Saturday 25 March 2017

Olympics only just surfacing in a wave of sport

Wembley stadium

Wembley Stadium where the Olympic Games men’s final will be played.

Olympics only just surfacing in a wave of sport

Roy Hay

It is only two days until the football tournament kicks off the summer games of the 30th Olympiad, even before the opening ceremony takes place, but the focus of media interest this week has been elsewhere.

Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win has provoked the kind of hysteria we had in Australia last year when Cadel Evans finished in the yellow jersey. It is ominous for our Olympic cyclists, for Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish will all be competing in the track and road program.

Sir Chris Hoy, who has been deprived of the chance to defend his Olympic sprint gold medal, has been nominated to carry the British flag at the opening ceremony, which is a kind of consolation prize.

He will compete in his other events.

Then there was the British Open golf which Adam Scott had in his grasp until he imploded over the last four holes and handed the victory to Ernie Els.

However, England’s cricket team, which humbled Australia recently in a one-day series, was hammered in turn by South Africa in the first of a three-match test series.

England started with a first innings of over 385, but Hashim Amla scored and Jacques Kallis 182, both not out to reply with 637 for two wickets. Then Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir demolished the England batting in the second dig to set up victory by an innings and twelve runs.

That at least has had the benefit of stopping a string of jokes at the expense of Australian sportsmen to the effect that they had lost the capacity to win anything.

Security at the games has been a big issue with the company which won the contract to provide it, G4S, failing to meet its obligations.

Now it has had to be supplemented by the British army and replaced by local firms at St James’s Park in Newcastle.

Mexico plays South Korea in the first game there on Thursday.

So Olympic football has hardly surfaced as yet.

The organisers, worried about poor ticket sales and half-empty stadia, withdrew half a million seats from sale and closed the upper tiers of grounds for some low-drawing matches.

In the last few days sales have picked up in Scotland and there are still 2 million places at the soccer venues across the country and it will be the best drawing series of events at the games.

The Scottish Football Association set its face against participating in the Olympics, feeling that this might threaten their separate membership of FIFA.

They also discouraged Scottish players from taking part.

Among the many examples of the small-minded approach to the administration of the game north of the border, this one did not generate as many headlines as the disaster of their approach to the Glasgow Rangers debacle.

But it was equally sad in its ineptitude.

The Olympics went on despite them and the Scots people have gradually realised that they will be able to see some excellent football in the national stadium.

Team GB men had an outing against Brazil which resulted in a two-nil defeat but they will kick off their campaign against Senegal on Thursday.

Meanwhile the women start a day earlier with double headers at Hampden Park in Glasgow, at the City of Coventry Stadium and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where Team GB plays New Zealand.

Hope Powell’s side drew with Sweden in their most recent warm-up game and the Kiwis come in as champions of Oceania and nothing to lose against the hosts.

I will be in Glasgow for the matches between the United States and France followed by Colombia versus North Korea, both of which should be excellent matches.

The North Koreans and the Japanese represent the Asian Confederation in the women’s tournament, while the men are Japan and South Korea.

Later this week I expect to be writing about the Olympics and way that the games have taken over the media, but not so far.

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