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?”

The Best Names in World Sport.

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov – It just rolls off the tongue so well. The road cyclist from Uzbekistan was also known as the Tashkent Terror due to his blistering sprint finishes and wild style. He won the green points jersey in the 1991 Tour de France, and a mountain stage in 1996. How many athletes have a British Rock band named after them?

Nathan Leeper – Nathan is naturally a high jumper. The leaper from the USA finished inside the top 10 at multiple major international events, including a fourth place at the World Indoor Championships in 2001.

Anthony Whiteman – The British runner competed in middle distance events. Every time he lined up in international competitions against a field of mostly African runners, his name was abbreviated to A. Whiteman. Anthony won gold at the 1997 Universiade and bronze at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in the 1500 metres.

Will Power – The name says it all. Australian race car driver who enjoyed success in the IndyCar series.

Zinzan Brooke – I just like the way it sounds. A lot of Kiwis like the way the former All Black played the game of Rugby Union.

Usain Bolt – A marketing dream. Lightning Bolt, world’s fastest human. A signature pose and a charismatic personality. The Jamaican is also a multiple world record holder and international medallist.

Ben Swift – Ben Swift is fast. Just as well. The cyclist won the scratch race at the 2012 Track Cycling World Championships and the British national championships on the road in 2019.

Conor Swift – Ben’s cousin Conor is also a professional cyclist, and is also rather rapid. He won the British road championships in 2018.

Endurance Ojokolo – An athlete with a contradictory name. Endurance competed for Nigeria in the shortest race on the track, the 100m. She was multiple African champion and Olympic finalist.

Cody Rodeo Tyler – Yes, it’s on his birth certificate. Yes, he rides Rodeo. The American bull rider is one of the best in the world and competes on the world Pro Bull Riding circuit. I guess his parents didn’t give him much choice.

Beast Mtawarira (Tendai) – Beast may not appear on Mtawarira’s birth certificate, but the nickname is so appropriate it is how he is known. Tendai was born in Zimbabwe but he is the most capped prop for South Africa’s Springboks, with whom he won the 2019 World Cup.

George Best – The best ever? Some people think so. The northern Irishman won many games and accolades for Manchester United and is regarded as one of the most talented footballers in history.

Bradman Best – What a name to live up to. The young Australian Rugby League player shares a first name with Australia’s most beloved sportpserson, Don Bradman, and his surname indicates he is better than anyone – No pressure

Bastian Schweinsteigera guy who sleeps in the pig sty. However, after winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Germany and the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League with Bayern Munich, as well as many other titles, I don’t think Bastian sleeps in a pig sty.

Winner Anacona -The Columbian road cyclist enters every race with a positive mindset, and has enjoyed success at international level, including a stage win at the 2014 Vuelta a Espana. ironically, his name is a mistake. It was meant to be Winnen, after cyclist Peter Winnen.

Fuifui MoiMoi – His name rolls off the tongue. He rolled over opposition players. Tongan born ‘Fui’ had a big body, big hair and a big personality which earned him cult status at the Parramatta Eels club in Australia. He also played for New Zealand and Tonga. His brother-in-law is NFL player Star Lotulelei, who also had a name to live up to.

Junior Paulo – Another bullocking prop from the Parramatta Eels, Paulo has represented his homeland of Samoa at international level and was selected in the NSW State of Origin team in 2020. Paulo’s name is significant because if he is Junior, how big is Senior Paulo?

The Kiwi Contingent – New Zealand rugby league players whose names challenge even the sharpest commentators:

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad,

Chanel Harris-Tavita,

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and

Malakai Watene-Zelezniak.

The Athlete Formerly Known As: Saif Saaeed Shaheen was formerly known as Stephen Cherono until he swapped allegiance from Kenya to Qatar and won multiple interntaional medals in the 3000m Steeplechase, for which he still holds the world record.

Loris Vergier – The world’s fastest loris. The French downhill mountain biker hurls himself down mountains at ridiculous speeds and won a world junior title in 2014, as well as the most recent UCI World Cup Downhill race.

Sam Hill – The Australian rides a mountain bike very quickly up and down…hills.

Annie Last – A remarkable name for the wrong reasons. Annie rarely finishes last. The experienced British mountain biker and Cyclo-Cross rider belongs to the elite level of women’s cycling and won gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games MTB Cross County.

Carl Ernest and Carlos Ernesto Morgan – Identical twins from the Cayman Islands, who competed in the sprints and jumps and attended the same college in the US, as well as sharing the track at events such as the Commonwealth Games.

Alvin and Calvin Harrison – Another set of identical twins, who became the first twins to win Olympic gold medals together in Athletics when they joined forces in the 4 x 400m relay at the Sydney 2000 games. Alvin won silver in the 400m in Atlanta 1996.

English Gardner – She is American, not English, and she rose to fame as a 100m sprinter, not a gardener. She won multiple national titles, made finals at multiple world championships and Olympic Games, and won Olympic relay gold. Maybe she does enjoy potting around in the backyard?

Tennys Sandgren plays…Tennis

Images: http://www.gettyimages.com, Chau Cedric

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?

Alvin and Calvin vs. Carl and Carlos.

Alvin and Calvin Harrison and Carl Ernest and Carlos Ernesto Morgan have a lot in common. Both sets of twins are identical and both attended college in the United States. Both favour sprints and all four men represented their country in Athletics.

So, who would win a head to head competition between the families?

Firstly, we would have to decide on an event. We would have to choose neutral sporting territory.

While both sets of twins excelled in sprinting, Alvin and Calvin specialised in the 400m while Carl and Carlos enjoyed success over 100 and 200 metres, as well as long jump and triple jump.

Should we throw in a jumping contest? The Harrison boys only competed on the track, but I bet they are handy jumpers.

Perhaps a race over 300 metres?

What about the age difference?

The Harrison brothers were born on January 20, 1974, and the Morgan siblings on August 25, 1986, so some concessions may have to be made for the gap in ages.

We must then choose a venue.

The Harrisons hail from Orlando, Florida USA, while the Morgans were born and raised in Georgetown on the Cayman Islands. The Harrison siblings attended North Salinas High School in California and Hartnell College (Calvin), while the Morgan boys left home for Lindsey Wilson College, then Middle Tennessee State University, both in the USA.

The Cayman Islands seems to be the best site for an Athletic showdown. Why, because the Cayman Islands are much more beautiful than Orlando.

Having chosen the event and the venue, we can now examine historical records to compile a form guide for the competition.

Alvin and Calvin became the first twins to win a gold medal together in the same relay team when they combined with Michael Johnson and Antonio Pettigrew in the 4 x 400m relay at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Alvin ran the first leg and Calvin the third, both of them wearing state of the art bodysuits.

Alvin won individual silver in the 400m behind Johnson in Sydney, and also won gold in the relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. During his first relay gold medal victory, Alvin ran a strong second leg to ensure victory for a depleted US team.

Unfortunately, the brothers’ history making feat was annulled in 2008 when Pettigrew confessed to using performance enhancing drugs, and the quartet lost their medals. Calvin himself failed a drug test at the 2003 US Championship and was suspended from Athletics for two years.

Alvin also embroiled himself in drug-related controversy. He served a four year suspension due to circumstantial evidence of using a banned substance. He attempted a comeback in 2008, this time competing for the Dominican Republic, the birth country of his wife.

Under the new flag, he ran the 400m heats at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics and placed fourth with his new countrymen in the 4 x 400m relay at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Carl and Carlos combined in the 4 x 100m relay at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games where the Cayman Islands team was disqualified. In long jump qualifying heats, Carl jumped 7.46, and Carlos…7.47. They entered the same event in Glasgow four years later. Carl finished 10th in the long jump in the Pan American Games 2011.

Head to Head

Another method for measuring comparative excellence is to compare personal bests.

 CarlCarlosAlvinCalvin
100m10.7710.8910.5210.69
200m21.4921.9720.4120.57
400m48.5949.0944.0944.64
Long jump8.027.87  
Triple jump15.9614.68  
300m  32.00 

Since Alvin hung up his spikes, he has led high performance programs across various sports in the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Calvin, meanwhile, ended up homeless in 2009. He lost his life savings fighting his athletic suspension and insisting the substance he took was not on the banned substance list. He had secured work as a personal trainer after retiring from competition, but lost this work and struggled to support his wife and four kids. While his family sought shelter in a refuge, Calvin wandered the streets at night.

Alvin and Calvin co-authored a book called Go to Your Destiny, recounting their experience with homelessness before their Olympic victories.

Carl and Carlos both studied Health, Fitness and Wellness and continue to work in this field.

The biggest question which remains unanswered is, does Carlos Ernesto speak Spanish?

Images: http://www.gettyimages.com.au, http://www.goblueraiders.com, http://www.avhstalon.org, http://www.tower.com.ky

Australia withdraws from the Olympic Games.

EXCLUSIVE: The Australian government has informed the Australian Olympic Committee that the nation has officially withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and will not compete in any future Olympic events.

The announcement was lost among media reporting on the current aged care debacle and the COVID-19 pandemic, but was made via a brief press release from the Minister for Youth and Sport, Senator Richard Colbeck.

“Australia contributes to such a small percentage of the overall medal tally at the Olympic Games that our efforts make no real difference to the event,” said Senator Colbeck.

“In Rio, our total medal haul did not even contribute 10% to the overall medal tally, and pales into insignificance compared to the big medal winners such as China and the USA. We won only 8 gold medals in Rio and we win even less at Winter games.”

“The simple, undeniable fact is that Australia’s population is, and always will be, too small to make any real impact on the medal tally at international multi-sport competitions, so we should stop trying to change the situation and cease to participate.”

As a result, Australian athletes will no longer be able to compete under the national banner in summer or winter games, paralympic competitions or even the Youth Olympic Games.

The Australian government apparently made the decision after failing to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow ‘carry over medals’. Carry over medals are medals won at a previous Olympic competition which count towards a country’s medal tally at a subsequent Olympics.

Australia lobbied for medals such as Mack Horton’s gold in the 400m freestyle at Rio in 2016 to count towards its overall tally at the Tokyo games (scheduled to take place in 2021). This is despite the fact that a number of Rio medallists, including cyclist Anna Meares, have retired from their sport altogether.

“Australia needs carry over medals to meet its future Olympic medal targets,” argued Senator Colbeck.

The country’s fierce lobbying for the new rule won some support from nations such as India and Brazil, but eventually positioned Australia as a pariah in the international arena. This prompted the government’s decision to divorce itself entirely from the Olympic family.

As to how the Australian public will react, it is not yet known. It is hard to imagine that such a sports mad nation, which hosted the games in 2000, will accept such a decision. That said, they did re-elect a prime minister who famously carried a lump of coal into parliament in support of the fossil fuel industry.

Senator Colbeck also alluded to the young Australians who will now be denied a healthy, prosperous, optimistic future.

“They are young, fit, dedicated and patriotic, so we’ll put them all in the army,” he explained.

Sammy Wanjiru and the marathon mystery.

Sammy Wanjiru achieved one of the most remarkable feats in Olympic marathon history, but what followed is a story of mystery and tragedy.

The Kenyan set a new Olympic games record of 2:06.32 when he won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games ahead of Jaouad Gharib of Morocco and Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia.

An Olympic record is a remarkable achievement in any circumstances, but Wanjiru’s is all the more impressive. Beijing was extremely hot and humid on the morning of the race and even the spectators in the main stadium and on the roadside were drenched in sweat. The heat and humidity combined with Beijing’s famous air pollution to make conditions some of the least favourable for a marathon runner. Despite this, Wanjiru attacked from the gun, and ran the first five kilometres in 14:52.

Legend has it that when the newly-crowned champion was asked about how the conditions affected his tactics and performance, he said that because of the heat he wanted to finish the race sooner so he just ran faster.

The comment illustrates something of the Kenyan mentality towards distance running. Ultimately, they believe that the key to success is hard work. The key to success is working harder in training than you do in a race. The key to success is working harder than any of your training partners, or anyone else on the track or the trails around Iten in the Rift Valley. This philosophy works because most of the other athletes running around Iten have enough raw talent to be the best in the world.

Wanjiru’s compatriots and training partners are also motivated by something other than patriotism, the Olympic ideals and the quest for personal excellence. They are motivated by money.

Most rural Kenyans, especially those from the running heartland of the Rift Valley, have very few opportunities to make enough money to live a comfortable life, free of the endless, monotonous physical labour which defines the life of most Iten locals. Running is their chance to make serious money.

It may surprise many people, even keen fans of Athletics, to know that Wanjiru won the first ever Olympic marathon gold medal for his country. Kenyans are famed for their long-distance victories, but have actually had more success in middle-distance events, or on the lucrative international road-running circuit.

Wanjiru and his neighbours grew up seeing successful distance runners making money. Champions bought nice houses for themselves and their families, wore good clothes and drove modern cars. They looked after their families and sent their children to good schools. Wanjiru and his peers grew up desiring this success.

Unfortunately, Wanjiru was one of the successful Kenyan runners who suffered from sudden fame and wealth and died in mysterious circumstances.

Wanjiru died after falling from the balcony of his home in Nyahuru 2011. The great champion, who still holds the world junior record for 10,000m, who won the London and Chicago marathons and set three world records for the half marathon, was dead before his 26th birthday.

The tragedy of a rare talent lost for ever is matched only by the mystery of his death. It was never established if Wanjiru was pushed, fell or jumped from the balcony.

The official police investigation and court proceedings failed to prove conclusively how Wanjiru died.

One theory suggests that his first of three wives, Triza Njeri, found him in bed with another woman and locked the couple in the bedroom. When she apparently ran outside Wanjiru jumped from the balcony, causing his death.

Another theory suggests that Wanjiru was murdered by a group of men working alongside Njeri. Wanjiru’s mother, Hannah told a court that she believes her son was murdered. During this investigation, a former pathologist claimed that the champion jumped from the balcony or was pushed, that he landed on his legs but was then struck by a blunt object.

What is known is that Wanjiru had been drinking at the time of his death. He had battled alcohol addiction throughout most of his short adult life, even while he was winning major international races and breaking records. This surely is testament to his talent and the amazing toughness of a fierce competitor whose finishing time in the stifling heat of Beijing is still the Olympic record.

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?