It wouldn’t be the Olympics without a row
It was inevitable, wasn’t it? The row, the spat, the dispute, the acrimony, the fuming, the huffing, the puffing, the high moral ground, the indignation, the crossed wires, the point-scoring. When it comes to the Olympics, we don’t just produce …
It was inevitable, wasn’t it? The row, the spat, the dispute, the acrimony, the fuming, the huffing, the puffing, the high moral ground, the indignation, the crossed wires, the point-scoring. When it comes to the Olympics, we don’t just produce medal-winning boxers in this country; we also produce the kind of row which makes the rational citizens of this little country shake their heads with wonder. People are fuming over this?
For the last few days, as Irish boxers collected gold, silver and bronze medals in London, there was much to-ing, fro-ing and rowing about a homecoming parade – or lack of – for the Irish Olympic team. Some interested parties say a bash was always on the cards, while other interested parties wondered what the hell the others are on about. There was also, as you always get on these occasions, the he-said-she-said back-and-forth, a dollop of political opportunism and some testy exchanges involving those close to the athletes. The interview with Irish chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan on yesterday’s This Week show on RTE Radio One was definitely the latter, the normally unflappable O’Sullivan sounding like a woman who couldn’t believe that she and her team ended up getting caught up in this mess. The fact that Katie Taylor’s father and coach was also dragged into this nonsense was also sadly inevitable (and unforgivable).
It was a storm in a teacup which became something else entirely because we’re squarely in the middle of the media silly season where this kind of thing becomes amplified to bursting point. Surely the majority of the Irish public are happy enough to let the athletes decide what they want to do when they come home rather than foist this kind of thing on them? You have to wonder if there are rows over homecoming to-dos in other countries too. The Australian homecoming party sounds as long as last night’s closing ceremony itself (though let’s hope for our friends down under that their celebrations won’t feature Jessie J, the Kaiser Chiefs or Annie flaming Lennox).
These rows also have the effect of taking attention away from the real issues which follow a very successful Olympics. Instead of focusing on questions about funding for and management of future Irish Olympians, it becomes this undignififed scramble about who has dishonoured the London lads and lasses with medals.
I’m sure most of them will welcome a homecoming celebration – and these will happen today in Bray, Mullingar and Belfast, the towns the medal-winning boxers call home – and they will be happy to attend the other bashes, like the one at Dublin’s Mansion House on Wednesday and the tea and scones they’ve been promised by the Prez in the future. But they’d probably prioritise ensuring that their coaches are properly treated for the next few years. They’d want to make sure that the planning which has got them to this stage is continued so as to help us win a gaggle of medals in Rio in four years’ time. And they might also like to know if there are plans to replicate the detailed and intense planning they have enjoyed in other sports which have a chance of success.
But once all this hubbub has cleared, once all the numpties who always find themselves on the podiums on occasions like this have enjoyed their few minutes hobnobbing with the winners, we’ll be left with the gold, silver and bronze moments from London 2012. That’s what really matters in the end, the fact that a bunch of Irish athletes headed over to the Olympics and showed us and everyone else what they’ve got. A few months from now, the undignified and ridiculous point-scoring over the homecoming will be consigned to the past and we’ll be able to remember what really mattered over the last crazy fortnight. Trust me, it will be photos like the one below which will live longest in the memory rather than the fact that no-one got to salute our athletes in the middle of the capital on a wet and windy Monday in August.