Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Heroes, hypocrisy and stupidity at the top

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Usain Bolt is pure gold as he cruises to yet another victory to confirm his place as the most famous athlete on the planet. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Usain Bolt is pure gold as he cruises to yet another victory to confirm his place as the most famous athlete on the planet. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Olympic Games' biggest goose has turned out to be the bloke at the top, again. I've been left with three Olympic sounds ringing in the ears and by far the most bizarre is the words from IOC president Jacques Rogge, who sees a different Usain Bolt from most of us.

The IOC is a law unto itself and nothing typifies this better than Rogge's attitude to Bolt, the floating Jamaican sprinter who for a second successive Olympics was the biggest star, and a happy, theatrical, accessible one at that.

Rogge got snippy in Beijing because he felt Bolt didn't show his rivals enough respect and he had another crack in London.

Bolt has done the 100m-200m double twice, and is the most famous athlete on the planet. History will celebrate him. Yet Rogge reckons Bolt is still one or two Games short of being an Olympic legend. Rogge has got to be joking, but he ain't.

Bolt is an Olympic legend, and more. He is a saviour for athletics, with a laid-back, outgoing appeal and cool that reach across generations. He sprints like no one has ever sprinted before. Bolt cruises to victory, leaving us to wonder why he doesn't let rip with the afterburners and demolish records. But we're also kind of glad he doesn't, because the remarkable way he wins heightens the fascination. Integral to his charm, Bolt comes from a small nation.

Which brings us to the men's javelin, one of the later events and a memorable Olympic moment. It was a shock to find that Trinidad and Tobago even had a javelin thrower, let alone one named Keshorn Walcott - the world junior champion and still only 19 - who would win the gold medal. On the big day, he did the business.

On this Olympic occasion, New Zealand's shot put star Valerie Adams couldn't quite manage that, so let the standard national hand-wringing and inquiries begin.

Adams - despite an administrative error - got to the starting circle, and from there destiny was in her hands. She did fine, but she got beaten. End of story. Well done Nadzeya Ostapchuk from Belarus. I almost deliberately don't really care beyond that because New Zealand cries foul far too often. Sorry, Val.

This is our problem. We struggle when our favourites get beaten, as in Rugby World Cups. A politician is now getting involved about the Adams entry mistake, which can only mean that it is politically favourable for him to do so. French thuggery, food poisoning, Wayne Barnes, matchfixing, Val-gate. No doubt we'll demand that nasty, dodgy Belarus give our medal back.

Then again, we might learn one day that favouritism is not a guarantee. Adams wound up the pressure on herself, going into seclusion before the Games. Ostapchuk threw past Adams' competitive best. A similar upset occurred in the men's javelin, where the big guns tied up while Walcott triumphed. That's life. That's sport.

Anyway, I'd rather use the spare energy to celebrate the little Somalian-born Brit Mo Farah's amazing track double. Okay, so this will sound condescending, but Farah showed that Muslims can elicit a cheer from Westerners who are often coerced - through wicked stereotyping - to fear. We need stories that bring the world together and celebrate life's complexities rather than accentuate differences.

Here's a Games hypocrisy.

A South Korean footballer's bronze medal was withheld because he displayed a political message against Japan over disputed territories.

Yet the Olympics are saturated in insidious political messages via an orgy of anthems and flag draping/waving.

As the old pop star Morrissey said, host country England has never been so "foul" with patriotism and addled with royal fervour, disguising the inequalities of everyday life. Morrissey went too far with the comparisons to prewar Germany but there is a lot of truth to what he said.

As I have said before, all the cookie-cutter patriotic breast-beating in world sport is a form of social control - brainwashing, if you like.

The Olympics themselves have lived the lie. For years, competitors from places like East Germany stood in honour of anthems and waved flags that many of them hated. Their countries didn't really exist.

The IOC wouldn't give a stuff about that, and has actually contributed to oppression, including the production of athletes via virtual child slavery.

So for all of the wonderful sport, the Olympics leave an uneasy feeling.

What about the two other sounds that won't be missed?

That Vangelis tune, the London Games' soundtrack, became a musical pounding worse than being trapped in a room with Gheorghe Zamfir's panpipes and Kamahl's greatest hits.

Our main TV commentators, Mark Watson and Nigel Avery, were weirdly obsessed with the word "great".

As for Usain Bolt, though, he is beyond great, a true legend.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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