Thursday 26 April 2018

Rings of deceit: welcome to Games of cheats and dopers

Game on: Athletes take selfies at the opening ceremony in Rio
Game on: Athletes take selfies at the opening ceremony in Rio
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Well, here we go again.

The quadrennial convoy of corruption, cheating, doping, malice and contempt has kicked off, in a country beset by massive crime rates, a president who is looking at impeachment and a police force that would make a Mexican cartel blush.

It's possible that Rio 16 will prove to be a great games.

It's possible that they might go down in the annals of Olympic lore.

It's possible that this year will be remembered as the time when its place as the biggest sporting tournament was cemented.

It's possible that the peoples of the world will come together to enjoy the world's biggest sporting festival in the home of the world's biggest carnival.

All of that is possible.

But it's unlikely.

And that's before we even mention Zika.

Barely 24 hours old, the Games had been dogged by scandal since even before the opening ceremony.

We live in an era where people's faith in giant institutions has been eroded to the point of open contempt.

That can only be a good thing, of course. As we know only too well in this country, blindly allowing any large organisation to operate without scrutiny or questions will always, always lead to disaster.

But can we honestly say that the Olympics has a real future if it continues to limp from one scandal to the next, showing contempt for the supporters and the athletes?

Mostly the athletes, of course.

As depressing as the sight of so much blatant, systematic cheating may be to the armchair fan, the athletes are the ones who suffer.

They're the people who live monastic lives, make sacrifices which the rest of us could never endure and they give absolutely everything they have to give - only to be beaten by a cheat.

Irish walker Rob Heffernan is a classic example - he came fourth in London four years ago but received his bronze medal in the post when the Russian athlete who came third was disqualified.

A medal is a medal, but surely unless you get to take your place on the podium, it's just another trinket.

It's beyond ridiculous that Russia, for instance, can have 119 athletes banned from these games yet still have a delegation present.

Zero tolerance, it appears, only applies when there is zero money. The rich countries, like the Russians, still manage to operate with virtual impunity.

Yes, collective punishment is a rocky moral path to walk, but either there is zero tolerance or there isn't. There most definitely isn't.

The first Olympics I can remember is Moscow in 1980, when 65 other countries followed the American lead and boycotted the tournament.

That favour was then returned with bells on four years later for the LA games, but they're still the most glamorous and exciting sporting occasion I can ever remember watching.

For God's sake, they even had an astronaut in a jet-pack descending for the opening ceremony and if that didn't entrance every 12-year-old-boy watching, then nothing would.

My point is that the Olympics have always laboured under some scandal, boycott or diplomatic row - but that only made the Games stronger.

External forces could try, but they would fail, to extinguish the Olympic flame.

Now, however, the problems are entirely internal and self-inflicted.

In fact, the IOC, FIFA and the UN seem to be a three-headed hydra - vast kleptocracies run by, and for the benefit of, a shadowy, unaccountable elite, with a disproportionate number of top jobs given to apparatchiks from third-world countries, dictatorships or religious theocracies.

The problem with this trio of morally bankrupt superpowers - and they each carry more power than any individual country - is that people are no longer buying what they're selling.

If the IOC's decision to award the games to Rio was baffling, FIFA's decision to play the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar was the most blatant example of a two-fingered salute from the FIFA executive as one could imagine.

Nobody likes them, but they don't care.

In fact, a jaundiced eye might even be forgiven for thinking those decisions were designed to deliberately enrage the very Western countries that fund these hideous regimes.

John McCain was openly mocked a few years ago for calling for the abolition of the UN and the formation of something along the lines of a league of democracies, every applicant would have to meet certain standards before they were allowed membership.

Why was his suggestion so summarily dismissed? More pertinently, would it be dismissed quite so quickly now? We can all spout the usual platitudes about the international community and how all nations are neighbours.

But when your neighbour keeps burgling your house and insulting your family, then you're entitled to have nothing to do with them. FIFA damned itself with the Qatar decision, the IOC have proved they just don't care and the UN is now a force for evil in the world.

Time to bin them all and start again.

Peace in the Middle East can start in leafy D4

So, the Palestinian legation to Ireland is house-hunting.

According to reports the other day: "The Mission of the State of Palestine in Ireland is applying to open an embassy in a protected building in upmarket Dublin 4."

The gaff, which sold for ¤1.5m, will see the delegation move from their current office in Mount Merrion.

I wish them all the best. Everyone deserves an embassy, I suppose.

But this is a missed opportunity.

The building which houses the Israeli embassy is also in Dublin 4 and, as luck would have it, there is usually at least one floor free in that building - presumably because some people don't want to be in blast radius if someone decides to blow them up.

But why not move the Palestinian lads into the empty space, alongside the Israelis?

Yes, yes, I know. They don't normally get on. But think of the benefits.

For starters, the Israelis would be less likely to be attacked if there was a bunch of Palestinian diplomats in the same building. It might even be nice to see both sides passing the time of day with each other when they're entering and leaving their office. They could swap tips on the best places to get decent Middle Eastern food.

But there are some potential pitfalls.

It wouldn't be long before the Palestinians accuse their new landlords of illegally stealing their electricity. The Israelis would start claiming that their new tenants aren't using the proper entrances and insist on tunnelling their way into the office, while I can only imagine the row that would erupt when the Palestinians accuse the Israelis of occupying all the car park spaces, in direct contravention of international parking guidelines.

Well, have you got any better ideas?

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