don’t stop the carnival

There is growing talk about stopping the Olympic Games happening this summer.

This call has come primarily from a number of athletes or their representatives because their training regime has been interrupted or is challenged. I have seen noises from the US Swim Team and athletics team., some UK athletes and I have no doubt web sources in other languages carry similar messages from athletes of other countries

First point is that I am sure that pretty much ALL athletes are similarly challenged to some extent and if one thinks back to the glory days of the 5 Ringed Circus all athletes had challenges getting in the way of their training regimes – it was called work, or study, or lack of facilities unless they were East German or similar nationalities or had already reached a level where others were willing to support them. 

Even then they had to bend with the wind. I was watching a documentary the other day about Torvill & Dean. Who? I hear many say. Well back in the day they were so guaranteed a Gold Medal in ice dancing they almost just had to turn up. 23 million people in the UK tuned I not watch their performance and it was simply electric and achieved (a still unbeaten) string of maximum marks. I suppose you could say they were the ‘Nadia Commenech’ of their sport. Or, in our own sport like Rodney Pattisson & Ian MacDonald Smith whose string of 1sts in the Flying Dutchman Class at the Acapulco Olympic Regatta is unlikely to ever be matched. 

While Pattisson was fortunate enough to be a British Royal Navy officer and afforded plenty time to practice, Torvill & Dean were dependant on the Nottingham Ice Rink (UK) to allow them to practice after public sessions at night or before them in the morning, a virtual night shift if you like. Their podium was filled with skaters from the USSR who, of course, had no such challenges.

Of course I sympathise with them (the current Olympians) but that sympathy extends no further than the sympathy to many one man (or woman) band self employed businesses that are struggling due to shut downs or restrictions on their activities caused by the COVID-19 virus. 

Having said that, I do agree with the potential need to postpone the Olympics – just for different reasons. Until when? I don’t really know, they have to be slotted into other sports timetables. UEFA has already made the correct decision regarding Euro 2020 for example.

So why should they be postponed? The huge sporting migration that occurs in the lead up to any Olympics is less than 4 months away. China has been fighting this pandemic, now, for almost 3 months and while they have got it by the throat (bad pun, sorry) it is not dead yet. Most countries of the world haven’t even started to get it under control so the likelihood of this still being a huge problem for humanity as the Olympic flame is lit in Tokyo is massive.

The IOC has already said it wouldn’t make everyone wear masks – well that is irresponsible for  a start and the health of athletes, media and spectators is being put at a huge risk by the (current) IOC attitude of “The Show Must Go On”.

Of course, apart from being a sporting extravaganza the Olympics is, whether they like it or not, a huge business. Sponsorships signed, media rights assigned, not to mention the reported US12Bn investment by Japan and probably hundreds of thousands of tickets already sold.

There is of course potential fallout on our own sport if The Games don’t go ahead. If the IOC don’t have the cash flow that the Olympics brings to them what happens to the (depending on who you hear it from) 60% to 70% of World Sailing’s income that comes from the International Olympic Committee?

For some time I have been vocal that any organisation that receives a high percentage of its income from one source should be nervous (Apple’s dependence on the iPhone is a good example) and perhaps even the threat of losing the IOC financial input should start World Sailing’s collective brain cells working on alternative funding that isn’t so dependant on that one source. There are alternatives but that’s something to be discussed elsewhere.

On a ‘minor’ logistics point. As the Racing Rules of Sailing are linked to, and revised after, each Olympic Regatta do we still get a 2021- 2024 version or does the current rule book become 2017-2021.

Let’s hope the International Olympic Committee makes the right decision. But what is the right decision?

Surely that has to be the one which doesn’t unnecessarily put the health (and potentially lives) of countless thousands of athletes and fans at risk and more importantly doesn’t in any way undermine the global efforts to defeat the COVID-19.

There, I’ve said my piece and I am sure there are those that would disagree. There are politicians that said, not many weeks ago that they had this thing under control and are now facing numbers of infections in the thousands and deaths approaching the hundreds.

Let common sense prevail and selfless thoughts outweigh selfish actions.


Title inspiration thanks to author Herman Wouk