As Long As We Win – Aly Raisman on USA Gymnastics Culture

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an event on the LSU campus featuring Olympic champion, and sexual abuse survivor, Aly Raisman. I hadn’t gone in to the evening expecting to write a blog post on my sports blog about it, but something she said made me take a long hard look at sports culture.

Not only that, but she also shared that people outside of the gymnastics world had asked her, and her teammates, why they were complaining, since they did win gold medals after all.

I think there’s something seriously wrong with sports fans if that’s our attitudes. I know I often roll my eyes at the fans who take to twitter to lambast professional athletes who dare complain about anything, after all they get paid millions of dollars to play a game, and we would all do anything to be in their shoes. Be that as it may, these are still human beings that we are talking about, and in the case of USA gymnasts, USA swimmers, UK and Argentine youth footballers, we are talking about children.

I do not think it’s appropriate to ignore sexual abuse, or mock mental health problems, or to dismiss real world problems because they are happening to people who happen to be the best athletes in the world. Yes, they’ve been lucky to have such physical talent, but it hardly makes it OK for them to be mistreated. The fact that the USA gymnastics team has been so successful does not mean that we can ignore the many, many people who harmed these girls by not taking accusations against Larry Nasser seriously. Aly had some very strong words for the administrators at Michigan State, the USOC and USA Gymnastics who did not investigate what was going on 20 years ago when the first rumors came out about Dr. Nasser. I can’t blame her. She’s 23 years old. If someone back then had done the right thing by these girls instead of ignoring it during the pursuit of Olympic glory, maybe she doesn’t have a sexual abuse survivor story to tell. I have no doubt, based on her brutal honesty about how much telling this story costs her, that she would love to not be in the spotlight over this. We should be amazed at her willingness to do it anyway, but we also shouldn’t forget that she shouldn’t have to. The adults in these organizations failed her, and every other gymnast who was abused in the ensuing years by Nasser.

And we failed them too, by thinking that anything that happens in the pursuit of a gold medal is “worth it” if they win in the end. That’s not a moral compass, that’s inviting athletes to be taken advantage of.

We need to be better than that as parents, as fans, and as human beings.


Link – The reality of post-Olympic Rio

If you don’t already have the stadiums and infrastructure to hold a World Cup or Olympics, maybe spending all that money to build it isn’t a great idea.

“The 2016 Rio Olympics were supposed to be the second of a one-two punch announcing Brazil’s arrival as a world power through dominance in sports. But in many ways, the opposite unfolded. Timed with an embarrassing political corruption scandal and the largest economic crisis in Brazil’s history, the hosting of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Games has resulted in a perfect storm of unfulfilled promises.

While 15 of the original 27 venues have hosted some sort of event since the Games, others sit largely abandoned, their decay and disrepair a constant reminder of what was meant to be. Even the iconic soccer stadium, the Maracanã, has been vandalized, and had its power shut off completely after amassing a $950,000 electric bill.

Deodoro Olympic Park, long hailed by Brazilian politicians and Olympic proponents as a path to upgrade one of Rio’s poorer neighborhoods, is shuttered. The community pool that was supposed to come out of the canoe slalom course was closed in December and has yet to re-open. Brazil’s Federal Court of Audit (TCU) reported last week that another abandoned pool, at the Deodoro Aquatics Center, is now covered in bugs, mud and rodent feces. A Deodoro elevator once used to lift fans over a busy road now leads to nowhere.”


Link – NHL announces league not participating in 2018 Olympics in South Korea

“The National Hockey League announced Monday that it would not be sending its players to the Olympics in South Korea in 2018, ending months of debate over the issue of participation in Pyeongchang.

The league had been looking for conciliatory offers from the International Olympic Committee and/or the NHL Players’ Association in order to placate an ownership group increasingly unhappy with the league shutting down for weeks to take part in the Olympic tournament every four years.

That didn’t happen in recent weeks, and the league made good on its promise to resolve the matter before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin April 13.”

Interesting. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympic hockey experience, it seems like a glorified All-Star game that goes on for two weeks, but I understand why it is important to many of the players who want to represent their country and play for a gold medal. What will be interesting to watch is if anyone goes to the Olympics anyway, and how their owners, teammates and fans react to a player dropping out for a couple of weeks right when the push to the playoffs is getting going. Would the Caps really support Alex Ovechkin if he left the team to play for Russia? So far he’s said he would like to do that, but when push comes to shove, is that going to happen?

And god help us if he gets hurt. Twitter will melt down.

Link – Rio’s Olympic facilities are deserted and crumbling only 6 months after the games

“The Olympic stages in Rio are much different from before the world left them six months ago. The area which once stood the center of attention across the globe is now barren, torn up, picked apart, empty, and sad looking.”

It’s not surprising, is it? I mean don’t most host cities end up with stuff they built for the Games that never gets used again? It begs the question of why the IOC doesn’t limit selections to cities that already have the venues, but we know that would never fly with that group. No opportunity for graft!

Viewing the Olympics Outside of the US

PeteLinforth / Pixabay

I recently returned from 10 days in Australia, which pretty much coincided with the beginning of the Olympic games in Rio. So, I’ve missed out a bunch on NBC’s coverage, and the complaints about it. But, I got to see how the Games are covered in another country, which is always interesting.

Clearly, the coverage in Australia is different than what we have come to expect in the US. I didn’t go in expecting it to be the same, after all the audience is different. But still, I found a few interesting things:

  1. Aussie commentators clearly root for Australian athletes. It’s not that US commentators don’t, but they have been inundated with the “no cheering in the press box” mentality and at least try to be understated about it. Australians feel no such compulsion. They are proud of their athletes, even when they don’t win. Seriously, I watched an amazing interview with a swimmer who finished 5th, but set a personal best time, where the interviewer was legitimately excited for her and they celebrated together. On NBC, there would have been no such interview with an athlete who didn’t even medal.
  2. There were way fewer “features” in Australian coverage. It was pretty much sports, with a little bit of fluff when there was an interesting story about an Aussie. There is no Australian equivalent to Bob Costas in the Olympic coverage.
  3. If an Australian is competing, especially for a medal, you will get to see the entire thing. Doesn’t matter the sport, an Australian competing was the determining factor in terms of fan interest. Seriously, I got to see the entire gold medal match in women’s trap shooting, on Channel 7, not some far-flung cable channel, because an Australian was competing. Granted, the US has many, many more competitors competing at that level, so it’d be hard for NBC to do the same, though maybe with a bit less Bob Costas they could squeeze in a few? 😉
  4. Everything is tape delayed, and no one cares. It’s the norm for Australia. Seriously, trying to watch US Sports leagues, or the English Premiere League pretty much means not seeing anything live because of the time difference anyway, and a lot of people down under follow those leagues pretty closely. Not to mention that weekend Rugby and Aussie Football games are generally replayed during the week too, for those that missed them over the weekend, and knowing who wins is irrelevant to the enjoyment. I don’t think this is a concept Americans understand at all.
  5. Matthew Dellavedova is a freaking national hero in Australia. They love them some Delly. To be fair, they also love Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and the rest of the Boomers, but the love for Delly is a bit shocking given the usual NBA coverage of him.
  6. Speaking of the Boomers, every national team has a nickname. (Hell, everything in Australia has a nick name, i.e. Macca’s) Learn them if you want to keep up with the coverage, otherwise you won’t know what they mean when they tell you the Opals were upset, for example. (Women’s Basketball)
  7. Australians have an appreciation for the best athletes in the sports that they follow closely. Yes, Australians want to do well, especially at swimming. But their love of that sport means they absolutely recognize how amazing both Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky are. One of the few features they did have was a highlight package of Phelps’ 24 gold medals, and during one the women’s finals, the announcers before the race fully admitted that Ledecky was going to win and probably set a World Record, so they were going to pay closer attention to the race for Silver and Bronze and how the Australians were doing. They also explained that fans should appreciate how dominate Ledecky is and how insane it is that no on thinks she even could lose the race. (She didn’t, she won by a wide margin.) Usain Bolt was in the same category on the track.

All in all it was interesting to get a little view into how a smaller country views the Olympics and how it is covered. It was a fresh perspective from the usual, cynical, American view of the Games. I dare say I even watched more coverage there than I would have had I been home.