London Olympics: When Politics Impinge on Selections

There has been a bit of a furor in Britain over Olympic selections. The British Olympic Association (BOA) is hungry for success, and as hosts they feel it is more important to attain a medal haul than to stand by principles. This has led to the controversial reinstatement of previously banned drug offenders Dwayne Chambers and David Millar.

The sprinter, Chambers, has had some success and having had tribulations with attempting to play in other sports, from football to rugby League, and his inclusion has been downplayed somewhat. However, with Millar returning to the cycling team there has been some unrest. Sir Chris Hoy, the embodiment of Scottish sport and the figurehead of British track cycling, has flitted between acceptance and disapproval over the BOA’s lack of moral staying power.

When the focus is on you as a country the drive for success can block out all other thoughts.

Of course it cuts both ways. After all, the Olympics is supposed to be the pinnacle of endeavor; the metaphorical pantheon of pure sporting achievement.

So when politics are taken into Olympic selections things can get a bit hairy, with governing bodies getting involved and legal proceedings even being planned.

In the last couple of days there have been some interesting maneuvers as teams try to ready themselves for the Games. For example, in India a desire to do well has been offset against a need for team harmony.

Doubles tennis world number 7 is Leander Paes. He has caused a rift by refusing to play if Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna are sent to the games as doubles tennis players. He took this move because both men refused to play with him specifically, first.

The solution? India are sending two teams and telling Paes to shut up for the good of the nation. Although they have won Grand Slam titles together, Paes and Bhupathi cannot play together. Politics got in the way, and compromise was sought.

Compromise is rare. In Australia this month it was decided that Beijing gold medalist Emma Snowsill would be left. Described as Australia’s ‘greatest ever triathlete’, Snowsill is omitted in favor of former junior world champion Emma Jackson. Snowsill appealed the decision, but when it was upheld she refused to take it any further.

Of course Snowsill could possibly say the younger athlete had more chance. In the UK, though, there is a political storm brewing over the omission of a man in his prime.

World Taekwondo number 1 Aaron Cook of Great Britain has been left out of the nation’s squad. As the best in the world he is understandably livid. Stating that he has been robbed of his right he has petitioned the BOA (who have previously tried to overrule the decision anyway) and has pursued legal counsel.

Cook has landed himself in this bother, he claims, because he opted out of training with the national academies and the governing body’s trainers, instead embarking upon his own training with private coaches. The move certainly looks to have worked as he has climbed rankings and blitzed opponents in high ranking bouts.  With nose out of joint the national selectors have made their decision. Yesterday Cook sent ‘evidence’ to the BOA that suggests GB Taekwondo had made their selection decision a whole year ago.

It remains to be seen what decision will be made. One assumes that the success crazed BOA will do their utmost to push Cook back into the team. What is clear, though, is that when selection is talked about there is much more at question than who is the best athlete.

The clock is ticking: the deadline for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to receive finalized Olympic squads is the 9th of July.

 


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