MAURICE HAMILTON

Olympic ideals


The extinguishing of the Olympic flame late on Sunday night paradoxically ignited comparison between the exquisite performances and values witnessed at London 2012 with those created by other sports.

Football – rightly so in the view of many both inside and outside the game – has taken the biggest hit. 'The Independent' columnist James Lawton summed up widespread feeling when he wrote: 'If the Olympics have provided the uplift of new horizons, few need reminding of quite what the money-drenched national game has come to represent.' The newspaper's chief sports writer went on to describe the values generated by the games as 'so many moments of unforgettable grace' before adding: 'By shocking comparison, as football kicks off, it provokes in many a weary resignation, if not a degree of revulsion.'

While I might not – with a few notable exceptions - actually loathe the overindulged and overpaid footballers, I did feel a degree of discomfort when reading Lawton's summary and others like it simply because it was possible to substitute 'Football' with 'Formula One' in one or two instances.

Several articles used the word 'rancour' when referring to footballers and their attitude to official decisions that go against them. Tuesday's 'Daily Telegraph' carried the perfect illustration: pages of Olympic joy followed by a football story headed by a picture of two snarling Chelsea players remonstrating inches from a referee's face after the official had the temerity to send off a Chelsea player in the Community Shield - an unfortunate name, you have to say, for a contest marking the very first game of the season.

We don't have drivers cornering Charlie Whiting in the paddock and giving the F1 Race Director a spittle-laden 1000 words on a perceived injustice. But there is a fair amount of public bitching and moaning when two drivers make contact on the race track.

I thought of that in the aftermath of a brutal judgement made against Victoria Pendleton when the British cyclist went outside her lane for the briefest moment in the first of the three sprint finals. The wobble had been caused by her fierce rival, Anna Meares, putting an elbow into Pendleton's thigh as they raced side-by-side through the final bend.

Pendleton crossed the line first but was subsequently disqualified. She lost the next race and, with it, the gold medal. Meares was arguably the stronger of the two and I'm not saying Pendleton would have won. But there is no doubt that the disqualification had a devastating effect at such a delicate stage in this intense battle between two great rivals.

Can you imagine the mayhem had such a move decided the F1 World Championship in the final race? In the velodrome, with four years of intense preparation ended by an elbow, Meares and Pendleton touched hands on the victory lap and had a brief hug at the finish. Pendleton, later fighting tears of disappointment, did not criticise her opponent.

Defenders of football argue that their sport is under scrutiny every week rather than once in four years. It's a fair point. Were the Olympic movement to transfer to, say, Rio de Janeiro in September and on to Paris the month after that, it's a fair bet that the wonderful aura witnessed in London would start to become tarnished by more personal and callous opinion.

Whatever may be said about amateur ideals, the Olympics are driven by money in a quantity and manner that would make CVC's shareholders slaver with excitement. But, at the end of each Olympic competition, the result is final; decided in the case of the 100 metres during just 9.63 seconds after nearly a million minutes of thought, dedication and training since the previous one.

Bernie Ecclestone continues to hold the belief that gold, silver and bronze medals should be presented to the first three at the end of each Grand Prix, the championship being decided by the driver with the greatest number of gold gongs. Apart from devaluing the medal concept by dishing out them out once a fortnight, the title decision process would be subject to distortion to suit personal ends. The 2012 Olympics proved that.

The fight at the top of the medal table was between the United States and China, with the latter being ahead on gold medal acquisition for much of the time. But not according to NBC. The US broadcaster insisted on showing a medal count that had the USA ahead based on the total number of medals won.

Another suggested that Jamaica, with four gold and 12 medals in total, ought to head the table based on success per capita of population. An interesting concept, that one. Lewis Hamilton might want to consider switching his passport from GB to Grenada if Bernie's idea ever takes hold. Of course, this being F1, someone would protest loud and long.

Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.

His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.

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