Why so many ath­letes are skip­ping the Rio Olympics

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MICHELLE KAUF­MAN

Think­ing of trav­el­ling to Rio for the Olympics and need last­minute ac­com­mo­da­tions? Per­haps Olympic or­ga­niz­ers will con­sider rent­ing out rooms in the ath­letes’ vil­lage, as there will be more can­cel­la­tions and va­can­cies than usual.

Although more than 10,000 ath­letes from 206 coun­tries are headed to Rio, the list of who’s not go­ing has been grow­ing in re­cent weeks.

The en­tire 68-mem­ber Rus­sian track and field team faces a ban from par­tic­i­pat­ing in Rio fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions of a wide­spread gov­ern­ment-run doping pro­gram.

Track ath­letes will not take part un­less they can sat­isfy strict doping cri­te­ria. So far, only one ath­lete has been able to do that. This week eight Rus­sian ath­letes from ca­noe­ing, mod­ern pen­tathlon and sail­ing were banned, as were seven swim­mers and three row­ers.

With less than two weeks to go un­til the Aug. 5 open­ing cer­e­monies, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee must now de­cide whether fur­ther sanc­tions will be im­posed on Rus­sian ath­letes in other sports.

Mean­while, more than 20 male golfers, in­clud­ing the top four in the world, are saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to the his­toric re­turn of their sport to the Olympics af­ter 104 years. Most of them cited con­cerns over the Zika virus and sched­ul­ing is­sues (which some crit­ics have trans­lated to mean they would rather make money at a PGA Tour event that week than play for free in Rio).

Among those skip­ping the Games are Ja­son Day, Ja­son Spi­eth, Dustin John­son, Adam Scott and Rory McIroy, who con­ceded that an­other rea­son golfers might not be clam­our­ing to go is that an Olympic gold medal is not the crown­ing achieve­ment in their sport.

“I’ve said to peo­ple I have four Olympic Games (ma­jor cham­pi­onships) a year,” McIl­roy told re­porters. “That’s my pin­na­cle. That’s what I play for. That’s what I’ll be re­mem­bered for.

“Some peo­ple ar­gue that it would have been bet­ter to send am­a­teurs there, but the whole rea­son that golf is in the Olympics is be­cause they wanted the best players to go and com­pete. But un­for­tu­nately with where it is this year, peo­ple just aren’t com­fort­able go­ing down there and putting them­selves or their fam­ily at risk.

“I’d say if the Olympic Games were in most other ci­ties or most other coun­tries in the world this year, you wouldn’t find as many peo­ple not want­ing to go and par­tic­i­pate.

The same can be said for Olympic ten­nis, where Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist and world No. 7 Mi­los Raonic of Canada is among a hand­ful of Top 20 players back­ing out of the trip to Rio. Top-ranked No­vak Djokovic and Ser­ena Wil­liams will be there com­pet­ing for gold, but French Open semi­fi­nal­ist Dominic Thiem, No. 16 Amer­i­can John Is­ner and No. 20 Feli­ciano Lopez of Spain will not.

They all opted to play in ATP Tour events in­stead as these tour­na­ments give rank­ing points and the Olympics do not.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am an­nounc­ing my with­drawal from par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Rio Games,” Raonic said on his Face­book page. He rep­re­sented his coun­try at Lon­don in 2012 and plays on the Cana­dian Davis Cup team. “Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion with my fam­ily and coaches, I am mak­ing this de­ci­sion for a va­ri­ety of health con­cerns in­clud­ing the un­cer­tainty around the Zika virus.

The U.S. men’s bas­ket­ball team will also be miss­ing some big names. Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Chris Paul said they need to rest. Rus­sell West­brook and James Har­den cited “un­spec­i­fied rea­sons.” An­thony Davis and Blake Grif­fin are in­jured.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.