Tuesday, 17 April 2012

O is for… the Olympic Games

The Olympics is unarguably the greatest sporting show on Earth, hosting two weeks of spectacular sporting action and drama every four years. However the Games are not without their faults, coming under regular criticism for a variety of reasons. So how could they be improved?

Throw out the undeserving sports

Should tennis really be an Olympic sport?
The Olympics should be the pinnacle of all 35 sports represented under its umbrella. However whilst this is true for most of these 35 sports, for a number of them it isn't. Tennis doesn’t need to be represented at the Olympics; it’s a high profile sport in its own right, and the four Grand Slam tournaments are the true pinnacle of the sport. Similarly, the addition of golf to the Olympic roster in 2016 is farcical. Ask any golfer which event they’d rather win, and any of the four majors would be picked well before the Olympics.

Football is a slightly different case, as I can see no reason for the inclusion of the men’s tournament, but believe the women’s tournament should remain in place. On the men’s side, the tournament is an under-23 tournament, with 3 'overage' players bizarrely allowed to be included in each squad. It’s far from the pinnacle of the sport, with both club tournaments and other major international tournaments seen as significantly more important around the world. On the women’s side however, the competition has no age restrictions, and along with the World Cup is clearly the top priority for all international players. 

Get even tougher on drugs

Sharron Davies - cheated out of Olympic gold
I’ve already touched on drugs in a previous a-z post, so I’ll try to keep things simple here. The IOC needs to rigorously test every medalist in every sport. Also, as new drugs often go unfound by testing methods, the blood of every medalist needs to be kept and tested routinely over a period of time following the event (say every 5 years over 20 years). 

Athletes should be promoted into medal positions if drug cheats are caught at any period of time, not just during the Games. It’s baffling that the claims of some athletes who should’ve won gold medals – such as the British swimmer Sharron Davies – should be ignored by the IOC, when they were clearly cheated out of medals by other athletes who have since admitted to using banned substances.

Try to ensure all judging is fair

A number of Olympic events, including gymnastics and diving, are still decided by a panel of judges. Whilst this produces the correct result in most instances, dodgy decisions still occur and need to be fully investigated. In the last two Olympic Games controversies have dogged the gymnastics competitions, with one of the Chinese athletes winning a medal in the vault competition in Beijing despite landing on her knees. Whilst there is no perfect way to measure gymnastics scores (which is why we need judges), suspicions still remain that politics play their part in deciding where some medals head.

Roy Jones Jr loses despite clearly dominating
Amateur boxing has had even bigger problems with its scoring system, with suspicious results and questionable scoring occurring at nearly every Olympic Games. At the last Olympic Games a gold medal bout went the way of a Chinese fighter (Zhang Xiaoping) to give the country their first boxing gold, despite his opponent having seemingly got the better of the contest. Hometown decisions aren’t unusual in boxing terms, but it’s extremely disappointing to see them in the Olympics. One of the most infamous Olympic moments occurred in this manner in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, with a South Korean boxer winning gold despite clearly being beaten by his opponent, Roy Jones Jr. This amazing article from the Guardian covers that decision in full detail.

Despite these minor quibbles, I do think things are slowly improving at the Olympic Games. We seem to be gradually moving away from the heyday of drug-taking in sports of the late 1980s, and dubious decisions and scoring controversies have become less frequent in recent years. However I do feel this process could be quickened, and hope that the IOC is stronger than ever with their actions this summer


  1. i enjoy watching the summer olympics. and i think tennis should be an olympic sport:)
    Happy A-Zing!

  2. Great post, Evan. It's always disappointing when human error leads to an unfair result.

    I'd love to know about some of the highlights of the Olympics too.