surfers will never come together, as any elite surfer knows never to drop in.

Golf is largely risk free, because players can clean their ball at every tee, and sports such as Archery and Shooting are also guaranteed to be COVID-safe, because no one will get too close to a competitor carrying a deadly weapon.”

Traditional sports such as Boxing and the martial arts disciplines do present some challenges, the spokesperson conceded.

“Governing bodies and the IOC are still discussing a proposal to have wrestlers compete naked, like in the ancient Olympics, but to cover themselves in sanitising gel instead of essential oils. Boxers will coat their gloves in sanitiser before their match and between rounds.

Relay runners at Athletics will pass through a mist machine containing disinfectant at each baton change. In this way, the baton is sanitised before being passed to the next runner. High Jump and Pole Vault mats will be coasted in sanitiser, as will the bar. Likewise, throwers will select one Putt, Discus, Hammer or Javelin in round 1, write their name on it, and use the same one throughout the competition.

Rowing will see some changes. The 8’s become the 4’s, and the 4’s becomes the pairs and so on, because rowers must leave one seat between themselves and other competitors, just like on public transport. We’re certainly not expecting any world records in this sport, especially since the cox will be a robot instead of a person.”

The extended statement from the IOC then outlined further changes to existing Olympic sports amid the global pandemic.

“Handball poses a problem, even if just for the name itself. Meanwhile, a handball in Football will now result in an automatic red card and two week period of self-isolation for the offending player.

Water Polo will be played in pools so heavily chlorinated competitors will feel like they’re in a swimming lesson during an English winter, while Rhythmic Gymnastics coaches will use Super Soakers to spray the apparatus with disinfectant every time the gymnast throws it into the air.”

The spokesperson also conceded that Modern Pentathlon gives little cause for concern, not just because the 5 sports are all individual.

“It’s because nobody watches the event anyway.”

The biggest risk of transmission at any international multi-sport event is, of course, the athletes village. Asked what specific protocols will be implemented to separate the world’s fittest, healthiest, most athletically-gifted young people from all over the globe, the spokesperson replied:

“We’re not going to bother…”

Image: Vladimir Wrangel

Politicians demand mental health leave.

Politicians throughout the world are demanding fully-paid mental health leave after learning that they cannot attend the Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games due to COVID-19 restrictions. Politicians are distraught that they cannot enjoy free holidays to attend the games, as strict bio-security protocols restrict entry into Japan of non-essential personnel.

Politicians the world over are demanding at least one month paid mental health leave to recover from the distressing news that they cannot enjoy the quadrennial junket.

“Politicians need support and understanding at this difficult time,” read a statement form the International Organisation for Politicians (IOP).

“Their worlds have been turned upside down by the news that they cannot attend the Olympic Games or Paralympic Games and enjoy free travel, accommodation, dining and tickets to witness the world’s best athletes. This is a very trying time for politicians and they ask for their subjects’ understanding and support in this hour of need. That support includes paid mental health leave.”

The IOP explained that the Olympic Games are not just a free holiday for the world’s leaders, but a rare and important branding exercise.

“Only every four years (in this case five) do politicians enjoy such an opportunity to bolster their personal brand in such a manner. Only every four years can they photograph and associate themselves with the world’s greatest athletes in order to raise their own standing in the eyes of the public – whether the athletes like it or not.”

“Only every four years can politicians align their brand with principles of dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, discipline, honesty, teamwork and success. Consequently, politicians order their staff to seek out any photo opportunity with a gold medallist from their own country, or a respected athlete from any country. Political staff are also instructed to scour social media for all and any opportunity to like, tag or link to any athlete displaying the founding principles of the Olympic Games. Of course, social media links can be created from anywhere in the world, but a live photo opportunity with a newly-minted national hero offers much greater benefits to the politician, and it is impossible to find so many elite athletes all in the one place except at an Olympic event.”

The IOP also explained that leaders will miss more than just the photo opportunities.

“Networking is another important role of the Olympic Games. IOC sponsors include some of the world’s largest and most wealthy corporations, and the games provide countless functions at which politicians can secure lucrative post-political consultancy roles.”

“Furthermore, they will miss out on the first-class flights and luxury accommodation. They will miss out on dining at the finest restaurants and being chaperoned from one glamorous function to the next during their stay. They will be denied the chance to feel important, and to collect an assortment of gift bags containing so much swag they need another taxpayer-funded jet just to carry it all home.”

IOC to pay every single worker at 2032 Olympic Games.

Queensland is anticipating a massive jobs boom after the International Olympic Committee announced it will replace volunteer positions with paid positions at the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are expected to be held in Brisbane.

“The Olympic Games cannot take place without a volunteer workforce,” announced the IOC.

“For many years this global sporting festival has taken advantage of the kind-hearted, patriotic and dedicated people of host cities to conduct the events, and to make the IOC one of the wealthiest organisations in the world. In 2032, this will change. Our organisation will draw upon its considerable wealth to pay every single person who works at the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.”

The shock decision means the IOC will no longer reward volunteers with only a garish uniform, free public transport, free tickets to unpopular events and a certificate signed by a random politician.

The Queensland government, meanwhile, is already boasting of record high employment levels.

“We haven’t officially been awarded the games yet,” announced Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, “but no other city seems interested in spending billions of dollars during a global pandemic, so we’re assuming we’ve won the rights to host. The IOC offer means jobs and growth for Brisbane and Queensland, and we welcome the games with open arms into our wonderful state and city.”

The monumental decision means that wages will be awarded to people carrying out tasks such as handing out uniforms and accreditation, directing crowds at train stations, manning information booths and collecting athletes sweaty uniforms, including those who work the entire games without seeing a single athlete or sporting contest.

Queenslanders who volunteered at events such as the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, and even the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, rushed to social media in response to the announcement. They also flooded government websites with questions about pay, conditions and the application process. The most common question, however, was,

“Do we still get to keep the uniforms?”

Winter Olympic Games to be held in The Middle East.

The International Olympic Committee has made the astounding announcement that the 2030 Winter Olympic Games will be held in the desert, with Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE to co-host the first edition of the games to take place nowhere near a mountain.

When asked to explain the shock decision, the IOC stated bluntly,

“The world will run out of snow.”

“Climate change is warming the globe and melting snow and ice throughout the world, as well as making weather patterns unpredictable. Accurate scientific evidence tells us that there will not be enough deep natural snow on any of the world’s peaks in the near future. As a result, the IOC has been forced to move the prestigious event indoors where athletes will compete on man-made snow.”

The Gulf States were chosen to host the historic sporting event because they already have indoor winter sports facilities such as ice rinks and ski slopes. In addition, their main revenue source, oil, has contributed greatly to the climate crisis which has rendered outdoor competition impossible.

Indoor winter sports venues emulating Ski Dubai will be built throughout the host nations to cater for the vast array of sports which now comprise the Winter Olympic program. Some disciplines, however, look set to be scrapped from the games forever.

The change in venue will not affect sports such as Ice Hockey, Figure Skating, Short Track, Speed Skating and Curling as they already take place indoors, but it will have major implications for the remaining disciplines.

“We have received assurance that Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton will still go ahead,” stated the spokesperson. “The roller coasters that are found in some shopping malls in this part of the world will be reconfigured to hold the sleighs used in these disciplines, allowing spectators to watch the competition from the food court.”

The IOC is also working with the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the host nations to construct suitable indoor venues for disciplines such as Aerial Skiing and Moguls, Ski and Snowboard Cross and Halfpipe, as well as snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom.

“Slopestyle may have to take place on the sand dunes,” conceded the spokesperson, “but at least it offers competitors an entirely new aesthetic for their Instagram posts.”

And what of the future of Big Air?

“Depends how big the airs are.”

Other traditional Winter Olympic disciplines face huge challenges as a result of the climate change induced move to the Middle East. Cross Country Skiing events and biathlon will be carried out on loop courses of 1 kilometre in length, meaning competitors in the 50km Cross Country race will be going round and round and round…

Biathlon competitors, meanwhile, will be forced to complete multiple laps of the 15 metre-long penalty loop every time they miss a target, reminiscent of athletes training during COVID-19 lockdown.

Alpine skiers who excel in the technical forms of the sport, such as Slalom and Giant Slalom, will notice little change to their events, except that they will take place indoors.

Downhill and Super G racers will unfortunately have to look for another sport.

“None of the venues will be tall enough to host a Downhill or Super G race,” stated organisers, “…and you can’t ski down the Burj Khalifa (yet)”

The IOC and FIS had initially considered simply starting downhill races further up mountains to find snow, but this proved unfeasible for many reasons.

“By 2030 snow will be found only on the very, very high mountains and the altitude will harm athletes who are already pushing their bodies to the limit. Also, electronic timing equipment may not work at such heights and the weather is a lot more extreme and unpredictable. Furthermore, chairlifts do not reach these heights, and nobody wants to ride a T Bar for that long. In addition helicopters used in broadcasting and medical emergencies can only fly so high”

As a result, downhill and Super G races will cease to exist in 2030 and beyond.

Critics of the plan argue the organisers should have simply used man-made snow on existing slopes, but organisers reminded them that snowmaking only works when the ground is cold enough.

“Global warming and climate change is heating the ground, so any man-made snow would simply melt, and this event is called the Winter Olympics, not the Muddy Olympics.”

Images: http://www.skimag.com, http://www.gettyimages.com

Democracy and the future of major sporting events.

Will major sporting events soon be held only in non-democratic countries?

International sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup may take place only in countries without genuine democracy as governments in democratic countries struggle to justify to their populations the exorbitant cost of hosting these events. Authorities in non-democratic countries, on the other hand, do not need to justify anything to their subjects.

The citizens of democratic nations are increasingly aware of the enormous financial costs and disruption required to host international competitions. The same people are also aware of the lack of funding directed towards more immediate needs in their countries such as schools, universities, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Do major sporting events make a profit?

The question is not so much whether major sporting events make a profit, or if they benefit countries in other ways. The question is whether governments can persuade their populations that the events make a profit or benefit the nation.

Can governments continue to justify the construction of enormous sporting stadia when government schools are underfunded?

Can governments continue to justify accommodating the world’s athletes when hospitals are underfunded?

Can governments justify spending $118 million on opening or closing ceremonies when public transport is insufficient or non-existant?

Brazil highlighted this contradiction recently. The country hosted both the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 despite a struggling economy, a broken public health system, grossly underfunded public schools and crumbling infrastructure. Many educated Brazilians are still waiting for the promised economic and social benefits of these two events. Many South Africans have undoubtedly been asking the same questions since 2010.

Volunteers

Have you ever volunteered at a major sporting event?

Would you volunteer at a major sporting event?

As everyday people learn more about the corruption and lavish lifestyles of the officials at major sporting organisations, surely they will be less inclined to jump into a garish uniform and stand for hours outside a train station directing fans to venues – for no pay.

Many volunteers have thankless jobs. They never see a moment of sport. The never see their sporting heroes in person. In return, they get to keep their uniform and receive a generic thankyou letter from a random politician. Major sporting events cannot go ahead without an army of volunteers. Could FIFA or the IOC afford to pay every volunteer at one of their international events?

Rulers of non-democratic nations, meanwhile, are better able to persuade citizens to volunteer.

Patriotism

Patriotism drives many volunteers to offer their vital services, but will it be enough in the future?

Patriotism drove young people to volunteer for the army in World War I for example, but many of today’s youth do not share this patriotic fervour. Can the same shift in attitude be applied to the sporting sphere, and would young people choose to volunteer for a sporting event?

Volunteers at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games spoke of their national pride, and continue to reference this as a motivation and reward for volunteering at the games. I myself experienced some of this patriotism when I volunteered. That said, I volunteered in the media, with the best seats in the house, at the Athletics, and spent the games interviewing athletes. I also sat on the finish line, a few rows back, when Cathy Freeman won gold. Most volunteers were not so lucky.

Patriotism also persuaded many Brazilians to eventually support, or at least stop criticising, the hosting of the 2014 World Cup. The government was canny enough to know that the country’s obsession with the world game would eventually silence many of its critics. This enthusiasm surely waned when they lost 7 – 1 to Germany on home soil.

The public is also much more likely to congratulate or tolerate a government’s decision to host a major event in that country wins. Winning elite sporting competitions also costs a lot of money.

Patriotism will still persuade many citizens to support international competitions in the future. Australians were elated to hear that their country will share the FIFA Women’s World Cup with New Zealand in 2023, but by that time will Australia still be a democracy?

A quick internet search reveals that many major events scheduled for the next five years will be held in countries such as Japan, Switzerland, France and Italy, which are universally accepted as democratic. Other events will be held in the USA, but as long as Trump is in office can the USA claim to be democratic?

It’s worth noting that all of these counties were awarded the competitions before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the total financial and social cost of the virus is calculated, will citizens support any future bids for major sporting events?

Authority

Non-democratic countries don’t need to justify anything to their subjects. China, Russia and the Gulf States are now hosting many of the world’s major sporting events and their governments operate unencumbered by public sentiment.

China has hosted many major sporting events and will do so in the near future. They entered this space by hosting the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and have hosted various forms of Asian Games. The Winter Olympics are set to be held in Beijing in 2022 and the country has been the venue for prestigious events in Basketball, Swimming and Athletics in recent years.

China is not a democratic nation.

Russia is an interesting conundrum. Russian athletes were prohibited from competing under the national flag at many recent major events due to widespread state-supported doping, but the country still hosted events such as the Winter Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan.

Russia is not a democratic nation.

The Gulf states

The Gulf states are attracting sports administrators to their nations. Their geographical location and air transport hubs make them enticing locations for staging international events, and their oil wealth allows them to cover the costs. The oil money also affords their people a very high standard of living and a subsequent tolerance of government policies.

Qatar is determined to become a sporting nation. They have invested heavily in sporting academies and sporting infrastructure. They host major events and hire foreign experts to train their homegrown talent. They are set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and have promised to keep players, officials, fans and the media comfortable despite the stifling desert heat. The air conditioned World Cup is bound to cost an absolute fortune, but the oil rich states should have little trouble convincing their subjects to bear this burden.

Having worked at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, which was the first major event of any kind held in that country, I can attest to the enthusiasm, pride and excitement Qataris will feel towards football’s greatest tournament in two year’s time.

The United Arab Emirates has attempted to position itself as a favourable tourism destination through hosting international competitions in sports such as Rugby Sevens, Tennis, Golf, Sailing, Equestrian and Road Running.

The flow-on effect

Financial costs and benefits are not the only factors for governments to consider when deciding to host a major event. Flow-on effects must also be taken into account.

One flow-on effect is the increase in sports participation after a major event such as the Olympic Games. This is not true. Many first-world countries which have recently hosted major events are seeing an increase in childhood obesity every year.

Major events lead to an increase in sports participation immediately after the games, or an increase in participation in particular sports. If a national hockey team or basketball team wins gold, those two sports will most likely attract more members. But many of these sports were probably mass participation sports in that country anyway. Norway wins Cross -Country skiing gold because of the popularity of that sport. The same can be said of Speed Skating in The Netherlands, Rugby Sevens in Fiji and Table Tennis in China.

Facilities

Sporting infrastructure is touted as a positive legacy for a host city or country. Many venues are reused as specialist or multipurpose sporting facilities. However, A quick google search reveals a multitude of facilities in many countries left to crumble after world’s best athletes have departed. Some of these abandoned facilities were used as recently as the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Evidence of this wastage, and the tactics used by governments to justify the initial construction, will surely make citizens of democratic nations more cynical and less inclined to support bids for major events in the future.

E- Sports

Is it cheaper to host E-Sports events?

Competitions still often take place inside sports stadiums but there are fewer competitors at fewer venues who seem to require less equipment. Competitions consist of a few ‘gamers’, their elaborate computer game equipment, copious energy drinks and some broadcast equipment to display the action on a big screen and to livestream to audiences around the world. The fact that E-Sports competitions take place electronically means that they can be enjoyed online. Does this make them easier and cheaper to host?

E-Sports must be an enticing options for governments in the future because they are enormously popular. The most watched Youtube videos are those featuring computer games and gamers.

Are we looking at this the wrong way?

Instead of asking whether only authoritarian regimes will host major events in the future, can we cite the hosting of an international sporting competition as evidence that a country is not democratic?

Persuading the powerful

Finally, how many countries will be able to afford to ‘persuade’ the sports officials who decide which country hosts the upcoming sporting extravaganza?

A look back at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The world’s best athletes should be competing for the ultimate prize in world sport right now, but will instead have to wait another twelve months to test themselves against sport’s elite at Tokyo2020 (2021).

For fans whose sporting body clocks tell us that we should be glued to the screen, or shouting ourselves hoarse at a stadium, we can attempt to fill that void ever so slightly with a look back at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

National pride

Sport evokes a depth of patriotism matched only by war, and this is on clear display at an Olympiad. For Chinese citizens, their pride overflowed as they hosted their first ever truly international sporting event. Everyday Chinese citizens went out of their way to be helpful to foreigners, regardless of the language barrier. The roar of the crowd, in perfect unison inside the stadiums, was deafening and at times frightening. The hosts wore their patriotism on their sleeves, their faces…

International visitors also proudly displayed their national colours, at the stadiums, on public transport, in the streets, restaurants, bars, hotels…everywhere.

National pride consumes the athletes in ways that only a national representative can understand. Unrivalled emotions are experienced when athletes enter the stadium for the opening ceremony, in national uniform, alongside teammates united behind their national flag. For flag bearers, the honour compares only to the victories which earned them this right.

In Beijing, a funny thing happened during the opening ceremony. Something that caught many international spectators by surprise. Nations entered the stadium in the order of the spelling of their name in Chinese, not in English or French.

One thing didn’t change, though. When the host nation entered the stadium, the crowd erupted.

World class stadia

China delivered some of the world’s most impressive sporting facilities. The Bird’s Nest, which hosted the Athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies, and the Water Cube which hosted the swimming and aquatic events, are some of the best-known sporting facilities in the world.

An army of volunteers

China has one advantage over the rest of the world: An enormous population. They used this population to good effect at the games. The opening and closing ceremony performers were apparently armed forces members, accustomed to following directions and repeating actions again and again until performed with military precision. Day after day they filled the bowels of the Bird’s Nest waiting to rehearse their section of the elaborate ceremony.

The practice paid off. The opening and closing ceremonies were some of the most impressive in history, and a triumph of theatre and spectacle.

But is it sport?

No. And there are many sports purists who believe the theatrics of the opening and closing ceremonies are out of control as each host city tries to outdo its predecessor. They argue that the budget for the ceremonies alone plunge taxpayers into debt and the performances become so grand they threaten to overshadow the true stars of an Olympics, the athletes. The ceremonies in Beijing certainly supported this theory.

What about Tokyo?

What will the ceremonies look like in Tokyo? Assuming the games go ahead at some point in the future, can the government of Japan justify elaborate and expensive ceremonies after Japan has suffered the economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mystery and secrecy

The Chinese government and the organising committee went to great lengths to guard a state secret during the 2008 Olympics. Not its actions in Dafur, not its actions in Taiwan or Tibet. A secret more guarded than its policies in Xinjiang and the South China Sea. The secret it would not reveal is the most precious secret at any Olympiad: Who would light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony.

In the days preceeding the ceremony, rumours spread throughout the media village and the entire city as to who would light the flame, and how. Pundits suggested all manner of techniques, drawing on the oldest and strongest stereotypes of the host country. The slightest movement on the roof of the Bird’s Nest sparked yet more speculation and theories.

Eventually, the world watched gymnast Li Ning suspended on a wire like a hero in a martial arts movie run a slow motion lap around the rim of the stadium before lighting the cauldron.

The party’s over.

Once the opening ceremony is finished, the work begins. The serious business of sport takes place and athletes do what what they have trained to do every day for years and years. Of course, the stadium had to be returned to a sporting arena after the ceremonial extravaganza.

Sporting superstars

Every fan has their favourite moment, favourite athlete or favourite team from every Olympics. Australian fans lucky enough to be in Sydney in 2000 will recall Cathy Freeman’s victory in the 400m on the Athletics track. Fijians still beam with pride at the memory of their first ever Olympic medal, gold in the men’s Rugby 7s in Rio.

Chinese fans were robbed of a Cathy Freeman moment when their national hero and pre-race favourite, Liu Xiang, withdrew from the 110m hurdle event with a knee injury in 2008. I was in the stadium when it happened and the grief and disappointment among the Chinese people was palpable. Liu reached down to touch his knee before setting himself on the starting blocks, something he wouldn’t normally do. He then raised his hand and walked off the track. He was out. He couldn’t compete. He couldn’t win gold in front of his adoring home fans. Some locals screamed, all stared in disbelief at the big screen. Men and women cried, and every second journalist in the stadium rushed to find him and get that quote. Alas, for Liu it wasn’t meant to be.

International superstars grace every Olympics, in many different sports. In Beijing, one of the most famous faces on the planet, Lionel Messi, took gold in the men’s football with his Argentinian teammates, including fellow star Juan Riquelme.

One World, One Dream

One World One Dream, One Country Two Systems, China talks a lot about unity. It is interesting to note that since the 2008 Olympic Games, China has sought to create one world – under its control. Its policies and actions in Tibet, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, Taiwan and Hong Kong indicate China’s desire to exert control over its region and the rest of the world. Just as interesting is that despite this, Beijing is scheduled to host another of the IOCs major events, the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Until the world’s best athletes meet again in Tokyo, or elsewhere, at some point in the future, we leave you with these memories of the 2008 games. What was your favourite moment in Beijing?