Rio de Janeiro – Do you believe in fairytales? I wish I did. It’s not easy when you’re a sports news correspondent.
Sport has become a murky business, murkier than anything you’ll find in the notorious Guanabara Bay. In response to doping, we need to inject ourselves with “the benefit of doubt” before watching and celebrating the glory of the Rio Olympics.
In my pre-Olympics report for TV, I concluded that these Games will be a “wonderful sporting spectacle that will provide a bewitching optical illusion that all is well with the Olympics and with Brazil”.
Illusion, sadly, is the key word.
We must not believe all that glitters is gold. Our trust has not been eroded. It has been bulldozed by the Russian dopers and by sports’ officials and governing bodies. They don’t deserve our trust and support, but they will get it by default. Because we love sport, and we love the Olympics.
There has been an ocean of scandal, politics and bluff in the run-up:
1. Russian doping was state-directed. They have been “at it” for decades. We are simply exposing it now.
2. The IOC exposed itself by greedily awarding the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi. Russia took advantage by destroying the Games through systemic doping.
3. The IOC bottled a blanket ban on Russia. Politically, it was the roughest of situations but the IOC and WADA brought disgrace on themselves by bickering on who is to blame.
4. Other nations dope too and not all big-name athletes you want to be clean are clean.
That pretty much covers it but apart from the financial and logistical issues facing Brazil, will there be a proper legacy?
Let’s go for hope over expectation on that one.
But until August 21, we will look for inspiration and wonderful sporting moments. And there is a lot to look forward to and be excited about.
Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Brazil going for football and volleyball glory, and Fiji eyeing its maiden medal via Rugby Sevens.
And away from the elite side, the spirit of the Games is also captured by the IOC refugee team.
Overall, Rio will feature 10,500 competitors, 28 sports, and 17 days filled with a feast of sporting action, medals, and incredible stories of willpower, dedication, talent and the ability to overcome adversity.
From Los Angeles to Rio
The first Olympics I watched properly was Los Angeles 1984. As a 12-year-old in London staying up late, I was mesmerised. The only sports fan in my family, it was my own world, my own path to a life and career in covering sport.
I had started to explain the Russian situation at home. But I focused on the wonderful sporting achievements my children can see.
Let them enjoy the fairytales while they can. Sport can be such a beautiful thing. It will be in Rio. For those of us a little older, it’s often harder to find that innocent joy.
But I’m sure you will. That is the power of the Olympics.
Follow our extensive Rio 2016 coverage here
Source: Al Jazeera