Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Selective memories: Both Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson were doped to their eyeballs but only Johnson is demonised

August 9, 2021

So another Olympic Games is over. A year late and with no spectators but pretty well organised (with a few minor hiccups). It confirmed my experience of superb Japanese planning and meticulous implementation as long as the plan is in force. It is when circumstances (accidents, weather) disturb the plan that the Japanese are not at their best. But the disturbances were relatively minor.

I suppose I am getting blase and cynical. The opening and closing ceremonies did not move me as they used to do in my youth. In fact I fell asleep watching the closing ceremony. (In my defense, it was after Sunday lunch).

Most of what I watched had Swedish commentary on the Swedish TV channels or English commentary on a well-known sports channel. The commentators did not distinguish themselves. The proportion of inane comments was very high and the proportion of ignorant comments was unfortunately even higher. Clearly they were sticking to their pre-prepared notes and had not the wherewithal to think on the fly and describe real events which deviated from their scripts.

The sight of men pretending to be women and competing against women in a few instances was not pretty.

I was particularly irritated by some of the hushed and reverent comments about Carl Lewis. Maybe they should have done their homework a little better. Like all history, Olympic history is just a story. What is generally forgotten by the predominant narrative today is that during the 1970s and 1980s the US cheated just as much as the Russians or East Germans did. Or as the Chinese did in the 1990s and later.

Carl Lewis was not quite the hero he was, and still is, made out to be. He was just as much a cheater as Ben Johnson ever was. 

Whether then, or even now where healthy athletes are provided exemptions from their home sports bodies and are allowed to take asthma medicines, cheating is always acceptable as long as it is not discovered.

This is an article from 2003.


Lewis joins Hall of Shame

ATHLETICS/US drugs scandal: The shocking revelation that Carl Lewis won two Olympic gold medals in 1988 when he should have been serving a drugs ban means the first three men who crossed the line in that 100 metres race in Seoul have now been implicated in major doping scandals.

The world knows Canada’s Ben Johnson, the first to break the tape, failed a drugs test. What has only now emerged is that, when the gold medal went to the second-place finisher Lewis, the American should not have been there because he had tested positive for banned stimulants at the US Olympic trials two months earlier. It means that the rightful winner should have been Britain’s Linford Christie, a man who himself had a narrow escape in Seoul and has a colourful doping history.

They were not the only runners in that race with drug-tainted histories. Dennis Mitchell, who would also have benefited if Lewis had not been there, by finishing third instead of fourth, had problems with the dope-busters.

But I like sports and watching sports. And I remain in my delusional narrative that Olympic victors are largely clean.

This Brazilian public does not deserve the Olympics

August 17, 2016

The Brazilian public is failing. It has no apparent understanding of the celebration of endeavour that the Olympics is supposed to be. They have little concept of “fair play”. The booing of competitors by the Brazilian public is a real stain on the Rio Olympics. They booed some teams at the opening ceremony. They booed the Swedish women’s football team last night when they beat Brazil on penalties. They booed Matt Kuchar in the golf tournament.

They booed at every event. They booed athletes, cyclists, boxers, swimmers – and any opponent of a Brazilian competitor in any sport.

Maybe the Olympics have cost too much. Maybe the handling of the green diving pool was proof of incompetence. No doubt the Olympics as an organisation is endemically corrupt. Retroactive penalties for alleged doping in the 2008 games is childish. Russian doping may be widespread but there is no justification for collective punishment. But the audience also has standards to meet.

The Olympics should be about endeavour and not just results.

But the Brazilian public have been contemptuous about endeavour. Booing a runner who came last in her heat as she struggled across the finish line after achieving the best time of her career was beyond the pale.

I have been to Brazil many times and the hospitality and friendliness is out of this world. Notwithstanding the street crime in Rio and Sao Paolo which is nasty and brutish. But this Brazilian public has proven to be immature, with little appreciation of “fair play” and have not lived up to my expectations. Every Russian participant was booed. They even booed the French pole vaulter because he was beaten to gold by a Brazilian. The Brazilian public shamed themselves.

They have not been an audience deserving of  the Olympics.


Cricket at the 1900 Paris Olympics

August 9, 2016

From Espncricinfo

A handbill advertising the match. Note the lack of any reference to the Olympics and that the Great Britain team is referred to as “England” © PA Photos

In 1900, Great Britain won the only Olympic cricket tournament to have been held – but they were totally unaware they had even competed in the Games.

At the 1896 Games in Athens it was intended that cricket would be included, but a lack of entries meant plans were quietly shelved. Four years later in Paris, four teams entered – Great Britain, France, Belgium and Holland – but in the event, only one match was played, between Great Britain and France. Holland and Belgium had originally been touted as co-hosts for the second Olympiad but those plans faltered and the two countries’ entries went the same way. …..

The Great Britain cricket side was not a nationally selected XI but a touring club team, Devon & Somerset Wanderers. …….. The French side was anything but, formed largely of expat Englishmen, and was selected from two Paris-based teams – Union CC and Standard Athletic. …….. 

It was agreed by the captains that the game would be 12-a-side. ……. Great Britain batted first and scored a creditable 117, largely thanks to 23 from Charles Beachcroft, who opened for Exeter, and the Old Blundellian Frederick Cumming, who top-scored with 38. France were then bowled out for 78. The British scored 145 for 5 second time around, with fifties from Beachcroft and Alfred Bowerman, setting the hosts a target of 185. In the event, this proved way beyond them, and they were bowled out for 26, with Montagu Toller, who had played county cricket for Devon in 1897, taking 7 for 9.

The winners were awarded silver medals, the French bronze ones – both XIIs also received miniature replicas of the 11-year-old Eiffel Tower.

The Great Britain side… also known as the Devon & Somerset Wanderers © PA Photos


Something rotten in the state of the Olympics

August 7, 2016

That trainers in Russia systematically doped athletes they were training is probably true.

That the Russian sports Ministry turned a blind eye to this and even helped athletes escape detection is also highly likely.

That many Russian athletes are guilty of doping is almost certainly true.

That all Russian athletes have doped is almost certainly not true.


Yet the International Olympic Committee (which is considerably more corrupt than FIFA) and the International Paralympic Committee (not very much cleaner) have decided to inflict a collective punishment on all athletes from Russia. It is quite clearly a “Collective Punishment” .

In times of conflict, Collective Punishment is a war crime and outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

Collective punishment is a form of retaliation whereby a suspected perpetrator’s family members, friends, acquaintances, sect, neighbors or entire ethnic group is targeted. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions. In times of war and armed conflict, collective punishment has resulted in atrocities, and is a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. –Wikipedia

The IOC is itself rotten and no matter how widespread doping was in Russia, there is no way in which infliction of a Collective Punishment – which by definition applies to innocents as well as the guilty – can be justified. It creates new innocent victims of IOC oppression.

As if the IOC was not rotten enough and oppressive enough.


Bjørndalen – and the “sense of Wow”!

February 9, 2014

Ole Einar Bjørndalen40 years old, 6th consecutive Olympic Games, 20 years of competition at the highest level, 12 Olympic medals, 7 Olympic Golds  (so far), all in the biathlon. Wow! On only the second day of the Sochi games and my “sense of Wow” has been well and truly engaged.

I watched the 10km biathlon sprint yesterday at Sochi and Bjørndalen, in spite of missing one target in the shooting, was strong enough in the skiing sections to win. He was not the favorite since his results this season have not been spectacular and he has generally been considered the veteran in the twilight of his competitive career. Wow!

His Olympics career has been both long and spectacular:

Bjoerndalen Olympics medals (2014-02-09) Wikipedia

Bjoerndalen Olympics medals (2014-02-09) Wikipedia

He still has the chance of winning a few more medals.

BBCNorway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen equalled the record for most medals won at the Winter Olympics as the 22nd Games got under way in Sochi, Russia. Bjoerndalen, 40, won the biathlon 10km sprint to take his tally to 12 medals, matching compatriot Bjoern Daehlie. 

Bjoerndalen finished ahead of Austria’s Dominik Landertinger and Czech biathlete Jaroslav Soukup to claim the seventh Olympic gold medal of his career.

“This victory has been a four-year job and it has been many years since I won (an individual gold medal), but life is too short to give up,” said Bjoerndalen. “I think this is one of my most important victories.” The Norwegian will get the chance to break Daehlie’s record in the men’s pursuit on Monday, but he played down comparisons between the pair. “It’s difficult to compare us at this time because Bjorn was some years ago and now we have a lot more disciplines,” he said.

The only faint shadow I perceive is that the achievements at Sochi not be later spoilt by revelations about doping. Whether or not Lasse Viren ever indulged in blood doping, some other Finnish athletes of his day did but it was not illegal at the time (1970’s). The Norwegian ski team in the 1990’s have also been accused of dirty tricks. The intense Alpine skiing events have had their share of rumoursMarit Bjoergen also won a gold yesterday in the skiathlon. She takes asthma medicine and has had dispensation to do so when it contained a banned substance (which is no longer banned upto certain quantities). In any event she has also faced accusations from her peers that her asthma inhaler was performance enhancing. I suppose being able to breathe is performance enhancing. But I thought that Pistorius being allowed to use blades to run in the summer Olympics was ridiculous. Why not allow a javelin thrower with a weak arm to use a “spear-thrower” attachment to his arm?

Usain Bolt generates a sense of Wow and there are no indications that he is anything but “clean”. But so did Ben Johnson generate the same sense of Wow when he won. And even Lance Armstrong. More often than not rumours of dirty tricks have – much later – been found to be true and sometimes banned.

I have a feeling that athletic team directors and doctors are continuously looking for legal performance enhancing methods and it takes a little time before any new methods discovered become widely known, spread and are then banned (like blood doping).  For an armchair spectator like me it is “the sense of Wow” which attracts and captures my imagination. I just hope that my  “sense of Wow” – not just at Bjørndalen’s fantastic achievements are not deflated and destroyed by later revelations of dirty tricks – even if they are not illegal for now. 

Is PwC plagiarising Andreff’s Sochi Olympic result predictions?

February 7, 2014

In November last year I posted about this paper which used economic factors to develop a model for Olympics medal results and then used the model to predict medals won at the Sochi Winter Olympics starting today. Today Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have with great fanfare made their predictions for the winter Olympics. In their press release they make no mention of this earlier paper

W AndreffEconomic development as major determinant of Olympic medal wins: predicting performances of Russian and Chinese teams at Sochi Games, in Int. J. Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, 2013, 6, 314-340.

The PwC predictions are slightly different but remarkably similar to the results published by Andreff. They claim to have looked at the same factors as Andreff did. They make the same prediction of home advantage for Russia as Andreff did. I don’t have access to their full report but their press release makes absolutely no reference to the earlier paper and seeks to take credit for the analysis. If their report makes no acknowledgement of the work by Andreff then it does look very much like plagiarism by PwC. Even if their “econometric” model has been developed independently, it is still a plagiarism of ideas if an acknowledgement of Andreff’s analysis has not been made.

Andreff Result Predictions:

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 - M Andreff

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 – M Andreff

PWC Medal Predictions

PWC sochi predictions

PWC sochi predictions

Press Release via ConsultantNews:

London, 31 Jan 2014As with the Summer Olympics, home advantage could play a key part in how the Winter Olympics medals are shared out next month – with hosts Russia looking set to capture a record haul.

But the hosts – along with close rivals Germany, Canada, Austria and Norway – will have their work cut out to catch the US team. Further down the table, after their London 2012 Olympics success, the GB team may have to settle for just a couple of medals. And unfortunately the cool Jamaican bobsled team don’t even make it into the running. 

Once again, economists at PwC have used their skills to project the likely medal tally – this time for the Olympic Winter Games at Sochi starting on 7 February. Their analysis is based on econometric modelling, testing the historic correlation between a range of socio-economic metrics and historic medal success.

The modelling results show that the size of the economy is significant in determining success, with total GDP appearing as a significant variable. However, a large economy is not sufficient on its own for a strong performance. Climate is an important factor, with snow coverage and the number of ski resorts per head having a significant and positive impact on medal shares.

Larger, developed countries with the right climate dominate the top of the projected medals table; but Austria and Norway demonstrate that a smaller economy is not a barrier to success, with a greater estimated medal haul than countries such as China and France.

William Zimmern, PwC economist, said: “While this is a light-hearted analysis, it makes an important point of how organisations can use economic techniques to help make better business decisions. The purpose of our model is not to forecast medal totals with complete accuracy, but rather to increase the predictive power of medal projections over and above using historic medal results alone.

The model allows us to make better, more confident and more informed forecasts. Businesses can use similar techniques to do the same.”

Home advantage – PwC

We used regression analysis to produce the results in Table 1, employing a Tobit model to estimate medal share for the 28 countries which have won at least one medal in the last three Winter Olympics. The variables used were total GDP, ski resorts per head, level of snow coverage, medal shares in the previous two Winter Olympics, and dummies for countries with a “tradition” of winter sports and for host countries.

I have worked with PwC many times during my career. They are very effective but they are not slow in trying to take credit wherever they can – even if it is undeserved. And their ethics are generally as lacking as is endemic in their industry (audit/consultancy).  A little bit of plagiarism by PwC – and not for the first time – would not be a great surprise.

India tops the list of Olympics underachievers

August 14, 2012

London 2012  has been a fantastic Olympics – the Bolt Games – notwithstanding a fairly pathetic closing ceremony.

The BBC with the help of Meghan Busse from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US has produced a table of the underachieving and overachieving nations (based on population and GDP).

The top-10 list of countries that won most Olympic medals barely changed between 2008 and 2012. The top four – US, China, Russia, UK – were identical. Just one country dropped out – Ukraine – which was replaced by Japan. But which countries did better or worse than we should have expected?

Before the Games started, BBC Radio’s More or Less programme decided to level the statistical playing field by working out how many medals nations could expect to win based on population and GDP alone.

“If you use those predictions as a kind of benchmark, then you can ask the question, who’s done well and not so well relative to that prediction – who won more medals than they should have, and who won fewer,” says Meghan Busse from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US, who helped with the sums.


Olympics: OBS coverage is amateur and cycling road race graphics were pathetic

July 29, 2012

Maybe it’s just teething troubles on Day 1, but yesterday’s coverage of the cycling road race was pathetic. Coverage of the boxing was bad and the rowing and swimming graphics were amateur. Their choice of pictures generally from their many cameras managed to miss many of the critical moments.

Olympic Broadcasting Services – OBS – provides all pictures from the Olympics to broadcasters around the world.

Of course, OBS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the International Olympic Committee and hosts the broadcasting operation for several major sporting events.

The coverage was amateur rather than incompetent – but for the premier sporting event it needs to be at a different level. It certainly cannot get much worse.

The Guardian

Olympics have started – blogging will be light

July 28, 2012

London 2012 has begun.

London 2012

A pretty good start with the opening ceremony last night. The  industrial revolution and the molten metal and the rise of the rings was superb.

Execution was fine but  I thought the NHS section was ill conceived and Mr. Bean was a little self-indulgent. The Queen and James Bond was actually nondescript. It was an impressive bit of film making – but only because it was the Queen. Her corgis did well. Home crowd of course but not a very “sporting” reception for some of the “unknown countries”. Excusable because some of the “countries” were not countries at all.

The “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” sorted under “F” was ridiculous but that can be put down to the IOC rather than to the London organisers.

The Beijing opening ceremony was far more spectacular but humourless. Some of the London themes were more “socialist” than at Beijing. Beijing was trying to hide its “socialism” while London seemed to be doing the opposite. The ceremony had some humour – but some of which fell flat.

The raising of the rings in London though will stick in my memory.

Blogging will be extremely light for the next 3 weeks.

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