Review of the Year 2015 Part 2
Phew! 2015 was a tough year for sport. But it is possible to find some positives, while acknowledging the negatives, and to think about ways to build on them for the future.
In sporting terms, the European Games in Baku were equally promising. But there were also signs of trouble. It was yet another exorbitantly funded spectacle in a country with a questionable human rights record. And after the Netherlands withdrew as the host for 2019, it seems likely that the next event will be in Russia, ridden with a doping scandal.
Here are some New Year resolutions for sporting administrators to have a better 2016:
1. Stop Being Corrupt
This really goes without saying and corrupt people tend not to listen. But I believe that there are some in the sporting world who are not so corrupt. What can they do to help?
2. Stop Being Defensive
This is vital. The media should be free to scrutinise the IAAF and FIFA without threats.
Overdosing on information like an addict is unhelpful. In anti-doping, over-interpreting ambiguous blood values renders them meaningless, and has innocent victims, like Paula Radcliffe. Instead of making untestable allegations about athletes, Sebastian Coe said, “They should be challenging me, they should be challenging federations.” He was right.
But when he is challenged, he doesn’t like it. When a scandal broke about an e-mail sent by his chief of staff, Nick Davies, the response was heavy handed. There might well be a reasonable explanation but there is no way of knowing for certain without looking into it. Davies was right to step down temporarily – he should let the media investigate too.
3. Bigger is Not Better
Fans of track cycling will be disappointed that it is not part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban – and will not be held in the city of Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics.
There is one consolation – the Izu peninsula where the velodrome is located is one of the most beautiful parts of Japan (above) – and there is a wider issue. These events are now far too big and far too expensive to stage. This problem can no longer be ignored.
The Dutch bid for the 2019 European Games was not the only one to falter last year. Boston withdrew from the race for the 2024 Olympics and was followed by Hamburg, whose people voted No in a referendum. This came after the candidates for the 2022 Winter Olympics had been reduced from six to two by a series of similar withdrawals.
On the face of it, this has little to do with corruption but, under the surface, connections abound. Democracies are being priced out of hosting rights, so that federations become increasingly dependent on dodgy regimes, and want to avoid upsetting them at all costs. These countries have a higher risk of a culture of bribery and of state sponsored doping.
Oslo left the field for 2022 in part because of bizarre demands – including free cakes for Olympic officials – akin to the rider of a shallow pop star. A sense that administrators are greedy, in more ways than one, is undoubtedly a big factor in the reluctance to bid.
Some sports will be affected more than others, track cycling included, unfortunately. But we must get back to the idea that major Games make people smile, like Pachi, the Toronto porcupine, rather than being a method of coldly asserting economic power.
Next week: Four Hills ski jumping, the Tour de Ski, Hopman Cup tennis and volleyball