Sunday 4 December 2016

Olympic heroes lift nation's spirits

Published 14/08/2016 | 02:30

Brothers Paul, left, and Gary O’Donovan after the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls A final in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brothers Paul, left, and Gary O’Donovan after the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls A final in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

We needed a story, a narrative we could invest in. The first week of the Rio Olympics went by in a haze of indifference. The athletics had not yet begun and the "minority" sports just didn't grab our attention.

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Of course, there were our boxers - who had been our main medal hopes - but we seemed to take them for granted. Then even that went horribly wrong.

Our indifference and even cynicism was fuelled by the dark side of sport worldwide - the doping and the incompetence of sporting officialdom. The lead-up to Rio was dominated by the scandal of Russia's state-sponsored cheating, but we know it goes on everywhere. It is estimated that, at any given time, 10 to 15pc of athletes are doping and only about one or two per cent are caught. The World Anti-Doping Agency has an annual budget of €23m to police the planet. That's how seriously the problem is taken. A replica medal in the post months after the event is no substitute for standing on the podium with the real thing around your neck while your national anthem is played and your country's flag is raised. Just ask Derval O'Rourke.

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