The end of the Olympics?

The 28th Olympic Games ended on Sunday evening in Rio de Janeiro, overshadowed by debates about doping and empty stadiums. For some commentators the first Olympics staged in Latin America were a complete success. For others, the Games' image has been further tarnished as a result of the numerous scandals.

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El Espectador (COL) (CO) /

A triumph for Latin America

Latin America's first Olympics were a complete success, the Columbian daily El Espectador comments:

“Brazil won the games. That is the main impression after the last weekend of the Rio 2016 Olympics, which saw rain, cold weather and a lot of nostalgia. … The gold medal in men's football was the icing on the cake for the hosts, who performed their duties excellently. Although many had doubted Brazil's ability to organize the games, mired as it is in a profound political, social and economic crisis, its Olympics, the first in Latin America, were a total success. … Even though the generous host Brazil fell short of expectations in terms of medals, its dramatic victory in the penalty shootout against the German football team, the only title the country lacked, more than made up for this. The team with the green and yellow strip is still a protagonist when it comes to team sports. … Brazil and Rio bid farewell to their Olympic Games with a spectacular and colourful samba and carnival-style ceremony.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Scandals overshadowed top performances

The Olympic Games in Rio generated more negative headlines than success stories, the Irish Times comments:

“Each day, it seemed, the headline sporting acts - US swimmer Michael Phelps adding to his gold medal treasure chest, gymnast Simone Biles outshining fellow American Gabby Douglas, Usain Bolt winning an unprecedented treble-treble - were overshadowed by headlines away from the action. The meeting of cultures was sometimes uneasy too, none more so than the outrageous case of US swimmer Ryan Lochte, who, with some team mates, feigned an armed robbery. The first Olympics to be staged in South America appeared cracked all over. At times it seemed in danger of falling apart.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Rio spreads warmth and light

In spite of the problems the Olympic Games in Rio will be fondly remembered, Sydsvenskan comments:

“Despite the blemishes the Games have contributed to spreading feelings of camaraderie among people from many different countries. ... There were memorable scenes which had more to do with friendship and compassion than records and medals. ... One magic moment was when [Syrian refugee athlete] Yusra Mardini swam the first heat of the 100 metre butterfly. She was far from making it to the next round, but when she touched the wall the applause was thunderous. The spectators honoured her for a performance that was worth so much more than an Olympic medal. She saved many people as they fled from Syria in a rubber boat. The Games in Brazil have helped to keep the Olympic spirit alive. The Olympic flame went out, but the memory of Rio continues to spread warmth and light.”

Delo (SI) /

Apocalypse not now

The Olympics went off smoothly after all, Delo summarises:

“Yesterday evening the Olympic flame was extinguished at the Maracanã stadium and Rio de Janeiro can breathe a sigh of relief. The organisers and the crowned Olympic heads of the IOC leadership have wiped the sweat from their foreheads. The games are over and the predicted Apocalypse never occurred. Robbery and thieving were part of everyday life in the city but there were no major acts of violence. The Islamic State didn't blow up any participants and nothing was to be heard of the Zika virus that was supposed to infect the whole world. There was more trouble in Rio than in Beijing in 2008 and in London 2012 put together, but the colourful Brazilian capital that hosted the World Cup final two years ago has proven that it can organise more than just the carnival.”

Südostschweiz (CH) /

Games for the rich

After the Games in Sochi the Olympic ideal has taken another beating in Rio, Südostschweiz criticises:

“These were Games for the wealthy. The rest of the population wasn't interested, as the many empty seats showed. The legacy of these Olympics threatens to quickly fade into oblivion in Rio. Peace was brought to the favelas above all in districts near the arenas. Then once the Games got underway the police had to be withdrawn to ensure law and order down below in the 'asphalt' areas [Rio's rich districts]. As a result violence flared up once again. The fear in the favelas that the city will relapse into its old ways after the Olympics is justified. One look at the infrastructure shows: public transport was upgraded in prosperous areas and not, as announced, across the whole city. Already in Sochi the Olympics lost some of their lustre. Rio has continued this trend. See you in Pyeongchang!”

El Mundo (ES) /

Brazil not a good choice

Brazil was not really in a position to host the games, El Mundo comments:

“It's true that when Brazil won the bid to host the games in 2009 it had already been awarded the World Cup 2014 and was experiencing a boom - thanks to the reforms instituted by [ex-president] Lula's [social democratic] Workers' Party. But the Brazil of 2016 is a different place: the profound political crisis is gnawing away at its international image and threatens to destroy all the progress. With an expected recession of 3.8 percent, eleven million unemployed and endemic corruption the country was not well placed to host the world's most important sporting event. The traffic jams, the low-quality sports infrastructure, empty seats at the stadiums and spectators who even booed some of the athletes all made it clear that the country wasn't up to it. Then there were the many demonstrators on the streets saying that the money invested in the Olympic Games had only deepened the economic and social rifts and slowed down necessary reforms in the areas of healthcare, education and transport. ”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Hard to believe that Bolt is clean

Jamaican track and field superstar Usain Bolt won the men's 200-metre sprint on Thursday night, his eighth Olympic gold medal. Bolt is too fast to be above suspicions of doping, The Irish Times suspects:

“One of the strange professional and fan attitudes towards this and every Olympics is that certain athletes are 'too big to be dirty'. That’s ridiculous, especially when you look at the massive stars in sport who have cheated. ... The best way of illustrating how remarkable Bolt’s speed is, is by looking at the 30 fastest 100m times ever, nine of which have been run by Bolt. The top three have been run by Bolt. The 21 other fastest times ever were all run by athletes who tested positive for doping at some stage. ... Is Bolt so much of an anomaly that he is able to run faster than athletes who have doped? Let’s hope so, let’s hope he’s just that naturally amazing. Let’s believe.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Field hockey not yet contaminated by doping

The Belgian men's field hockey team won the silver medal on Thursday in Rio. Field hockey has become widely popular thanks to its openness to innovation, La Libre Belgique comments:

“The values embodied by this sport have always been in vogue: fair play, tolerance and respect for the opponent. Field hockey has not (yet) been contaminated by money, doping or fraud. On the contrary: this sport, once reserved for the elites and now accessible to the broad masses (entrance to championship games is free, by the way), has done all it can to make itself attractive and has been consistently revised in recent years with the abolishment of the offside rule and the systematic appeals it entailed, the introduction of the self pass and consistent player rotation, the use of video technology and time penalties for players. Its big brother with the round ball would do well to take note of these changes.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Ticket scandal a disgrace for Ireland

Patrick Hickey, the highest Irish functionary in the IOC, and another Irishman were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of selling Olympic tickets illegally. The case must be thoroughly investigated, the Irish Times demands:

“The arrests are desperately embarrassing for Ireland and its reputation on the international stage. Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, has thrown himself into unravelling the story of the Pro10 contract with the Irish Olympic Committee (IOC). He is right to insist that this is a matter of public interest for which the IOC should be held answerable. ... The attempts by Brazil to root out the parasitic ticket touts from international sport is a worthy objective. Its legal prohibition on ticket gouging should be supported. It would be a sorry day were it to be found that the OCI, THG or Pro10 attempted to circumvent such efforts.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Brazilians are ignorant hosts

The Brazilians have a very particular way of hosting the Olympic Games, Die Welt observes:

“When no Brazilians are taking part the stands are mostly empty. But when Brazilian athletes are playing, fighting or racing along with the others, thousands of spectators descend on the event like a flash mob and provide a spectacle of emotions and an orgy of tears, whether Brazil is successful or not. ... Apparently few Brazilians are aware of the fact that until now - and not only in Europe - the Olympics have set themselves apart from football through a mood of peace and respect - for the home team as well as the adversaries. And apparently they weren't even aware that many few of the disciplines existed. This can't be put down to the poverty and lack of education in the country, because the high ticket prices mean that only the middle and upper classes have access to the stadiums. The refusal to be fair and to take an interest in athletes from other countries has just one name: ignorance.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Olympic reality shock in Rio

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are audibly and visibly colliding with reality like never before, Tagesspiegel sums up at half-time:

“Audibly, when suddenly the audience boos a Russian swimmer, although the issue of doping has otherwise been taboo in sports. Visibly, when so many seats in the stadiums are empty because people have other worries and can't or don't want to pay for a bit of Olympic distraction. Back when the Olympic Games were still bursting with energy and basking in the glory of certain victory, they seemed for two weeks to be stronger than reality. They gave free rein to all the emotions of sport, and allowed audiences to indulge wholeheartedly in them. ... But cracks are appearing all over the place in the reality of the Games. And in the public's perception of them. Plenty of people here have turned their backs on the spectacle, in disgust at the commerce and corruption.”

LSM (LV) /

Sport and politics go hand in hand

The decision of the Egyptian beach volleyball team to compete in leggings and hijab prompts public TV station LSM to warn on its website of the dangers of using sport for political ends:

“Those who think that sport and politics aren't intertwined are either naïve or didn't go to school. The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, cherished the ideal of sport being independent from politics. Because in the past sport was bound up with developing an athletic body, the military and displaying national ambition. … Today sport has moved away from politics but it hasn't completely risen above it. Broadcasting sport events can convey messages to a broad audience. This is why in future we will see more and more cases of sport events being used to express political, religious and other views.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

What we secretly want is doped Games

The French swimmer Camille Lacourt has personally attacked Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, gold-medallist in the 200-metres freestyle, over his doping history, saying Sun "pees purple". Viewers longing for new world records are also to blame for doping scandals, Le Quotidien writes:

“Wouldn't it be easier just to authorise doping, to avoid such polemics and put an end to the suspicion that now surrounds each victory? High-performance sports, whatever the discipline, have long been no more than a marketing spectacle. And we, the viewers, are partially responsible. ... We want extraordinary results. Consequently doping is indispensable for existing records to be broken with every Olympics and every Tour de France. People have biological limits, and without doping it's impossible to keep improving performances time and time again.”

15min (LT) /

Of ugly - and beautiful - political gestures

According to the Olympic principles politics and sports should be independent but that's not how it is in real life, news portal 15min comments:

“The Russian swimmer Yuliya Efimova voiced dismay that Russia had been verbally attacked during the Olympics, when wars are normally interrupted. In politicising sports, she is trying to divert attention from her own misdeeds. Such behaviour is common when athletes' victories are supposed to prove a state's power. ... It also came as no surprise that after beating his Russian rival, a Georgian judoka pointed to the Georgian flag on his jersey. That happened on August 8 - the day on which Russia attacked Georgia eight years ago. ... But it was equally astonishing when two female gymnasts from North and South Korea put their arms around each other and took a selfie. Such gestures show that the time-honoured Olympic ideals are not dead and can't be destroyed by doping or state powers.”

Contrepoints (FR) /

Brazilians gain nothing from the Games

The Olympic Games come at an inopportune time for Brazil, the web magazine contrepoints.org writes:

“For many Brazilians all these Games are doing is exacerbating already existing tensions. The organisation of two global events has entailed huge costs for an economy hit by recession and struggling under the weight of austerity measures. ... Although the 2014 Fifa World Cup drew far more criticism than the Olympics have, the Brazilians who are hosting this event are worn out by recession and disappointed by their elites. ... Above and beyond the costs and the political crises, once again we see the dissatisfaction of a large section of the population who stand to gain little from these Games - and certainly nothing positive.”

Club Z (BG) /

Sport for everyone and not just for elites

The idea behind the Olympic Games is elitist and obsolete, news website Club Z argues:

“The Internet, social media, the freedom of movement for people, goods and capital and the way we communicate nowadays have all created a reality in which each individual is part of the process rather than just an observer. We don't need elite athletes financed by taxes. We need sport for the masses. The elites can continue to compete against each other, but they should finance themselves or look for sponsors. … What do we care that someone wastes their time lifting weights for four years to win an Olympic medal? And we're supposed to pay for it? That was perhaps okay in the 19th century or at the start of the 20th century. But in the age of digitisation a healthy lifestyle must be the priority.”

Trouw (NL) /

A chance to overcome prejudice

The Olympic Games may have lost some of their lustre but sport still builds bridges, Trouw believes:

“The 2016 games are beginning at a time when attacks, growing international tensions, economic pressure and ethnic and religious conflicts dominate the headlines and the scandal over Russia's systematic doping programme is still reverberating. … Sadly, the idea that clean games are an illusion is a fact for athletes and spectators. Just as it is an illusion that the games will turn Rio into a safe and friendly city. … But watching the athletes at the games offers more than just a narrow perspective of the power and speed of the human body. The games open up a broader perspective, a chance to climb out of the communication trenches of prejudice. That, too, is a form of sporting ability.”

Savon Sanomat (FI) /

A positive side to the scandals

It would be a good thing if the many scandals had the effect of downsizing the Games, Savon Sanomat believes:

“Many sports fans have made it clear that the mood is extremely subdued in the run-up to the games. But that can also have positive effects. Because if the number of spectators drops the big sponsors - who are already starting to have second thoughts about the Olympics' image - will also disappear. A lack of money would be the best incentive for the International Olympic Committee and the sporting community to take action against the current abuses. Then rather than letting the budget swell from year to year, the Winter and Summer Olympics could be organised on a smaller scale.”

Le Jeudi (LU) /

Nothing but an advertisement show for problematic countries

The spirit of the Olympic Games is also harmed by the fact that a growing number of countries use the event to polish their image, Le Jeudi comments:

“Nothing is left of the euphoria in 2009 when Rio was named to host the Summer Olympic Games. It has been replaced by the many worries. ... Perhaps it's time to stop holding the Games - and the Football World Championships - which have become commercial events and showcases for countries looking for prestige. Brazil wanted the games to ensure its prosperity and reinforce its status as a regional power. The motives of Russia and Qatar [hosts of the Fifa World Cup in 2018 and 2022], by contrast, are less pleasing. For that reason the time has come to invent a postmodern form of the Olympic Games. With or without the IOC.”

Avgi (GR) /

An instrument of the rich and powerful

The Olympic organisers have done everything wrong and their dealings with Russia are no exception, Avgi believes:

“Today is the day of the ceremonial opening of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In the Rio of opulence and never-ending favelas. In Rio, where most of the money for these Games ended up in the pockets of the oligarchs, just as it did with the 2004 Games in Athens. Of all the large projects that were supposed to demonstrate the integrity of the Games only a small number will actually improve the daily lives of residents. ... Like many others before them, these Games are not only marked by the financial risks they'll leave behind. They are also being used by the US - with Britain's support - to further isolate Russia politically. Russia has been assigned the role of the dangerous rival.”

More opinions

tagesschau.de (DE) / 22 August 2016
  Decadence and security concerns quashed Olympic spirit (in German)
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