Almanac Olympics – An Antidote to the Hysteria

See Rio, see an Olympic medal.


That almost appears to be the message as we approach the climax of the Olympic Games in Brazil.


Every night, for the last two weeks, it seems as if Team GB are winning a new gong, from diving and trampolining to cycling, swimming, canoeing, judo and the rest.


In terms of money spent, it has been an astonishing success for the British contingent, who have broken records and shattered past milestones. The headlines, from Adam Peaty to Jason Kenny and Heather Stanning to Katherine Grainger have been remarkably positive.


But all the glory, all the high fives and emphasis on records and tables shouldn’t be allowed to disguise the fact that these Games have been an absolute non-event.


Who’s watching, for instance? The arenas are nearly empty if you scratch behind the surface and avoid the Blighty brigade with their ubiquitous triumphalism!


The echoes from the swimming pool might create reverberations, but that’s all. In the absence of any Brazilian stars, the BBC – which might as well be nicknamed Pravda – has recruited hundreds of people to convince us these are the greatest show on earth.


Fat chance! Brazil has failed on almost every criteria. There’s nobody at most of the events. The diving pool ran through the colours from blue to green in a twinkle. It stinks. The cycling course might as well have been designed by Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races.


Switch to some of the newer events and you could organise the lack of spectators in a single row. None of this was obvious from the incessant coverage, but perhaps you have to ask yourself three questions.

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Firstly, who’s watching? Given that most of the good stuff, including Usain Bolt in the 100m – and there were still 20,000 empty seats – was on at 2am or 3am, these Games were a hard ask. Dress it up any which way, but it all felt a big “meh”. Even Bolt winning the 200m was slower and more predictable than before.


Secondly, where were the Brazilians? Wasn’t there anybody, who looked at all the empty arenas and thought: Why don’t we go into the favelas, give the youngsters free tickets, woo the schools and make the Games an event with a legacy. Or were they happy with all these empty seats?


Lastly, and most importantly, why has Brazil made such a mess of the Paralympics? As of tonight, only 12% of tickets had been sold. Nobody wants to watch an event which has huge negative ramifications for sport. The Games count for nothing if they aren’t inclusive, if they don’t inspire the next generation, and if they ignore millions of people.


Rio should have been a carnival. Sadly, and in the words of a classic Jobim song, it has become a useless landscape!


  1. I understand where you are coming from, however in the 10 days I was there the first four days were public holidays and weekend and very well attended, of course with Brazilians who had the funds. I spoke with volunteers and other Rio residents who wanted to go but could not afford the tickets. Beach Volleyball, mostly sold out was the cheapest ticket at $AUD30. The Brazilians went to sports they had no idea about just to experience, but there is a large disparity between rich and poor. I don’t know how chest beating poms get tickets to all these events, the velodrome was full of them and yet Australians were given a very small allocation of tickets.
    I think some street art I passed every day might sum up their attitude to paralympics. Four pillars under a freeway bypass was painted with Brazilian athletes in glory, buffed and muscled, while the pillar representing paralympics was an overweight man in a wheelchair doing archery.
    I agree perhaps for the paralympics children and those from the favelas should be given free access to the events. Its the youth that drives the future.

  2. Daniel Flesch says

    My beef is with the Ch. 7 coverage . Like most people i have work and family committments , so turned on the telly at odd times when i could . Almost every time it was either ads (eight in a row ! eight ! ) or some buffoon TALKING about the Olympics , or some Aussie medal winner being gushingly but uninterestingly interviewed . Rarely saw anyone swimming running jumping . Saw some of the Boomers vs. Dream Team (ugh!) match and then next day switched on and there was a repeat ! And to make it even worse , there was the near-hysterical MacAvaney carrying on even more than usual . No good , Seven network , in fact crapulous. And my partner is annoyed that the Games coverage means there’s no Home and Away on for two weeks . I have limited sympathy for that , but she used to watch it in Glasgow before she migrated , an explanation i have to accept :-)

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