The title of this book (The Dirtiest Race in History, By Richard Moore) refers to the 1988 Olympic Games 100 m sprint final (see a video of the race). This was perhaps the most thrilling sprint in Olympic history, but within 48 hours the gold medalist Ben Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids and the scandal and stories had begun. However, the full story did not begin with this race, but many years earlier.
The book follows the development of the two main combatants, Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, from when they started sprinting; building a deep rivalry between them that fascinated the athletics world, culminating in the infamous race referred to in the title. The author Richard Moore was able to interview Johnson who gave some interesting insights into that period, but unfortunately Lewis was not available.
In the concluding pages of this book, we are given details of each of the competitors in this infamous race. It may be no surprise that ultimately most of them were tainted by drugs at some point in their career, possibly this is the message the book is trying to make. This may be the story about Ben and Carl, but it also defines the period in athletics history where drug use was widespread, and the fledgling anti-doping program had only started the game of catch-up.
- The Dirtiest Race in History by Richard Moore.
- Inside Track: My Professional Life in Amateur Track and Field, by Carl Lewis and Jeffrey Marx.
- Speed Trap: The Inside Story of Ben Johnson and the Biggest Scandal in Olympic History, by Charlie Francis and Jeff Coplan.
Tags: 100m·1988·1988 Olympics·Ben Johnson·Carl Lewis·doping·drugs·events·Olympic Games
It is with no surprise that we hear the news that another sporting hero has fallen foul of the law. Although the full details are yet to emerge, it seems like the 2012 Olympian and multiple-paralympian Oscar Pistorius, also known as the ‘Blade Runner’, may have murdered his girlfriend. I posted about him recently, saying he was not the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics. Not only that, now he may also not be the first sporting hero to cross to the dark side. Is Oscar Pistorius our next anti-hero? I have complied just a short list of athletes who have done something bad, labeling them anti-heroes (my title). I don’t think there are more bad people in sports, probably the opposite. There maybe a higher level of arrogance in some sports stars, but generally being the focus of public attention keeps them on the straight and narrow. When one slips up, it is big news, as it is now with Pistorius.
Tags: disability·hero·Oscar Pistorius·Paralympics
Modern pentathlon is not the most popular of world sports, but maybe the International Olympic Committee can see that it has potential. The sport, which was created for the Olympics, was highlighted by many as the one to be dropped from the Olympic program, but was saved for now when wrestling was dropped from the core sports list.
Despite being modern by name, the sport based on the skills of the ideal cavalry soldier is not currently relevant to many people. It has been trying to modernize itself, looking at changing the event so it can be completed in a single day and all at the same venue, making it more spectator friendly. The concept of the sport is great, the challenge to find the ultimate all-round-athlete – competing in the very different disciplines of shooting, fencing, swimming, equestrian and running. Lets get it on prime time TV, add some dancing girls and loud music, and they could be onto a winner.
Tags: modern pentathlon
The IOC have voted to drop wrestling from the list of core Olympic Games sports, a necessary step to make room for more relevant sports for today. Wrestling still has a chance to be on the program, though it will now join the seven shortlisted sports which are aiming for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic program: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. You can vote for which sport you think should be included in the Olympics. It is very unlikely that wrestling will be added back on the program, maybe something cool like climbing should be added. Dropping wrestling was a surprise to me, as it seemed like modern pentathlon was on the chopping block. There are a few other sports that should possibly be eliminated. Our poll of which Olympic sports should be dropped had equestrian as more unpopular than wrestling and modern pentathlon, and equestrian also topped our list of Least favourite Olympic sports. The word from an IOC inside source indicated that wrestling was voted out from a final group that also included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey, which gives an idea of which sports may next be on the chopping block. It seems like there is a bit more culling to do.
Tags: Olympic Games·wrestling
I have added the 2012 World Sport timeline, so I thought I would add my personal highlights, good and bad, from the world of sport in 2012.
- Lance Armstrong being banned from the sport for life – I told you so.
- Ryder Cup Miracle in Medinah, the biggest comeback seen for quite a while, making golf exciting.
- Usain Bolt winning the Olympic Games 100m/200m double (again), and letting all the world know about it.
- Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, first UK winner of a men’s grand slam singles title for 76 years. Now can you stop talking about it.
- Oscar Pistorius doing the Olympic/Paralympic double, and making us all think about what really is an artificial aid.
It is easy to take Lance Armstrong’s decision to not challenge his charges of doping by the USADA as an admission of guilt. Why would he not continue to fight to clear his name, it has significant ramifications. He has declined to enter arbitration, which was his last option – because he said he was “weary”. Maybe it is because he is guilty and he realizes he not able to defend himself against the evidence that has continued to mount. He is going to be known on the history books as a sports cheat. There is no doubt that he cheated death, winning the fight against cancer. Hopefully the great work he continues to do in fundraising for cancer research and awareness will not be overshadowed by his cheating on the road.
Tags: cycling·doping·Lance Armstrong
There is a lot of hype surrounding the South African runner Oscar Pistorius (also known as the ‘Blade Runner’). Pistorius was born without fibulas and with deformities of his feet, and subsequently had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was only 11 months old. He competes with carbon fiber prosthetic legs, and is entered in the 400m and the 4 x 400 m relay races at the 2012 Olympics. This is a great story of achievement, though he has had to overcome a lot more than just his disability to reach the Olympics, having many bureaucratic hurdles to overcome too to get his place on the South African team. Even though he has been hailed by many as the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics, he is in fact part of a long history of disabled athletes to do so.
Some media have reported correctly that Pistorius is the first “double” amputee to compete at the Olympic Games. There has been other amputees missing portions of one leg who have competed at the Olympics, and some have even won gold medals. In 1904 American gymnast George Eyser won three gold medals for the vault, parallel bars and rope climbing. Eyser lost a leg when he was a kid in a train accident, and competed wearing a wooden leg. From 1928 to 1936, Hungarian Oliver Halassy won two golds and one silver in water polo. He achieved this despite missing his left leg that had been amputated below the knee following a childhood streetcar accident. Another amputee to compete at the Olympics is South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who is missing her left leg. She came 16th in the open water 10km swim in 2008.
These are just some examples – there are many more disabled athletes who have participated at the Olympics, including other amputees, those that were blind, paraplegic or affected by polio. See more on Disabled Athletes at the Olympics, and also about the Paralympics.
Tags: disability·Oscar Pistorius·Paralympics
With the Olympic Games starting now, I feel like it is time for me to make my predictions for the final medal tally. It seems like everyone else is doing it. I have discussed a few prediction models on this site that use science and results from recent competitions. My prediction is based on something a little less scientific, my gut feeling and reflection, so don’t place too much emphasis on it. It will be interesting to see how my list performs compared to the other predictions, only time and a bit of number crunching will tell.
Here is my final top 10 predictions for gold medals won:
- 40 USA
- 33 China
- 26 Great Britain
- 24 Russia
- 15 Germany
- 11 Japan
- 10 Australia
- 10 Italy
- 9 France
- 8 South Korea
UPDATE: Now that the Olympics are over, it is time to score how well my predictions were. I got the first four in order. The only country I did not predict to make the top 10 was Hungary, which finished 9th on the official table with 8 golds, pushing Japan outside the top 10. How accurate were these predictions? Using my analysis method
comparing the top five actual to the predicted medals for those countries, I achieved an percentage accuracy score of 85%, only just below the best by Goldman Sachs (87%)
, out of all the medal predictions for 2012.
|my order prediction
Tags: gold medals·medal tally·Olympic Games·olympics
We have a poll running on this site asking what is your favorite summer Olympic Games sport? The clear leaders at the moment are swimming, gymnastics, and track & field. This also matches the results of the most viewed sports on the Olympics website in 2004. To most Olympic watchers, the popularity of these sports is not surprising, but it should be if you consider that the undisputed most popular sport in the world (world football/soccer) is also one of the sports on the Olympic program, and other very popular sports that are on the program are basketball and tennis.
Outside of the Olympic period, you rarely see swimming, gymnastics, and track & field televised, and there are no stadiums full of spectators at these sports every week. The reality is that they are not that interesting to watch – except at the time of the Olympics it seems. It is football (whatever code), basketball, baseball, cricket and many other sports that are more popular with the fans week in and week out. At Olympic time, unfortunately it is not just the sports fans that are watching, so the most entertaining sports are not necessarily the most watched and getting the most attention.
Tags: gymnastics·Olympic Games·sports·swimming
I recently wrote about Women Olympic Games Pioneers in which I discussed some of the early women participants at the Olympics, and the slow move to equality in women’s participation at the Olympic Games. There has been some great moves towards creating the opportunity for women to compete in the same sports as the men, with the inclusion of women’s boxing now completing the set so there are women’s events in all sports on the program. This is a great thing, but the reality is that there are huge barriers for women to even compete in any sport in some countries of the world, let alone the Olympic Games.
Up until now, three Muslim countries have never before sent a female athlete to compete at the Olympics: Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter clearly promotes equality: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind.” However, the IOC seems to be doing very little to support the women competitors from these countries.
Each of these countries have made comments that suggest there may be sending some female participants to London, but we will have to wait and see. If Qatar are serious about their bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, they need to send a clear message to the IOC, as it seems the IOC is not sending any clear messages back at them.