KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Thomas Bach has hailed the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as “iconic” — a variation on the theme of FIFA presidents who always label each successive football World Cup as the “greatest ever.”
Bach was summing up the fortnight at a news conference a day ahead of the completion of the schedule with several finals still scheduled as well as the marathon on its traditional last day, ahead of the Closing Ceremony.
The Rio run-up had been shrouded in Doomsday scenario clouds, the usual pre-Games gloom and predictions of hell on earth having been exacerbated by Brazil’s domestic political, economic and social problems.
The impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff is due to start next week in the interval between the Olympic Games and the cash-shorn Paralympics.
However Bach preferred to focus on the positive, describing the Brazilians as “great hosts” and saying: “These were and still are iconic Olympic Games in many respects.
“We have seen iconic athletes across all sports, seen athletes who were icons and even strengthened their positions like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt – and others who became icons here.
“We all saw the level of competition over all sports was extremely high, with stunning performances from the athletes. This really is the spirit of the Games.”
However Bach’s determination to avoid the realities struck off-key notes with his comment that “no public monies” had been involved in the organisation of the GAmes and his refusal to accept any responsibility or acknowledge concern over the future of whistleblower Yulia Stepanova.
Plainly billions had been spent by the federal and local governments in providing the infrastructure platform for the Games, though the administration of the events themselves might have been covered by local sponsorships.
However only this week Mayor Eduardo Paes had to promise £40m from Rio de Janeiro, and the government said state-owned companies would provide a further £25m in emergency funding following severe budget cuts that threatened the Paralympics.
As for Stepanova, it was her revelations about Russia’s state-sponsored doping system which had ignited the greatest sports controversy of the Games with the IOC’s own executive board split down the middle over whether to impose a blanket ban.
The eventual compromise, devolving responsibility on doping permits to the individual sports federations, had pleased no-one. Even without any track and field athletes or weightlifters, Russia will not be far outside the top three in the overall medals table.
As for the choice of Rio – in very different economic and political circumstances in 2009 – Bach said he had no regrets.
The IOC had learned “that it is possible to organise the Olympic Games in countries which are not at the top of the gdp ranking.”
Bach added: “These Games were not organised in a bubble. They were organised in a city where there are social problems, social divides, where real life continued and I think it was very good for everybody.
“To be close to reality and not to have it in a bubble for 16 days, the Games somehow being isolated. To be in the middle of it, to see reality and by seeing this to put sport into perspective.”
“The IOC has shown that it is possible to organise Olympic Games also in countries which are not at the top of the GDP (gross domestic product) ranking,” Bach said. “It has shown great solidarity and seen great solidarity. We have shown that we are ready to face social reality and to address this.”