The Last Word: Rejoice as Brazil beat Barack
Time to cheer the IOC for sticking two fingers up at arrogant politicians as right wins over might
Sunday 04 October 2009
Wouldn't it be ironic if the International Olympic Committee, that most political of sporting bodies, turns out to be the one credited with first raising the two fingers which sent the politicians scurrying back to their dark little corners? Fancy it, the IOC in the role of the truth-seeker, bashing through the bull, tearing down the transparent, vetoing the vote-seekers... we can all dream.
It was certainly possible to do so in those wonderful few moments on Friday afternoon when Jacques Rogge announced the eviction of Chicago, the hot favourites to be 2016 hosts, after the very first round of voting. Sure there may now be some concern as to the effect such an outrageous humiliation might have on the Presidency of Barack Obama and hence on planet Earth; but that is not for us in sport to worry about. We are way, way smaller than that.
Sports fans should only have rejoiced in the realisation that right had won over might, that the Brazilian legacy had prevailed over the Barack love-in. While it is true that all the other bids arrived in Copenhagen with their heads of states, none did so with the fanfare or arrogant expectancy of the man from the White House. It was not as if he didn't have excuses to stay away (healthcare, the economy, world peace). No, Obama showed up in Denmark because a worshipping aide told him some fine oratory would bring home the bacon. Instead the audience had him for breakfast. Washed down with a bucketload of his own schmaltz.
The President's case seemed to be that America is the land of opportunity (a novel concept) but at least it was more compelling than that of his wife. Michelle basically said she believed her home town should be chosen because her father suffered from multiple sclerosis. It's what the politicians always do – tell a sad personal story and expand this emotion across the breadth of the debate. It usually works, especially if the politician, or his First Lady, happens to be the most powerful in the world and particularly if the listeners are a gullible bunch of sports-bods. It didn't work this time. And the IOC should be cheered to the ever-afters for not falling for it.
If they had, the repercussions could have been genuinely terrifying. Politicians already believe they can use sport as a PR platform, but this would have signalled a veritable stampede to the bidding halls. There they would have stood, Obama-like, crooning about sport's ability "to bring us together", "to help us understand one another just a little better". Not forgetting, of course, to include the old chestnuts about "the health of our children" and teaching them "through the achievements of the human spirit that nothing is impossible". It's baloney, the lot of it. But it's easy baloney and it's risk-free baloney and in politics that is one priceless commodity.
However, in sport, as in life, it is essentially worthless. Only a few hours before the Copenhagen climax, Gordon Brown announced Sir Steve Redgrave as the Government's "2012 Sports Champion". What does that mean? Well, the former rower thinks it will mean him having the chance to "ruffle a few feathers" as he tries to increase sporting participation during the run-up to London 2012. All I can say is ruffle all you like, good Sir. But you dare demand some meaningful funding and the shutters will come down quicker than the Government can pledge "we'll get one million adults playing more sport and get young people doing five hours of sport per week".
This is the same Government which continues to sell off school sports-fields despite promising so vehemently to protect them. Since London was awarded the games four years ago, 49 school pitches have been sold off and last month they approved the sale of 200 more. That's 250 fewer places where "our children", whose health we care so deeply about, can run around, 250 fewer places where they can be "brought together", where they "can be helped to understand one another just a little better".
That is the true relationship between politics and sport. The Olympics does not change a thing. It's all take and no give, all rhetoric and no action, all words and no funding. It's the same the world over and, in this regard, Brazil and its politicians will be no different. Yet at least their Olympic bid could boast some palpable substance. The IOC chose correctly and in doing so sent out a message to blatherers the globe over. Let us pray the charm-merchants begin to move their snakes elsewhere.
I predict a riot as FA acts only after public outrage
The Football Association have been condemned for "doing nothing" in the case of Emmanuel Adebayor. Wrong. They have done something. They have informed fans that if they threaten to cause a riot when one of the opposing team celebrates in front of them, then that player will end up in the dock.
If the Arsenal supporters had not reacted when their former striker had sprinted those 90 infamous yards, then Adebayor would have heard little more about it. Just like Robin van Persie heard little more about it when he gesticulated in a far more aggressive fashion to the City fans the same day. And just like Gary Neville heard little after he did the same a week later when he was not even playing.
Both times, the City supporters behaved in a grown-up manner, all but ignoring the baiting of the dimwits. Silly boys. Next time, all pile forward, all snarl while bawling the C-word, chuck a few coins, make sure one of them injures a steward and, hey presto, it's FA inquiry time.
Of course, critics will point to the distance Adebayor travelled to make his point. But if they want to go down this legal road, where do they draw the line? It's OK to taunt the fans straight in front of you, but not those behind you? So if he'd scored up the other end everything would have been hunky-dory, even though his intention would have been just the same?
It's what happens when an organisation makes its decision based on the scale of public outrage. The FA cannot punish one and not the other. And, with their £25,000 fine and their suspended two-game ban, they have punished Adebayor. Whatever he happens to earn.
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