With a year still to go before the 2018 World Cup begins, it may be that thoughts of next summer’s tournament are far from the front of your mind.
But the Fifa Confederations Cup, which gets under way in Russia on Saturday, might change that – and not just because of the football.
Many of the issues that surround Russia’s hosting of the World Cup are likely to come under the spotlight over the next few weeks, as teams from around the globe compete at Fifa’s test run.
Questions over hooliganism, corruption allegations and claims workers have been abused provide a complex background to the eight-team event.
Even if you think the Confederations Cup is nothing more than a series of glorified friendly matches, there is still a trophy to be won.
But in many respects it is Russia’s success at hosting the World Cup test run that is of most interest.
“Hundreds” of cases of alleged wrongdoing – some involving senior officials – were being looked into by Fifa’s ethics committee before its main investigator and judge were ousted, the two have claimed.
Football’s world governing announced on Tuesday it will not reappoint investigator Cornel Borbely and ethics adjudicator Hans-Joachim Eckert.
At a news conference on Wednesday, they said their removal was a “setback for the fight against corruption” with knowledge of the cases being lost.
The pair had earlier said it “meant the de facto end of Fifa’s reform efforts”.
Borbely believes his removal was politically motivated.
“We investigated several hundred cases and several hundred are still pending and ongoing at the moment,” Swiss Borbely said on Wednesday.
It is a wet winter Saturday on a muddy playing field in an unprepossessing part of south Manchester. The river Mersey slides past behind a row of trees planted to provide shelter from the wind, chill gusts cutting through the gaps where saplings were torn out by local kids to sell on elsewhere.
On the pitches, children of every size are playing football: four- and five-year-olds being taught the game, three teams of under-nines, the same again of under-10s. Dogs are being walked, and dogs are being allowed to do what dogs naturally do. By the changing rooms, a woman collects subs of £2 a child, less if they have brothers or sisters playing and the extra cost would mean one of them missing out.
Old Trafford lies four miles and several worlds away, across the flat suburban streets of Stretford to the north-west. The Etihad Stadium is six miles to the north-east, beyond Rusholme and Ardwick, new oil-money-bright in an old coal town. And yet these council fields are the new front line in the battle for supremacy between United and City, and these kids – shivering, laughing, falling over and pushing past – are the trophies both clubs are fighting for.
The reasons are not hard to find. Inside the squat changing room, away from the damp patch on the ceiling where the flat roof leaks, a trophy cabinet spills its silverware on to shelves and filing cabinets either side. On the opposite wall are photos of the young-boys-made-good who won them.
Marcus Rashford, striker for United and England. Danny Welbeck, United, Arsenal and England. Wes Brown, Jesse Lingard. Ravel Morrison – made good, made bad, as innocent here aged eight as he would ever be.
[…] This past spring, John decided to share his secret Football Leaks treasure. He no longer wanted to merely publish a player contract here and disclose a bank account statement there. He instead wanted to show the public how everything fit together: the well-hidden power relations, the objectionable or even illegal deals between teams and sports marketing agencies, and the tax tricks used by the multimillionaires. He wanted the stories hidden in the material to be told — entire stories and not just fragments. So he handed his data over to SPIEGEL: eight portable hard drives containing documents, including original contracts complete with secret subsidiary agreements, emails, Word files, Excel charts and photos. The data reaches into 2016 and takes up 1.9 terabytes of memory. That is roughly the equivalent of 500,000 Bibles.
Where did the data come from? John won’t say. He didn’t ask SPIEGEL to pay him anything for the information, even though player agents recently offered him up to 650,000 euros.
SPIEGEL spent weeks examining the authenticity of the documents before deciding to share the material with the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), a consortium of 10 well-respected journalistic outlets in Europe. To enable them to share their findings, an encrypted internet platform was built and the journalists met in Hamburg, Mechelen, Paris and Lisbon to discuss what they had found and talk about additional sources and publication plans.
A day after Donald Trump held a press conference to decry Buzzfeed’s reporting, spout nonsensically about how he doesn’t do treason, and claim that he wouldn’t take part in a golden shower party because he’s a germaphobe, the Wall Street Journal has reported the identity of the British spy who helped compile the explosive dossier.
Christopher Steele is the 52-year-old owner of a London-based private security company, but he previously served in MI6, posing as a diplomat in Russia and Paris. The English FA hired Steele’s private security firm to investigate FIFA corruption while it was still in the running to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. England was unsuccessful in its attempts to delegitimize Russia or Qatar’s bids, but in the summer of 2010, Steele reportedly supplied the FBI with information about the widespread corruption within FIFA.
According to Reuters, the FBI came to him in 2010 and the information he supplied helped spur on the FBI’s investigation.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) confirmed yesterday (13 September) that hackers accessed a database of confidential medical data and released the drug regimens of gymnast Simone Biles and three other top US Olympians. The Russian government was behind the move, WADA claimed.
The hackers penetrated the WADA’s athlete database and publicly revealed private medical information about three of the United States’ most famous athletes: Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Simone Biles.
The documents show that Biles, who won four gold medals in gymnastics at the Rio Olympics last month, and the Williams sisters received medical exemptions to use banned drugs.
“While it is an evolving situation, at present, we believe that access to ADAMS was obtained through spear phishing of email accounts,” WADA said in a statement.
The antidoping agency attributed the hack to Fancy Bear, a Russian cyberespionage group that forensics specialists have tied to breaches against government agencies, nonprofit organisations and corporations.
Swiss prosecutors have confirmed they are opening a criminal investigation into German football legend Franz Beckenbauer and three others over possible irregularities concerning Germany’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup.
As members of that cup’s organising committee, they are suspected of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation.
Former vice-president of the German Football Association (DFB), president of the 2006 World Cup local organising committee (LOC) and former member of the Fifa executive committee
Some of the alleged crimes were carried out on Swiss territory.
[…] During the fascist regime of General Franco in Spain, to display the Catalan flag was to risk death or imprisonment. The only place where the Catalans could safely fly these fags was Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. Barcelona FC now embodies Catalan identity and pride. Wherever there is oppression in the world, football, by its very nature, can provide a vehicle for expressing pride in a national cause. It was never only ever about football.
Celtic supporters know this too. Their club was founded in 1887 and played its first game in 1888 to raise funds for the relief of the poor Irish who had gathered in the East End of Glasgow. When they arrived in the city they initially faced resentment, discrimination and squalor. Every time Celtic won a game their suffering was eased a little.
In Scotland, those days are long departed. In Palestine, though, another oppressed people is suffering. Perhaps now because of a simple act of solidarity and generosity, they will know that they don’t suffer alone.
- Palestinian refugees record thank you video for Celtic
- St Etienne follows Celtic in staging Palestine flag display
- How deep is the connection between Celtic fans and Palestine?
- Celtic fans raise more than £130,000 for Palestinian charities after flag protest
- Celtic fans share their views on Uefa fine and fundraising for Palestinian charities
- Celtic fans warned not to fly Palestinian flags at match in Israel
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, who discusses some of the biggest issues surrounding the 2016 Olympics in Rio. You can view part one of this interview here. (Democracy Now!)
Kwame Rose speaks to Dr. Sheri Parks, author of Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture, who discusses the media’s depiction of black female athletes during the Rio Olympics and the social issues raised during the games in Brazil. (The Real News)
- The ignorance aimed at Caster Semenya flies in the face of the Olympic spirit
- Caster Semenya is the one at a disadvantage
- The hotly contested Olympic medal table of sexism
- Is some Olympic commentary sexist?
- How 18 Black Olympians Defied Jim Crow and Hitler in 1936
- African-American Women Make Olympic History by Winning Gold in Swimming, Gymnastics and Shot Put
- Simone Manuel, Michael Phelps and Monica Puig Make Olympic History
- 1968 Olympics Black Power salute
The image that will stay with me long after the last competitor leaves Rio this week is a decidedly un-Olympic one. Caster Semenya, the women’s 800m gold medallist, extends her arms to fellow competitors Melissa Bishop of Canada and Lynsey Sharp of Great Britain. Sharp, who came in sixth, holds a tearful Bishop, who took fourth, in a tight embrace. Rather than respond to Semenya they remain in their embrace ignoring her. The photo was a sad endnote to one of the most vitriolic media and social media uproars I can recall, one in which the athletes were the casualties. And the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) did nothing to quell it.
In the month leading up the to the race, a cacophonous and spurious alarm sounded unfairly on Semenya’s right to compete. She endured relentless hostility and a deluge of cruel harassment from both the traditional and online media, something she has been withstanding for the seven years since the IAAF confirmed it was investigating her. It was reported she was even provided with a security team in Rio due to concerns the hostility might turn violent.
Semenya’s athleticism was attributed to a single molecule – testosterone – as though it alone earned her the gold, undermining at once her skill, preparation and achievement. South Africa as a nation has pushed back with #handsoffcaster, coming to the defence of one of the world’s most scrutinised athletes despite her having done nothing wrong and competing with the support of the court of arbitration for sport (Cas).
- Caster Semenya is the one at a disadvantage
- Why Hyper-Masculine Women Are Scary, but Fish-Like Men Aren’t
- Caster Semenya’s problem isn’t that she’s intersex – it’s that her femininity doesn’t look how we want it to
- Caster Semenya urges everyone to stop focusing on ‘how people look’ after clinching Rio Olympics gold
- Caster Semenya wins Olympic gold but faces more scrutiny as IAAF presses case
- South African Caster Semenya’s extraordinary story
- Nike pays tribute to Caster Semenya
Ding dong the witch is dead. At the age of 100.
Joao Havelange, who poisoned the wells of world football, even had one of the Olympic stadia named after him, has died. But then what could you expect? His ex-son-in-law, the shamelessly corrupt Ricardo Teixeira, had to flee the country after, like Havelange himself, being exposed of taking money from the late Horst Dassler’s ISL company. This, having against all logic and morality, been installed as head of the Brazilian World Cup organisation.
David Yallop’s devastating book, How they Stole the Game, the work of an outstanding investigative journalist, published in 1999 (the year after Havelange at last stepped down from the Fifa Presidency) presents a picture of massive corruption, ruthless intrigue, relentless greed.
Yet, it is tempting to recall, in the words of the great 18th century political philosopher, Edmund Burke, that for evil to triumph, it is enough for good men to do nothing. Havelange bribed and manipulated his way to the Fifa presidency at its Frankfurt assembly in 1974. He was voted back into office on three occasions. Of course, many of those votes, like those he purchased in 1974, were acquired by underhand and expensive means.
[…] The blame for some of the pressures that have threatened to tear at the fabric of these Olympics can be laid squarely at the door of the IOC. Others were the fault of the vainglorious Brazilian politicians determined to add the ultimate seal of international approval to their story of economic growth by hosting the World Cup and Olympics back to back.
It is true to say that Brazil has been assailed by an economic and political hurricane since winning, in 2009, the right to host the Games, on a wave of optimism as one of the emerging BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, China – powerhouses.
Fifa and the IOC have been keen over recent decades to spread the gospel into new territories, largely for commercial reasons. But in doing so they have sought to take all of the upside and leave nothing behind.
The IOC in particular has legions of working groups and committees dedicated to sustainability. In the run-up to the London Olympics there was much talk about a “compact” Games. Bach was elected on the back of his Agenda 2020 reform plan.
But it is largely just talk. The reality is that the IOC is committed to crowd-source decisions from its peculiar membership of minor royals, former athletes and slick sports politicians who play to their own vanity.
Amy Goodman speaks to Jesse Washington, senior writer for The Undefeated who’s covering the Olympics from Rio, about the African-American women making history at the games by winning gold in swimming, gymnastics and shot put. (Democracy Now!)
A powerful coalition of Manchester’s political and civic leaders have used the anniversary of the bloody Peterloo Massacre on 16 August to confront Manchester City Football Club’s Emirati owners over human rights abuses in the oil-rich kingdom.
In an open letter published on Tuesday, Manchester-based politicians, legal experts and campaign groups wrote to the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, demanding the UAE release political prisoners, investigate allegations of torture and commit to respecting human rights.
The UAE has had close financial ties to Manchester since Mansour purchased the football club in 2008. He has since invested more than £1bn ($1.3bn) in the team, as UAE-backed firms signed a string of deals in the city, including a $1.3bn regeneration partnership with Manchester City Council.
However, rights groups and senior figures in Manchester, including local MPs and two high-profile barristers who represented some of the families in the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster, are increasingly concerned about the financial ties to one of the city’s Premier League clubs, given the deteriorating human rights situation in the UAE.
Joao Havelange, one of the most influential men in modern sport – if not the most influential – has died overnight in Rio de Janeiro aged 100.
Havelange, former president of world football federation FIFA, IOC member and Olympic swimmer and waterpolo player, had played a key role in helping bring the current Olympic Games to his home city.
At the Copenhagen Session of the International Olympic Committee in 2009, with Rio competing against Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo, Havelange invited the Olympic family “to join me on the beach of Copacabana to celebrate my 100th birthday at the first Olympic Games in South America.”
In fact, Havelange was 100 on May 8. A ever-more-controversial figure after revelations of his role in the ISL scandal, Havelange’s name was the original title of the Engenhao stadium which, temporarily re-baptised at the Estadio Olimpico, is the stage for the athletics events at Rio 2016.
Consider what it takes to keep all those Olympian machines nourished and hydrated for one meal at the Rio Games: 250 tons of raw ingredients to fill the bellies of 18,000 athletes, coaches and officials in the Olympic Village.
Now multiply that figure by three — for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and again for each day of the Games.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Italian chef Massimo Bottura also did the math and was inspired, not by the tantalizing dimensions of herculean consumption but by the prospect of colossal waste.
“I thought, this is an opportunity to do something that can make a difference,” said Mr. Bottura, 53, a fast-talking blur of a man whose restaurant in Modena, Osteria Francescana, recently earned the topaward from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
On Thursday night, that something looked like this: In a fraying section of downtown Rio, a pack of the world’s most venerated chefs were rushing around a slapdash kitchen amid a crush of volunteers as they improvised a dinner for 70 homeless people.
[…] Such examples are just the tip of the iceberg, according to a recent study by Cambridge University Press. Researchers analysed millions of words relating to men and women and Olympic sports in the Cambridge English Corpus (CEC) and the Sport Corpus – massive databases that include news articles and posts on social media.
The study revealed common word combinations for female athletes included aged, older, pregnant and married or unmarried. In contrast, top word combinations for male athletes included fastest, strong, big and great.
It also found that the language around women in sport also focussed disproportionately on appearance, clothes and personal lives.
[…] It’s not just language where there is a difference in attitude – female Olympic athletes are still garnering far fewer column inches and given less TV airtime than their male counterparts. Researchers found men were mentioned twice as often in the CEC and three times more often in the Sports Corpus. When a sport was mentioned it was usually assumed that the report was about the men’s game – so for example the media is inclined to refer to “women’s football” and call men’s football just “football”.
They used to be brimming with tens of thousands of fans hoping for their countries’ teams to be victorious – but eerie photographs have revealed the sites of the past Olympics games have been reduced to rubble by neglect.
In Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the disused bobsled from the 1984 Winter Olympics has been vandalised and is now enjoyed by hordes of mountain-bikers, while the Mount Igman ski jumping course threatens to collapse from decomposition.
There are similar sites in Athens, Greece, with a swimming pool in the former Olympic Village filled with brown, murky water with a sign emblazoned with the 2004 Summer Games’ motto ‘Welcome Home’ torn in half by vandals.
While the site of the Athens Olympic softball and baseball is still standing, the pitch has overgrown with brown weeds and the venue is now used as a shelter for refugees and migrants.
The athletes village from the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany has had the windows boarded with timber and sheets of plaster have been ripped from the walls of the deserted building.
Nearby at the former Hellinikon Olympic complex, the Canoe and Kayak Slalom Centre has been completely drained, with the bollards formerly used as competitor obstacles still remaining, but now discoloured from the blistering sun.
There is, quite simply, nothing to touch it. The hardest fought sports rivalry of my lifetime has been that between the International Olympic Committee and Fifa. It is the Reichenbach Falls of scumbaggery – a site of titanic struggle between worthy foes, a struggle in which I have frequently called the winner too early.
One year ago, while watching Fifa bigwigs being escorted to police cars by hotel staff literally shielding them with their own dirty linen, I remember thinking that the IOC couldn’t have matched this. There were $29m (£22m) Amex bills, there was the hilariously timed release of a vanity movie, there was the stop-motion implosion of Sepp Blatter. The IOC, for all their baroque scandals and malevolence down the years, were at least not this bad.
My apologies. Once again I hear Michael Corleone just managing to keep a lid on his frustration as he asks me: “Who’s being naive, Kay?” I mean, really … at least you could believe the football, even if it was happening in Qatar. Spectators effectively now have to be doping to believe the Olympics.
Amy Goodman speaks to Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, about the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Democracy Now!)
- Brutal Crackdowns, Hidden Poverty: How Preparations for the Rio Olympics Hurt Afro-Brazilians
- Poverty in Rio: Why Brazilians Can’t Afford Tickets to Their Own Olympic Games
- Budget Failures, Displacement, Zika—Welcome to Rio’s $11.9B Summer Olympics
- The Problem With the International Olympic Committee’s Decision on Russia
- The Olympics Haven’t Always Been an Economic Disaster
Over the next few weeks, Aug. 5-21, the city of Rio de Janeiro is going to host the 31st Olympic Games. Like a mother preparing her home for 500,000 tourists, Rio has swept the city’s poverty under the rug by increasing police and army presence in favelas. As a result, part of the local population isn’t that anxious about the games. Militarized police presence and violence are only some of the issues that have affected the Afro-Brazilian population living in Rio since the possibility of sports mega events such as the World Cup in 2014, and now the Olympic Games, became a reality in Brazil.
“Urban segregation in Rio de Janeiro was aggravated with the preparation to receive the sports mega events,” anthropologist Luciane O. Rocha, a researcher at the Nucleo de Estudos da Cidadania Conflito e Violência Urbana of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, told The Root. “While the investments in housing and the majority of the spatial structure for the games were constructed in privileged areas, to the poorest areas were destined only violent actions from the policy and the army.”
Since 2014, the black population of Rio has complained that the government has been increasing police presence in favela communities, which aggravates an already problematic issue of violence between the poor and the police. Also, in 2014, Rio de Janeiro’s former governor Sergio Cabral requested the presence of military forces in the state to help pacify favela communities. More than 20,000 military officers are reported to be part of the security force for the Olympics. But it isn’t just the increased police presence that has many concerned; racial profiling of poor black youths inside the public transportation has also increased, and some have reportedly been denied access to wealthy neighborhoods close to beach areas.
While there are certainly good reasons to be excited about the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one group has been less enthusiastic about the games: actual Brazilians.
Their reasons are complex, and residents say preparations for the Olympics have been a missed opportunity to reduce violence and elevate the poor. In fact, there’s evidence poverty and disorder are actually on the rise because of the games.
But perhaps the most notable fact, illustrating the uncomfortable paradox of hosting the Olympics in a developing country, is that many Brazilians can’t even afford tickets to the events. In 2014, Rio’s mayor promised to give away 1.2 million tickets for free to students and the poor: To date, the city has set aside 47,000 tickets — only 4% of his promise.
The problems don’t end there.
Negative stories in the run-up to an Olympics are nothing new. We saw them in Beijing in relation to human rights abuses in China, and in Sochi, regarding the city’s readiness to host the Games.
However, with the Rio Games, we seem to have reached a new level of negativity with Zika, protests, security concerns, and questions over not just the readiness of venues and athlete accommodations, but of the city’s very infrastructure. You’re probably thinking, this kind of negative press can’t be good for anybody.
Apparently, that’s not entirely true. Someone is in fact benefiting from the negative reports that have impacted ticket sales and led to many of the world’s top athletes dropping out of the Games altogether. Who you ask?
A television network.
That’s right, NBC. The old “Proud Peacock.” According to network executives, all these negative stories about Zika, social unrest and sewage-infested waters have raised awareness about the Games, and this has in turn helped to boost the network’s ad sales.
No matter what the final medal count looks like at the 2016 Summer Olympics, NBCUniversal is going to be Rio’s big winner.
One day before the games even begin, the company has already set an Olympics record with more than $1.2 billion in national ad sales, which includes broadcast, cable and digital advertising. It’s said to be the most by any network for any media event in U.S. history.
“We’ve surpassed what we thought was at one point an unobtainable threshold,” Seth Winter, evp, ad sales, NBC Sports Group, told reporters on a conference call from Rio today.
That is more than 20 percent ahead of its sales for the 2012 London Olympics, with about 75 percent of that revenue coming from NBC’s prime-time coverage of the games, said Winter. (According to data from Kantar Media, however, the Summer Games in London saw $1.33 billion in broadcast and cable ad spending, a figure that didn’t include digital.)
Sales have been strong across both linear and digital platforms with digital sales 33 percent above London’s levels. The strongest categories include automotive, beverages, telecommunications, insurance, movie studios and pharmaceuticals, as advertisers are “exceptionally bullish on this Games,” said Winter, who indicated at least one presidential campaign has also purchased Olympics advertising.
By now, the Olympics have a proven record of ravaging host cities’ finances. The economic legacies of recent Games, including massive bills for taxpayers, burdensome security costs, and abandoned infrastructure, have been haunting enough that some cities now actively resist hosting them: Officials in Boston withdrew their 2024 hosting bid, while the residents of Hamburg banded together to decisively vote down their city’s campaign. Amid the turmoil, though, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and its national affiliates seem to emerge from the Games richer, buoyed by lucrative TV and sponsorship deals.
As the standard for spectacle rises higher with each successive Games’ costlier and costlier trappings—among them lavish opening ceremonies, iconic stadiums and arenas, and gaudy civic “improvements”—it’s easy to become inured to this modern form of the Olympics and the all-but-certain damage they inflict on host cities. But hosting the Games has not always entailed onerous extravagance: The recent trends of rising costs and diminishing returns date back only to the 1980s, when changes in the IOC’s strategy put the organization, and the Games, on their current trajectory.
In a blistering public critique on the eve of the Olympics, the former chief investigator for the World Anti-Doping Agency claims his efforts to investigate Russian doping were repeatedly delayed by WADA’s president, who preferred to privately settle matters with Russian officials.
Jack Robertson, who left the agency in January, said he was forced to leak information to the media in order to pressure WADA president Sir Craig Reedie to act and, even then, he says, the agency sat on credible allegations that suggested Russian doping extended far beyond track and field.
Ultimately, Robertson says, the investigation delays have allowed the president of the International Olympic Committee — who has reportedly been supported by Vladimir Putin — to claim that the committee didn’t have enough time to determine whether it should ban all Russian teams. The result is that Russia may still have one of the largest delegations in Rio.
In a wide-ranging Q&A, Robertson, speaking publicly at length for the first time, reserved his harshest criticisms for Reedie, a former elite badminton player and chair of the British Olympic Committee. Reedie also holds the potentially conflicting role of vice president of the IOC. (WADA gets a large chunk of its funding from the IOC.) The revelations of systemic Russian doping are an enormous embarrassment for the IOC, as well as a diplomatic problem, since the IOC president and Putin are, according to The Guardian, “the unlikely Olympic power couple.”
The final days of preparation before the first modern Games in Athens in 1896 offered many of the tropes that still structure Olympic coverage a century later. Rumours persisted that the stadium would not be ready on time, leading to a furious exchange of letters in The Times. The New York Times correspondent came to dig for dirt and found it. “There were plenty of old tin cans and rubbish scattered where once the silver Ulysses sparkled to the sea: the grove of Academe reminded me of picturesque bits in shanty town.”
The refurbished stadium for the 1920 Antwerp Games, started just 15 months beforehand, was finished perilously late. The French occupation of the Ruhr and the flooding of the Seine in the winter of 1923 put Paris 1924 in question. The architect of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic complex was harried in the local press for shady practices and sweetheart deals. Los Angeles 1932 was held in the very depth of the great depression. All feel remarkably familiar stories, not just from the distant past but from pretty much every Olympic Games since Atlanta 1996.
Yet in April 2014 John Coates, a visiting member of the IOC, declared the preparations for the Rio Games “the worst ever”. Two years later, the already disastrous state of affairs has been conjoined with Brazil’s sharpest ever economic slowdown, the impeachment of the president by a corrupt parliament, the nation’s most explosive corruption investigation which is cutting a scythe through the political and business classes, and the threat of the Zika virus. To this has now been added the Russian doping scandal and the IOC’s hapless response to it. Coates’s case looks strong but how exactly do the Rio Olympics match up to the past?
Doping in sport is widespread and shows little sign of abating. Athletes are dropping out of the Rio Olympics like flies. Maria Sharapova was banned for two years after testing positive for meldonium; a Romanian kayaking team failed their drug test, disqualifying them pending further investigations; and the International Olympic Committee announced that they could ban up to 31 athletes from competing because retests of their samples collected during the 2008 Beijing Olympics indicated the presence of banned substances. If the trend continues, the Rio Olympics could be the Olympics with the lowest number of delegations in recent history.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have taken the unheard-of move of banning the entire Russian track and field delegation of athletes on grounds of systematic doping. WADA works on the premise of strict liability, which means that athletes are deemed guilty whether or not they realised that they had taken a banned substance.
However, despite continued efforts, the practice of doping persists and seems to be so entrenched in professional sports that no doping sanctions, however harsh, will be able to eradicate it.