So just a few days in and already, as with any events of this scale, there have been some scandals – or perhaps “controversies” is a better word – at these Olympics.
First of all there was that mysterious woman who entered with the Indian team during the Parade of Nations but who was not part of the Indian contingent. Brazenly she walked right at the head of the team next to the flagbearer. Rumours were rife – had she bragged about her press pass on Facebook before the event? Who was she? What was she doing?
The Indians are understandably upset, with the acting chef de mission of the delegation Brig. P K Muralidharan Raja pointing out
The Indian contingent was shown for hardly 10 seconds in the TV coverage, and the entire focus sadly was on this lady instead of the athletes.
Apparently graduate student Madhura Nagendra was a volunteer involved in the ceremony who was told to quietly slip back into the stadium with the Indian team. …Fail!
Another Olympic controversy was caused not by a person or people but rather by the lack of people. Anyone watching the Olympics on TV must have noticed the number of empty seats at so many (even most) of the “sold out” events. With so many supporters clamouring for tickets, it’s not a good look to have half-empty stadiums.
With most of the tickets supposedly for sale to the public, a large number are reserved for media and press, Olympic officials, and athletes not competing in that event, who may decide not to show up. Apparently many of the tickets were those allocated to foreign vendors who simply didn’t want to pay to return the unsold tickets.
It’s not a good look and Olympic officials and UK politicians alike are becoming increasingly frustrated.
While the Olympics are all about sportswomanship, achieving personal bests and setting records, one young woman sparked controversy when she did just that in the swimming pool. Ye Shiwen’s shock upset in the woman’s 400m medley is big news. Not just because she won, but the way that she came from behind and in 25m was a body length ahead of the next swimmer. She created not just a new world record of 4m 28.43s, but in doing so the 16-year-old Chinese girl beat the time of her male counterpart, 27-year-old American Ryan Lochte for the last 50m (the two lengths of freestyle). She also beat her own previous best by 5 seconds.
The controversy came, however, with the speed with which the doping question was inferred by the BBC commentator Clare Balding. Just minutes after the race she asked
How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?
A storm erupted online with those defending Shiwen and those protesting that the drug question was justified considering the extraordinary circumstances. Olympic Village Deputy Mayor Duncan Goodhew is quoted as saying
I think it is very destructive and very irresponsible of anybody to accuse people until they are proven guilty.
The head of anti-doping at China’s General Administration of Sport, Jiang Zhixue reportedly stated
The Chinese athletes, including the swimmers, have undergone nearly 100 drug tests since they arrived here. Many were also tested by the international federations and the British anti-doping agency. … I think it is not proper to single Chinese swimmers out once they produce good results. … We never questioned Michael Phelps when he bagged eight gold medals in Beijing.
The Telegraph‘s Paul Hayward wrote an interesting article on the whole incident, “too fast for her own good in the swimming pool“.
(P.S. How cute is Shiwen?? XD)
Another woman who has been surrounded by uninvited controversy is joduka (judo fighter) Wojdan Shaherkani of Saudi Arabia, who was told that wearing a hijab was banned during competition for safety reasons. 16-year-old Wojdan was considering withdrawing and not competing at all if the ban was upheld. As you can imagine, controversy ensued.
Happily, common sense has since prevailed and a compromise has been reached with specially designed Islamic-compliant headgear being commissioned.
One really heart-breaking controversy was the fencing timing debacle at the end of the women’s épée semi-final between South Korean Shin A-lam and German Britta Heidermann. At the end of the match A-lam thought she’d won when the clock hit zero and the score was 5-5, because she had “priority” meaning that she was the winner in such a situation. However the clock was reset to one second amid vehement protests from the South Korean coach. Somehow during that second Britta scored a hit which apparently gave her the win. A distraught A-lam wept and declined to leave the piste, believing that to do so would jeopardize her appeal.
Amid slow-claps and jeers from the audience, A-lam waited, weeping, for 75 minutes (delayed the two medal competitions) before Britta’s win was upheld and she was escorted from the piste by two officials. Just minutes later she had to return to fight for bronze, which she lost 11-15 to world number one Sun Yujie.
Afterwards, through an interpreter A-lam said,
I think it’s unfair. The one second was over – I should have won. The hour was really difficult, but I thought if I got a yellow card [for leaving the piste] I might not be able to fight for bronze. I’m very sorry for the spectators. They spent a lot of money and I just don’t understand how this could have happened.
In the aftermath, Korean Olympic Committee President Park Yong-sung has stated,
I spoke to the FIE today. They never expected this kind of thing to happen in the last second, three attacks. Their timekeeping machine is only in seconds, not points of a second. … Because of this system design they could not handle the situation correctly yesterday, that they admit.
Since then, the IFE has decided to do something to commemorate A-lam’s ordeal (and, I guess, the fact that she was robbed!)
The International Fencing Federation said in a statement the medal would be awarded for her “aspiration to win and respect for the rules.”
I just think the whole story is really gut-wrenching. Imagine watching the clock be changed then sitting crying in front of 8,000 people, with everyone insisting you’re a loser. Brave woman!
One controversy of these Olympics involved online social networking, and an abusive twitter message sent to Great Britain diver Tom Daley. Reportedly Daley has said that his dad, who passed away due to a brain tumour last year, “gave me all the inspiration that I’ve needed”.
I’m doing it for myself and my dad. It was both our dreams from a very young age.
Unfortunately Tom and partner Peter Waterfield just missed out on a medal with a fourth-place finish in their 10m synchronised diving event. Afterwards twitter user Reece Messer posted a malicious message, taunting Tom about being a disappointment to his father.
Apparently he also threatened to drown Tom and sent other abusive messages. 17-year-old Reece was later arrested after a complaint from a member of the public, invoking much controversy about “free speech” and whether the police should have the power to “censor” online communication.
A technological gaffe has also sparked international controversy at the Games: when North Korea played football against Colombia in Scotland the pre-game graphics showed the South Korean flag next to the players’ name and photograph. The players walked off the pitch and the game was delayed for over an hour.
It’s kind of like someone said “What’s the worst that could happen?”…
A slightly less serious incident was the nude snow angel performed by a man during the men’s cycling road race. Following the cyclists, helicopters filming the race also caught the apparently naked man lying on a roof alongside the track making an invisible snow angel.
Reviews of the footage reveal the man was actually wearing a pair of speedos and lying on a New Zealand flag – that’s right, he’s a kiwi! What a proud moment for us all. 29-year-old Nick McAvoy has lived in London for a couple of years, and according to his father,
his son had seen the helicopters hover over his Fulham flat before, so thought he’d give them something to look at when he heard them approaching again on Saturday.
Naturally. Go NZ!