Almanac Olympics: Sayonara Rio

The Olympic Games of 2016 have concluded and I am still scratching my head little as to what actually happened. Unfortunately I saw very little of the games as a result of time zones and Channel 7’s appalling coverage, but what I did see left me speechless for many different reasons.


There was the predictable mixture of magic combined with ignorance and overblown egos. As usual, there were some brilliant surprises, no more so than Chloe Esposito, Catherine Skinner and the Women’s 7s from an Australian perspective. Ironically they would not have rated a sentence in the results page had they finished fifteenth, while the unabated introspection of our swim team and other high-profile sports continued ad nauseam. But win a gold and you’re an Aussie Hero for the day. And these three rightly deserve that accolade – as does Jared Tallent whose second in the 50km walk was outstanding.


Leading into the Olympics the Australian media was predictable in their negative reporting of the host country. Why it came as any surprise is amazing given that Brazil should never been allocated the games in the first place given its struggling economy and inadequate infrastructure. It’s hardly like they turned up the week before and went “can you believe this, it’s not like London or Sydney”. That it had hosted the World Cup tournament last year must have strained resources to the absolute. To the point where the Paralympics is now in doubt due to the money running out. Still, our journos couldn’t help themselves with the patronising coverage and nationalistic oi oi oi fervour.


I feel like the Australian media has some sort of sporting cultural cringe. Why do we have this expectation of beating the big kids and go on endlessly on the occasions we do. I’m not that interested in dissecting medals for dollar value, however we throw buckets of money at this thing for what at times seems to be a giant pissing competition. I love that Australia hits above its weight on the world sporting stage but I don’t get the endless bragging about it.  If the Kiwis banged on as much about every All Black victory we would blow them up.


Much was spoken about the spirit of the games, however at times that spirit was sorely tested by athletes placing their own individual interests ahead of their team, their country and the Olympic itself. As if it’s not enough for the IOC to make complete dolts of themselves, the contempt of some athletes towards the Brazilians and their competitors reached new heights. It came as no surprise that the worst offenders with the Americans and the Australians. If I ever hear the Campbell sisters interviewed again I’ll scream. Is there something in chlorine that turns swimmers into complete wankers? I know healthy egos are required when competing at the highest level, however the dog ate my homework excuse of the American swimmers was something special. The US women’s soccer goalie calling the Swedes cheats took a fair chunk of the cake as well.


The Women’s 5000m put some perspective back into things and was a great moment.


The performance of Usain Bolt defies description. Michael Phelps is another whose record will probably never be surpassed, as the man is a freak. The mens’ 400m running world record simply amazing. Sadly, all three performances will be overshadowed by the possibility of illegal drug use. That said, the calling out of the Chinese swimmer and Gatlin as breachers of the drugs code was a piece of refreshing honesty that needs to be repeated and acted upon by the powers that be. The IOC’s hand washing of the Russian banning gives me no confidence that this will occur.


The Chris Dutton of Australian sport, Kitty Chiller, went from hard cop on the beat to looking like Constable Plod after the arrest of 10 athletes at the basketball. Seems Kitty and the other toadies may have been caught with black textas in their pockets and are now looking rather sheepish as they fork out for the fines. The appointment of Winning Edge was a masterstroke. Appointing a sailor as President of Swimming Australia and a cricket administrator to Cycling Australia was pure genius. Didn’t they remember that there was a mutiny in the America’s Cup as Bertrand nearly lost the unlosable? Pouring the lion’s share of government funds into their respective sports only to see meagre returns has caused some serious backroom fighting. Not that an opportunity ever goes missing for ASC and AOC to have a blue. Can’t wait for the recrimination at the ticker tape parade.


I think under the circumstances the Brazilians did pretty well and hopefully some good will come of it. The country should be proud of hosting an event that very few have tried and few have got right.


So what is Rio’s legacy other than a bill the country will probably never be able to pay off? The developing world’s Montréal? Yes, the athletes’ village had some leaks but that’s pretty small change compared to the conditions that the majority of Brazil’s residents find themselves living. Other than cliches, what did we really learn about Rio and Brazil?  There is shit in the water. There’s lots of petty crime in the city. They dance a lot apparently. There is monstrous poverty and unemployment. Seems the locals weren’t very interested about many of the sports and subsequently didn’t bother turning up. Why would they with athletic prices starting at US$100 a ticket. The pool went green. Killer mozzies. You had to walk a lot to get to different venues because public transport was inadequate. Did I mention there was shit in the water?


So the caravan which is the Olympic Games rolls up its tent and heads to Japan in four years’ time. There will certainly be a buzz of excitement through the African and Asian nations at the opportunity to participate in skateboarding and surfing. There is probably a fair chance that the latter will be undertaken at some crazy indoor artificial wave park and kids will be jumping in the pool try to catch Pokémons. However, there will be someone or something will make us believe in the essence of sport.


An essence once provided by Leonidas of Rhodes, “The Triastes”, the Ancient Olympics’ most famous runner. The three events at which he triumphed were the stadion, a sprint of roughly 200m; the diaulos, which was twice the distance of the stadium, and the longer hoplitodromos. All in  consecutive ancient games from 164BC to 152BC. Twelve gold medals, a feat now surpassed only by Phelps. Except Michael didn’t do it in armour, so I’m sticking with Leo.

About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Tony ,does Australia hit above its weight on the worlds stage or do we hit at our weight? Recent performances on the cricketing field and in the world of rugger don’t give us much to boast about. Is it more so we believe our own hype?

    I know there’s a lot that can said about statistics but when in December 2015 the AOC, in a benchmark study, predicted 13 gold medals, followed by chef de mission, talking about 16 gold medals, were they fair dinkum,or was it hype for the masses to take on board? Is 8 gold medals a realistic reflection of a nation our size,with our demographics?

    We can turn our attention to $; many people do. I won’t do a detailed breakdown, but just some points i feel are relevant. For example Australia spent $34.1M on cycling for two medals, one gold. The money and role of Wining Edge also raise questions. How do we justify providing John Coates$7.05 M since 2015?

    I love the concept of the Olympics, love them as a spectacle,but are they now becoming primarily about entertainment ? I am looking forward to Tokyo 2016. But seriously in a nation with a number of ‘growing’ health issues ,such as diabetes and obesity, how do we increase participation in grass roots sports. Sure give our olympians money, but don;t take our eyes off of one of the reasons for sport; participation. How do we get more people involved at the grassroots for the betterment of them and their communites?


  2. Glen, I am in agreement on all your points particularly about our self centred hype.I think traditionally we have excelled at outdoor sports due to our climate. However other countries have now caught up and surpassed us, such as Britain, is sports they were never big on and i thinks the mindset of the different sporting bodies is a siege mentality and operating in isolation for each other to protect their funding and resourses.

  3. I think you’ll find Michael Phelps was wearing considerably more than Leonidas of Rhodes TR.

  4. John
    I realise that the Ancient Olympics were nudie runs but the competitors wore armour in the hoplitodromos

  5. Well, that’s something I’ve learnt today. Thanks TR.

  6. Well, who knew about the hoplitodromos! I agree with much of what you have written Tony, I think we punch at about our weight, but the media, in its never ending appetite for a headline, seems to think we should have won more. I do think the allocation of taxpayer funds should be pretty directly related to results at this level, possibly averaged over more than 1 Olympics.
    More money for the grass roots, which seem to have some sort of fusarium in this country, possibly due in no small part to the Education Departments looking down their collective noses at PE as a worthwhile activity in schools.
    However, my main problem is with what seems to be a fairly significant media assault on Kitty Chiller. Her early stand to weed out clowns like Kyrgios and Tomic was excellent and she seemed to go out of her way to keep young team members out of trouble after the swimmers put themselves above the law. Imagine the outcry if she did nothing and then somebody was attacked, beaten up or worse on Copacabana, Ipanema or some such place? Team home safe and well, most else trivialities in my view.

  7. Cheers Bucko
    Couldn’t agree more about grass roots sport. As an old PE teacher I was astounded by the system’s disdain for the subject. That there are virtually no PE teachers in Primary school is criminal as this is the most important developmental stage.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Excellent points Tony. Thought Brazil did it ok, though the empty seats looked awful on TV.
    Totally agree with your views on swimmers, can’t stand hearing them be interviewed.
    Throughly enjoyed the athletics. Bolt was the best thing to ever happen to athletics. Hope it all doesn’t fall apart with his departure.

  9. Cheers Luke. I was at uni when the AIS first started up. There were a number od swimmers doing courses many of who copped a whack in the chops due to their big egos and mouths. Nothing much seems to have changed in 35 years

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