Are Australia’s Olympic medals tainted?

Aussies screamed at their TV screens as yet another Australian athlete strained for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Aussies cheered and wept for joy as athlete after athlete collected gold, silver and bronze medals while wearing the green and gold.

Most of these medals were won in Swimming and Rowing.

Most of those medals are tainted.

Most of those medals were funded by Gina Rinehart. Swimmers won 21 medals and rowers won 4 medals, making them our two most successful sports.

Rinehart is one of the world’s richest people and amassed her enormous personal fortune through two of the most destructive industries in the world – mining fossil fuels and farming livestock. Rinehart’s mines and farms are not small. Some of them are the size of small countries, and she owns or has a financial stake in businesses scattered throughout Australia.

Rinehart’s business interests are contributing greatly to the climate crisis which will harm the standard of living of people in Australia and throughout the world in the near future – including swimmers and rowers. She also wields enormous political power in Australia and has helped prevent the nation from making the smart environmental and economic decision to transition to renewable energy.

Rinehart’s businesses, operating under the banner of Hancock Prospecting, have helped earn Australia a reputation as one of the world’s worst polluters. Australia has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world and the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world. Australia’s contribution to, and inaction on, climate change has made it an international pariah in recent years. Rinehart’s businesses are central to Australia’s environmental destruction.

Hancock Prospecting is the major sponsor of Swimming Australia and a major partner of Rowing Australia. Rinehart is swimming’s patron and is openly called the “matriarch” of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team. She was pictured front and centre among the PODS (Parents of Dolphins Swimmers) during Channel 7’s coverage of the swimming events in Tokyo, and ran her own long ads during the games. She has sponsored Australian swimming since 1992, and her ‘generous direct financial support’ is described as ‘especially critical to Swimming Australia’ for it allows athletes to ‘focus on their on their training and performance and not be distracted by financial pressures that most athletes face.’ With Rinehart’s assistance, several swimmers were also granted private scholarships to attend Bond University.

In recognition of the amount of money Rinehart has given to sports such as rowing and swimming, she was awarded an Order of Merit by the Australian Olympic Committee (interalia), and is described as an ‘inspiration’ to Australian swimmers.

Rinehart’s sponsorship appears to be central to Australia’s record medal haul in swimming at the Tokyo games, and to the impressive results of the country’s rowers. The ebullient language of Swimming Australia cleverly praises their largest sponsor, and implies a dependency on her funding.

The question must be asked:

Would Australia win as many Olympic medals without financial support from Hancock Prospecting? Would Australia win any medals in swimming and rowing without Hancock Prospecting? Are Australia’s medals tainted?

A more pressing question is:

What is more important to Australia, Olympic medals or a livable planet?

Image: Charles Deluvio

The Eastern Suburbs Olympics.

The region’s best athletes will fight for suburban superiority in the inaugural Eastern Suburbs Olympics during July and August. Super-talented locals will represent their suburbs in the IOC-sanctioned event and will compete for gold, silver and bronze across the following specifically-designed sports:

  1. Coffee Cup Relay

Teams of four must pass a large, full, disposable, branded coffee cup along the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee while swerving between weekend traffic and selfie addicts.

  • Shore dump Gymnastics

Gymnasts must perform the most creative and acrobatic tricks in the Coogee shore dump, without breaking their neck.

  • Bodysurfing

Whompers must bodysurf between the flags at Bondi Beach and make it all the way to the sand without smashing headlong into a swimmer.

  • Beach Volleyball Boxing

Tamarama and Bondi Beaches will host this exciting hybrid sport. Spiking your opponent in the head equals one point. Knocking them out earns 2 points, and spiking a nearby child in the head equals 6 and out.

  • Rabbit Hunting

Hunt the feral rabbits at north Clovelly headland, and earn a point for every skin. Avoid killing any of the rabbits who are completing their recovery session at Clovelly Beach.

  • Synchronised Swimming

Team and individual synchronised swimming events will be held at Bronte Baths. Every Eastern Suburbs resident is required to attend at least one session, because it’s not an Olympics without watching hour after hour of Aussie swimmers in sequins.

  • Fencing

Athletes must use a Sabre, Foil or Epee to fight off fearless seagulls while attempting to eat a full meal of Fish and Chips without losing a single chip to the ubiquitous birds.

  • Dog fights

Mackenzies Bay will host fights to the death between off-leash pooches, while local parks, beaches and playgrounds will host fatal fights between dogs and innocent children.

  • Sandcastles

Competitors will have just one day to secure a DA, receive a Homebuilder grant and construct an elaborate sandcastle to be built by the region’s best architects and tradies. The top eight sandcastles will be judged by nosy neighbours and S. Cam, if the IOC can afford his appearance fee.

10.

A gruelling challenge. Run the City to Surf in under 60 minutes while dragging at least one primary school child, plus dog, new-born, pram, school bags, instrument, scooters, helmets, projects…

Athletes can compete in just one event, or contest all ten disciplines for the right to be crowned the greatest athlete in the East. To honour the ancient Olympics, and the spectators, every event will be contested nude. As a result, competitors wearing sluggos or boardies will be disqualified, and women in Brazilian bikinis risk appearing on the front cover of The Beast.

First published in The Beast magazine, August 2021.

Image: http://www.frugalfrolicker.com

Aussie sports shooters to take on new role after Olympics.

Australia’s best sports shooters will shoot and kill invasive animals upon returning from Tokyo 2020 under a new plan devised by Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley.

The nation’s elite shooters will travel the country hunting and killing the invasive animals which are destroying Australia’s natural environment and its native wildlife. Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world, and feral animals contribute greatly to this destruction. The estimated cost of invasive species was $AUD13.6 billion in the 2011-12 financial year alone.

“Australia’s best sports shooters will use their skill and experience to hunt and kill invasive animal species,” announced Ley.

“They will begin this important work upon the conclusion of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and will continue until every feral animal is eliminated from Australia. We must eliminate invasive species from our land in order to protect the ecology of this country.”

Ley believes the initiative presents numerous benefits. Shooters will help rid Australia of destructive species while honing their skills in a realistic environment shooting at moving targets, enabling them to hopefully win more medals at the next games.

“This will be especially beneficial to ‘Shotgun’ competitors, who must hit a moving target during competition, as well as exponents of Rifle and Pistol disciplines. We are also confident that it will provide a competitive edge for our shooters over shooters from other nations at Paris 2024.”

Ley also explained that Olympic shooters are suitable for this task because they are likely to return to Australia with COVID-19, and spreading this disease among the animal population may be more efficient than shooting,

“And it’s much cheaper than bullets.”

Under the plan, shooters will be required to reach a quota of animals killed in order to receive continued sports funding from the Australian taxpayer.

“We believe this will incentivise shooters to carry out their task effectively. We also expect Bridget McKenzie to join the shooters on their hunt, because she knows all about sports funding and she loves to shoot.”

Australia’s natural environment is under great threat from a range of invasive species such as cats, foxes, deer, mice, rats, myna birds, camels, horses, pigs, dogs, rabbits, goats, donkeys, buffalo, carp and cane toads. All of these animals can be shot, including the much-maligned cane toad.

“Cane toads are hard to shoot, but when you hit one, gosh it feels good. Watching the toxins spurt out of its guts is why I love shooting,” explained one Aussie shooter.

Another benefit of assigning this role to sports shooters is that many invasive species are found on private land, and many shooters own this land, so it will be easier to gain access to areas where feral animals dominate.

Ley was excited at the proposed outcomes of this program, and the contribution that some of our Olympic competitors can make to the country.

“Eliminating feral animals from our continent is far more valuable to the country than an Olympic gold medal.”

Image: http://www.commonwealthgames.com.au

Shock as Aussie athletes forced to hand back Olympic medals.

EXCLUSIVE: Australian athletes and fans have reacted with horror to news that all Tokyo 2020 medal winners must surrender their medals to Gina Rinehart.

Athletes will present their gold, silver or bronze medals to Rinehart’s representatives upon returning to Australia, according to a statement from Hancock Prospecting, Rinehart’s family company.

“Gina Rinehart owns the Australian Olympic team,” began the statement from Hancock Prospecting.

“She also owns all of the metal on Australian land, whether it be in the ground or out of the ground, or even in the form of an Olympic medal. Gold, silver and bronze are all mined in Australia in some form, and Ms Rinehart consequently and rightly claimed ownership of all such metals returning to Australia from Tokyo.”

It is believed the medals will all be melted down to base metals before being exported in this form throughout the world. Depending on the number of medals Australia wins, one gold, silver and bronze medal may be salvaged for display at Hancock Prospecting headquarters.

It is also believed that this was the motivation behind Rinehart’s support of Australian sport. She is possibly the largest individual donor to Olympic sport in Australian history and heavily supports sports such as Swimming and Rowing in which Australia nearly always wins Olympic medals.

Rinehart has swamped Channel 7 with commercials during the official coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games in order to remind Australians of the influence she wields over sport and the nation in general. The ads boast of the company’s sponsorship of many Australian sporting teams and they align the company with Australia’s consistently high ranking in international sport. They fail to align the company with Australia’s consistently high ranking in environmental destruction and its contribution to the climate crisis.

Australia has the world’s highest per capita carbon footprint, some of the world’s worst rates of land clearing and has some of the world’s highest rates of carbon emissions, due largely to Rinehart’s core businesses of mining and agriculture.

Fans have rushed to social media to condemn Rinehart’s actions, labelling them heartless, greedy and UnAustralian. Many Aussies have also called on the Australian government to protect the nation’s sporting heroes, to which Rinehart’s spokesperson replied:

“Gina owns the LNP.”

Politicians such as Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Angus Taylor, Keith Pitt and Scott Morrison usually jump at the opportunity to piggy-back on Australian sporting success, but have not commented on the issue.

Rinehart’s spokesperson also said:

“Stealing Olympic medals from Aussie athletes is not UnAustralian. The fact that 83% of Australia’s mining industry is foreign owned, now that’s UnAustralian.”

Technology takes centre stage at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

State-of-the-art technology will play an unprecedented role in the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020. The International Olympic Committee and the local organising committee will utilise technology to revolutionise the delivery of the event and to ensure safety during the global pandemic.

Vending machines will dispense medals during victory ceremonies in order to minimise person-to-person contact, and technological devices will play a key role in almost every Olympic sport.

Road Cycling, Race Walking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon, Marathon Swimming and Marathon running

The world’s most advanced vending machines will operate at feed stations in the endurance events, replacing volunteers or soigneurs. Machines will be pre-programmed with each athlete’s drinks for the entire race, and will read the transponder of every competitor as they pass through the feed zone. What’s more, the AI-equipped vending machine will read the minds of the athletes to determine if they want plain water, energy drinks or electrolytes, and a hand will emerge from the machine to deliver exactly which drink the athlete needs at that moment.

Rock climbing

Robots will operate the belay during the Speed Climbing event in the Sport Climbing competition. Robots will also replace people who normally perform the role of coxswain in the ‘Eights’ rowing.

Mechanical mechanics

Drones will replace mechanics and soigneurs during the road cycling events. Highly-specified drones will hover above the race and descend automatically whenever a rider experiences a mechanical issue or a puncture.

“Our drones can repair any mechanical issue much quicker than even the most skilled human mechanic,” boasted the IOC spokesperson.

Soigneurs also provide massages to cyclists during competitions, and the IOC claims its robots can also provide this service.

“…but we’re not sure how many athletes want to be massaged by a robot.”

Robots will also replace ball kid at the tennis, as well as linespeople and umpires,

“This way, if Novak Djokovic hits a linesperson in the face, it won’t hurt,” explained the spokesperson.

Boxers and martial arts competitors, as well as athletes in Fencing, Tennis and team sports will find their first-round opponents through the vending machines, and swimmers and runners will use a vending machine to find their heat number and lane draw.

3D Printing

3D printers will print sailing boats and horses for use during the games, and these will also be dispensed via the vending machines. Olympic rules stipulate that Equestrian riders and Modern Pentathletes are given a horse and do not bring their own, in order to keep the competition even.

“The most exciting use of vending machines at this year’s games will be at Surfing,” enthused the spokesperson. Surfers will be able to choose the ‘perfect wave’, or the wave which best suits their riding style. If a surfer prefers right handers, they can demand those waves. If they want a barrel, they can order one. It’s just like Kelly Slater’s surf ranch, but in the open ocean.”

Sources close to the IOC believe vending machines may also be employed during post-event interviews with athletes. Instead of talking to a wild throng of voracious journalists, athletes can choose from a list of sporting cliches displayed on a series of sanitised touch screens lining the mixed zone. Popular responses will be displayed in every language and include:

“I’m very happy to win this medal for my country.”

“Words can’t describe how I feel”

“Full credit to the opposition”

“This is a great learning experience for next time.”

“I owe it all to God, Allah, Buddha (or other nominated deity)”

“God Willing, Inshallah…”

“I have to give full credit to my coach/family/teammates/fans”

“It was very tough”

“All of my competitors will be tough to beat in the final”

“I’m just happy to get through to the next round”

Unique twist to medal ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games will receive their medals from vending machines in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that specially-designed vending machines will be placed beside the dais at each sporting venue and will dispense the medals before the athletes step onto the podium. The machines replace the IOC officials, politicians and sporting legends who would customarily award the medals.

“Using vending machines to award medals to victorious athletes is yet another world-first strategy the IOC has adopted to conduct a safe and healthy competition for all athletes, officials and other stakeholders at the Tokyo Olympic Games during the current pandemic,” announced an IOC spokesperson.

“The method minimises person-to-person contact as well as acknowledging a long-standing and popular cultural custom of obtaining almost anything from a vending machine in Japan.”

Athletes who finish first, second or third will scan their competition transponder through the vending machine. This will be read, and the appropriate medal will be issued before the athletes step onto the podium. The machines will also dispense the flowers and souvenir that the athletes traditionally receive.

“Tokyo 2020 has embraced technology and this is another practical example of the use of state-of-the-art technology to deliver a world-class event, which will keep athletes safe. Using vending machines also reduces the probability of an elite athlete being exposed to a ‘compromised’ sports official.”

It is also hoped the use of vending machines will eliminate the awkward moments in which medal presenters can’t decide whether it is appropriate to kiss, shake hands, fist bump, hug, bow or do none of the above while awarding a medal.

The IOC and the local organising committee had considered using robots to perform this task, but realised that some robots are so life-like they could catch and transmit COVID-19.

Image: Charles Deluvio

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.”

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.

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?