Tony Veitch: Rio 2016 the 'Oddball Olympics'

By Tony Veitch

A diver takes part in a training session after the water in the diving pool turned green in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP
A diver takes part in a training session after the water in the diving pool turned green in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo / AP

For months, we were told these Olympics had the potential to be like no other - the world's greatest sports show in a divided third world nation. But no one could have predicted the storylines that followed. To be blunt, these should be forever known as the Oddball Olympics.

They started with the green diving pool, which was put down to a slight chemical imbalance. Let's be honest, dads do that to backyard pools when they haven't got the handyman gene, not Olympic organisers.

Then we had 'Diving-gate' from the track, not the pool, when Shaunae Miller literally put everything on the line to win gold. I still don't know if it's legal or even morally right but the result has split the sporting public. Is this the way of the future, the full-length dive for the line? She won gold. I guess that's all that matters.

We had the British women's pursuit team reminding their golden male counterparts that "you may be drunk but please remember this is not your room".

Brilliant, logical, straight to the point. We men need to be guided.

Then there was the reminder that sportsmanship and the spirit of the Olympics is alive and well. On the morning when Lisa Carrington won back-to-back gold and Peter Burling and Blair Tuke also secured gold ahead of the medal race, Nikki Hamblin was trending on sports and news sites around the world.

Remember 1984, the most famous track collision of them all, when the shoeless Zola Budd tangled with the forever grumpy Mary Decker? Well, this time we saw genuine compassion for a fellow athlete. Their reward was a place in the final and a reminder that sometimes winning is not the greatest Olympic achievement.

Thomas Bach will probably try to save face by declaring these the "great Games". I prefer to say we survived Zika, faeces in the water and terrorism attacks. And, yes, little old New Zealand once again did us proud on the world stage. I declare the Oddball Olympics a crazy success.

A record haul

Some got a little worried in the early days of the Rio Olympics that we were not going to meet pre-Games medal expectations. There was even talk we could have a Sydney on our hands, when we won only one gold and three bronzes at the 2000 Olympics. You needed only five minutes to carefully pick through the schedule to see New Zealand were comfortably going to beat our record medal haul of 13.

What do you know, we've done just that. Yes, the cycling programme bombed and we were short two medals in the rowing, but the Olympics ebb and flow. In 2000 and 2004, our sailing crews were so far off the pace but 12 years on, they are now our standouts.

We can criticise the Olympics and question, with good reason, some of the athletes leaving Rio with gold around their necks, but what can never be forgetten is what the Olympics do to us, this tiny little South Pacific nation that continues to punch above its weight. That's why I love the Olympic Games: Kiwi pride.

Team NZ: The value of Burling and Tuke

These boys haven't just captured the imagination of the New Zealand sporting public with their utter dominance, consider what the bosses at Team New Zealand will be thinking.
They have two rock stars to build their entire public relations campaign around. Forget Grant Dalton and the rest of the crew. If this team want to win back the public ahead of next year's America's Cup, they have two golden cards to play: Burling and Tuke.

Finally, my Olympic dream

When you think about the potential of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray and a 37-year-old freak by the name of Mahe Drysdale leaving rowing for family and a life, can I leave you with this dream?

Maybe all three will decide they've done their dash with rowing but I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to these three as Olympians. So why not give them six months or a year off and then make them part of the eights?

Wouldn't that send a message to other crews, to have Bond, Murray and Drysdale leading our eight? Call it a pipe dream but it would be magic.

I have to end with this: while the Olympics won over my sporting heart once again, I have no interest in visiting Rio. Athletes robbed at gunpoint even with a security force of 85,000 on the streets, credit cards skimmed en-masse and terrible water quality . . . no thanks!

- Herald on Sunday

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