Editor's Letter | The Olympic Issue - August 2016
We've looked at the world's biggest sporting spectacle from every angle over the past month
The funny thing about the Olympics is how quick the whole thing is. That might sound like a stupid statement to make about an event which is (to a large extent) all about speed. I mean obviously the 100m final is going to be over quicker than the equivalent blue riband events at the World Cup say, or Wimbledon. But the speed with which the whole competition seems to fly by still amazes me. Given the massive build-up, the vast sums of money that are spent and the way in which it totally takes over our TVs, it’s incredible that it’s over in the space of two short weeks.
Dedicating an entire issue to something that happens in the middle of the month, is over very quickly, and now seems like a strangely distant memory might feel like an odd thing to do. Especially as the Olympics is largely dedicated to conventional sports, like track & field or tennis, that we don’t cover here at Mpora. However the Games also include many sports that we do write about regularly. Cycling, white water kayaking or windsurfing for example. And the publicity surrounding the Olympics means that it has a disproportionate impact on those sports at all levels. We couldn’t not cover the Games - what happens in those two weeks can literally shape the future of these sports, not just for the next four funding year cycle, but permanently.
"We're really looking forward to the next summer Olympics. For the first time, some of our favourite sports - skateboarding, surfing and climbing - will be represented."
Cycling is a great example. When Chris Boardman, who we interviewed this month, won his gold medal in Barcelona it brought recognition and money flooding into the sport. This laid the groundwork not just for the current generation of phenomenally successful British cyclists - the Laura Trotts and the Jason Kennys - but also for the cycling revolution that has seen so many Britons take up biking in recent years.
Similarly the Brownlee brothers, who Associate Editor Jack Clayton interviewed ahead of their race in Rio, have helped raise the profile of triathlon and get a lot more people into it in the UK. Of course not everything can end as well as their fairytale one-two finish. A win for Liam Phillips, who we also interviewed for this month’s issue, would have been huge for BMX in the UK (and probably inspired kids to get into all aspects of the sport, including freestyle BMX) but it was not to be. A nasty crash ended his chances in the qualifying rounds.
The massive media attention around the Games can also help shift the narrative on important issues outside of sport too. Rio’s green opening ceremony, highlighting environmental issues, was one such example. Similarly, the presence in Brazil of ‘Team Refugee’, interviewed by Caroline Gammell this month, helped reframe the debate over asylum seekers in a positive and empowering manner.
Not all the issues revealed by the media spotlight are so positive of course. Our man on the ground in Rio, Nick Ellerby, found during the build-up that many locals were horrified by the amount of money being wasted on the sporting circus in a city with very real problems. Interestingly, his follow-up piece After the Gold Rush painted a slightly more nuanced picture of public opinion. But these games were hardly scandal free.
Some of the biggest controversies were around drug taking, with the Russians reverting to their customary role as the bad guys. Yet as our investigation into the murky world of performance enhancing drugs revealed, it’s not just them, nor even only the pros, who are at it. In the UK and the US the problem is shockingly widespread in amateur sports too.
Although doping scandals are a crushingly inevitable part of major sporting events these days, it doesn’t mean that things like the Olympics have completely lost their lustre - or their power to inspire. In fact our very own Lou Boyd felt so inspired by Rio that she set herself the task of learning five completely new Olympic sports - you can read how she got on here.
And so despite the scandals, we find ourselves really looking forward to the next summer Olympics in four years, especially as, for the first time some of our favourite sports - skateboarding, surfing and climbing - will be represented for the first time. Deputy Editor Stuart Kenny interviewed climbing world champion and potential medal prospect, Shauna Coxsey to get her thoughts on the matter.
The Tokyo games will no doubt bring their fair share of controversy too. In her fascinating investigation into the world of genetics, Features Editor Sam Haddad looked at how gene selection can already be used to identify athletic talent - and how even more controversial practises like gene editing could potentially be used in future. Could the Japanese games see the world’s first gene doping scandal? Read her piece to find out.
In the end though, as scandalous as some of these ideas are (and as much as the authorities would probably like to stamp them out) stories like these help make the Olympic circus the fascinating spectacle it is. Looking forward to the Olympics of the future, the one thing we can say for absolute certain is that for that brief two-week period in 2020 we’ll all be glued to our TVs (or our various screens) once again.
Enjoy the adventure.
- Tristan, Editor-in-chief
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To read the rest of the Olympic issue head here. You can read old issues here.