Olympic gold tar­nished by scan­dals

A wave of bad news bat­ters Olympics past, present and fu­ture

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - sport@7days.ae

D op­ing scan­dals. Bribery al­le­ga­tions. Fears about Zika. Po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cor­rup­tion crises. What else could go wrong? The past few days have un­leashed a wave of grim news for the Olympics, bat­ter­ing four host cities - past, present and fu­ture - on three con­ti­nents, and fur­ther erod­ing pub­lic trust in the cred­i­bil­ity of the global sports move­ment.

The 2014 Win­ter Games in Sochi, the up­com­ing Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the 2018 Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Sum­mer Olympics in Tokyo - all have been caught up in an un­prece­dented melt­down of trou­ble.

Just when the sports world thought it had pulled away from the dark­est days of the FIFA and IAAF scan­dals, a con­flu­ence of tur­moil this week brought the clouds back and threat­ened the im­age and pres­tige of the Olympics, less than three months be­fore the Au­gust 5 open­ing cer­e­mony in Brazil.

It poses a new test for the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC), which en­dured its worst cri­sis with the Salt Lake City bid­ding scan­dal in the late 1990s.

Richard Ings, for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Aus­tralia’s anti-dop­ing agency, said sports lead­ers must work quickly or “sink fur­ther into this quick­sand”.

“It’s about sport and the cred­i­bil­ity of sport,” he said. “And the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties rest with sports ad­min­is­tra­tors who are fail­ing to re­form.”

David Larkin, a lawyer and sports cor­rup­tion ex­pert, blames the con­tin­u­ing scan­dals on “a failed gov­er­nance model, a bro­ken sys­tem of sport jus­tice and a trou­bled dop­ing sys­tem”.

Sochi scan­dal

The 2014 Win­ter Olympics were at­tacked by crit­ics for a re­ported $51 bil­lion price tag. Now they may be re­mem­bered for one of the big­gest sport­ing frauds ever ex­posed. The for­mer head of Moscow’s anti-dop­ing lab, Grig­ory Rod­chenkov, de­tailed in The New York Times how Rus­sia op­er­ated a state-spon­sored scheme that in­cluded ex­chang­ing bot­tles of tainted urine sam­ples for clean ones through a con­cealed hole in the wall of the Sochi lab.

The dop­ing pro­gramme re­port­edly in­volved at least 15 Rus­sian medal win­ners. Rus­sian of­fi­cials de­nied the al­le­ga­tions on Fri­day, with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s spokesman de­nounc­ing Rod­chenkov’s claims as “a turn­coat’s li­bel”. The World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) will in­ves­ti­gate.

Blame it on Rio

Never has a host na­tion been in such po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tur­moil be­fore an Olympics. Seven years ago, when the IOC picked Rio de Janeiro to host South Amer­ica’s first Olympics, Brazil was a ris­ing star on the world stage with a boom­ing, emerg­ing econ­omy.

Now, 82 days be­fore the games be­gin, the coun­try is in its worst re­ces­sion since the 1930s.

The po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion has im­ploded - with the Sen­ate vot­ing on Thurs­day to im­peach Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff. She’s now sus­pended and won’t be declar­ing the Olympics open on Au­gust 5.

Her vice pres­i­dent, Michel Te­mer, is the in­terim pres­i­dent. While most of the Olympic venues are ready, con­cerns re­main over the se­vere wa­ter pol­lu­tion at the sail­ing and row­ing sites. If all that wasn’t bad enough, Brazil is in the grip of the Zika virus. A Cana­dian pro­fes­sor said this week the Olympics should be post­poned or moved be­cause of the Zika threat.

Pyeongchang’s prob­lems

The first Win­ter Olympics in South Korea have been dogged by more prob­lems than ex­pected, in­clud­ing con­struc­tion de­lays, con­flicts over venues, a short­age of lo­cal spon­sors - and a re­volv­ing-door lead­er­ship.

While prepa­ra­tions for the 2018 games seemed to ac­cel­er­ate af­ter suc­cess­ful test events this win­ter, the lo­cal or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee was hit by yet an­other sud­den res­ig­na­tion of its top leader. For the sec­ond time in less than two years, there has been a change at the helm.

On Thurs­day, Pyeongchang elected for­mer South Korean gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Lee Hee­beom, a new­comer to the sports world, as the new or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee chief.

With less than two years to go un­til the games, Lee will need to get up to speed - fast.

Trou­ble in Tokyo

Tokyo, seen as a safe choice when awarded the games three years ago, has been hit by a se­ries of prob­lems. The orig­i­nal sta­dium de­sign was scrapped be­cause it was too ex­pen­sive. The orig­i­nal logo was dumped af­ter al­le­ga­tions it was copied from a Bel­gian the­ater.

But this week brought the most dam­ag­ing set­back yet: al­le­ga­tions of pos­si­ble bribery dur­ing Tokyo’s win­ning bid.

French pros­e­cu­tors, who have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing IAAF cor­rup­tion, said they had widened their in­quiry to look into pay­ments of $2 mil­lion from a bank in Ja­pan to an ac­count in Sin­ga­pore in the months be­fore and af­ter Tokyo won the games. The ac­count in Sin­ga­pore was tied to the son of dis­graced for­mer IAAF pres­i­dent Lamine Di­ack. Both Di­acks are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion on cor­rup­tion charges.

Should in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mine that bribery took place, it would pose the IOC’s big­gest ethics scan­dal since 10 mem­bers were ousted for ac­cept­ing cash and other favours dur­ing Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2002 Win­ter Games.

“A failed gov­er­nance model and a trou­bled dop­ing sys­tem.” – DAVID LARKIN

TEST­ING TIMES: The Olympic Rings rise above Madureira Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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