Saturday 3 December 2016

Catherina McKiernan: It's always the athletes who do the hard work while the officials live it up in first class

Catherina McKiernan

Published 18/08/2016 | 02:30

Nia Ali of USA celebrates with her son Titus in front of a sparse crowd in Rio
Nia Ali of USA celebrates with her son Titus in front of a sparse crowd in Rio
Annalise Murphy. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It feels like every aspect of these Olympics is tarnished now. You'd like to think that those at the top of sport could be trusted to lead athletes in the right direction but, at this Olympics, it's just been one bad news story after another.

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First, it was the drugs thing, then the boxing judges and now this ticket story.

As I've said before, nothing surprises me nowadays because sport at the top level appears to be corrupt and we just have to accept that.

I keep going back to this old man in our club.

I can see these Olympics putting years on him because he's just down about the whole thing at this stage.

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I was talking to him yesterday about the boxing and he reckoned that it was so unfair, that the judging wasn't right.

He felt that Michael Conlan had put everything into it for the last four years and then a judge, possibly, did him out of an Olympic medal.

It certainly looks corrupt and, from what we've seen recently, it looks like a lot of things that are done are not done on behalf of athletes.

Like, it appears that Pat Hickey flew to Rio first-class.

Bizarre

As athletes we laughed as we'd often be on the same plane as the officials. We were the ones doing all the hard work but the officials would be sitting up at the front. That happens all the time in sport.

The bizarre thing here is that there doesn't even seem to have been a demand for these tickets because the athletics stadium isn't full.

From what I understand the tickets in Rio have a set price. So not only can you not sell them for a higher price but you can't sell them for lower either.

There appears to be lots of tickets still available. A lot of local people can't afford them yet they still can't lower the price.

That's a complete waste. Why not let the stadiums fill up a bit so that more local people can enjoy the Games and create a better atmosphere for the athletes?

There seems to be so much poverty in Rio that the Olympics doesn't mean anything to some local people. You'd wonder should it have been chosen as an Olympic venue at all?

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Like the night David Rudisha, one of the greatest athletes in our sport, was running, the stadium was only half-full. That seems crazy. OK, it filled up eventually for Usain Bolt, but that's been the only time really.

London was such a success four years ago, surely they should hold the Olympics where there is not such extreme poverty? Parts of Rio are obviously like a Third World country.

Obviously Pat Hickey has only been accused of something and has to still defend himself but this ticket messing looks terrible.

He was always very good to me but I don't think he's particularly well liked in the athletics community because he's not seen as grassroots in athletics. He comes from a judo background.

I see the Minister for Sport went out and is now coming back. Being a politician you want to build up your brownie points as well but, by not allowing him to investigate, Hickey seems only to have added to the suspicions.

There are definitely some officials who, when an athlete does well, jump on the bandwagon, and you wonder if they have a real interest deep down.

Funding for our athletes is limited enough already so I'd hate to think that anything that comes of this scandal would affect, or cut back, their future funding, because they need it so badly to improve themselves.

Every penny they get is important.

Didn't Annalise Murphy spend nearly 130 days training in Rio beforehand? That's the sort of thing that athletes have to do to improve themselves.

It takes a lot of work and effort, and a lot of Irish athletes are afraid to make that commitment because, even if you've a part-time job, it's impossible to combine both. That's the sort of commitment you have to make and that's where the money should be going, to the athletes.

But athletes probably still shouldn't get into all this.

If they're 100pc focused and committed, all of this political stuff shouldn't affect them, they just need to keep working away.

There's so much social media now that there is the danger that all this talk will reach the athletes and they'll be tempted to use it as an excuse.

But if you're a real athlete and 100pc committed, this should all be water off a duck's back. If I was an athlete now I wouldn't entertain it, I wouldn't even read about it if someone mentioned it to me.

When you're in the Olympic Village you're oblivious to a lot of the stuff that's going on outside.

I remember in Atlanta we didn't know anything about all the talk about Michelle de Bruin at home. You're in your own little bubble and that's the way to stay.

Even if the athletes who still have to compete in Rio hear about this, they should just say 'this doesn't affect me' and get on with their business.

Thomas Barr on Tuesday night was a great example.

That video of him - an Irish sprinter winning an Olympic semi-final - that's going to be played over and over for years to come and will inspire so many up-and-coming athletes.

That's far more important than what's happening about some tickets. People like Thomas Barr - that's what we should still be focusing on.

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