Does anyone still care about integrity of Olympics?

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The Independent Online

Four hours down the road, in Olympia of all places, a Russian woman found guilty of doping five years ago, won an Olympic gold medal for putting the shot a remarkable distance.

Four hours down the road, in Olympia of all places, a Russian woman found guilty of doping five years ago, won an Olympic gold medal for putting the shot a remarkable distance.

Here, the gut-wrenching affair of Konstadinos Kederis and Ekaterini Thanou was handed over to the athletics ruling body, the IAAF, and a member of the International Olympic Committee said that it was "good that it was over".

He too should have been sent to Olympia. Perhaps to be embalmed. Pontius Pilate is surely the historic model for this sleight of hand with water and towels, but for the IOC something must become obvious before the end of these Games, which have cost the Greek people billions of euros and a moment of crushing national heart-break, with the realisation that perhaps never in human history has so much been spent for such little return.

Finally, for the Olympic authorities, it has to be clear that the world of both government and ordinary people has finally sickened of the duplicities and the evasions that have marked the operating style of the richest, most powerful and, from time to time, corrupt of sporting organisations.

Here, significantly, there is no closing of ranks between the government of a nation that has invested so heavily and worked so brilliantly to recapture the spirit of a gift given to the world all those centuries ago, and the Olympic officials who every four years set up their camp, at grotesque expense, and take on all the trappings of an independent nation state.

Indeed in the aftermath of the "withdrawal" of Kederis and Thanou yesterday the most penetrating reaction came from an official of the Greek government.

Thodoris Roussapoulous simply wasn't accepting the IOC's desire to move on to other business.

His declaration that too many questions were unanswered, and that a judicial investigation would continue, was underlined by a comment that went to the heart of the problems of Olympic sport.

Said Roussapoulous: "The Olympics are nobody's personal affair but a world event - an event special to Greece not only as the birthplace of the Olympic idea but because of the participation of over 400 Greek athletes."

We can translate that easily enough. The IOC has to come down into the real world where you cannot push on one side the more unpalatable facts. You cannot carry on as though the behaviour of Kederis and Thanou does not make a bonfire of the ideals that were so solemnly declared by the Olympic chief, Jacques Rogge, in last Friday night's opening ceremony. You cannot sell, indefinitely, such profoundly flawed goods.

The voice of the Olympics was heard most clearly these last few days in the words of Arne Ljungqvist, the Swedish medical commissioner of the IOC. He said, with mind-numbing complacency, that the Kederis-Thanou affair was "unfortunate" but would not overshadow the athletics programme starting in the Olympic stadium tomorrow.

He is right only in an extremely limited way. It doesn't overshadow the events on the running track and in the field. It eats into their heart more ferociously than at any point since Ben Johnson was hauled down from the winning podium in Seoul in 1988.

"I remember," said Ljungqvist," when [the] Ben Johnson [affair] exploded it would be the end of track and field. I said the opposite. I said this was our chance to show how serious we were about stopping doping and that's what happened."

What really happened, of course, was that over no less than 16 years doping has reached epidemic levels, so flagrant that the hero and heroine of the host Olympic nation were emboldened to flout the testing regulations on three continents in the build-up to these Games.

Yesterday the world was invited to revisit the origins of the Olympics - and watch a convicted doper win the great prize of gold with a remarkable throw. Who was supposed to be impressed?

The Olympics may have come home these last few days, but in what kind of condition? Bedraggled and haunted, and they show unavoidable evidence of an increasingly misspent life over the last 108 years.

Here, though, they are now confronting the reality that the world is no longer in their thrall. It wants to know how they are going to remake themselves. If, that is, any people any longer care.