OLYMPIC REVIEW: AUDIO INTERVIEWS

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In the first in a series of exclusive interviews, we ask high ranking individuals from around the world to comment on the past two weeks of sporting drama. Arsene Wenger, a representative of the French IOC, reflects on Jamaican false starts and swimming pools that were “too long”. Elsewhere, the Australians appear distressed at Ian Thorpe’s poor dress sense and a Government minister is forced to deny that Paralympics will be cancelled.

Click on the links to hear the interviews.

ARSENE WENGER ON 2012 OLYMPICS

AUSTRALIANS REACT TO DISMAL GAMES

PARALYMPICS ‘NOT CANCELLED’ SAYS GOVERNMENT SOURCE

USAIN BOLT COULD BE STRIPPED OF MEDAL AFTER GESTURE

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Usain Bolt may be disqualified from Olympic competition after crossing himself before each of his races. In a clear breach of the much criticised ‘Rule 40′, Bolt has given prominence to a non-Olympic sponsor – namely that of Christianity – and now faces the ultimate sanction. The Christian faith lost out in a hotly contested bidding war to the National Secular Society to be the ‘Official Faith’ of the Olympic Games and athletes were all warned about the rules prior to competition. Dayron Robles is also likely to be fined after wearing a large crucifix during his competition.

Whilst some have criticised the regulations as “draconian”, an IOC spokesperson said that the defense of Rule 40 was crucial to the success of the Games. “Sponsors pay for all of this,” said the source “and the National Secular Society are a key part of that. Islam, Hinduism and Christianity were all in the running but ultimately did not come up with the goods”.

The source refused to speculate on the case of Bolt but said that all violations would be “dealt with very seriously”. It was confirmed that Yohan Blake would be asked to clarify that, in an interview with the BBC, he gave thanks to a “purely secular God of no particular faith”. Failure to comply could also lead to his disqualification.

MAKHLOUFI SKEPTICISM IS RACISM AND NOTHING MORE

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If I were Taoufik Makhloufi, I would be instructing my lawyers to prepare libel suits against an awful lot of people. “Sick”, “disturbing”, “cheat”, “doped up” all words that were commonplace on social networking in the aftermath of his brilliant 1500m victory on Tuesday evening. Even the national press has got involved – The Independent referring to Makhloufi’s victory as a “miracle”. Miraculous as his recovery was from the supposed injury that brought an end to his 800m heat the day before, everyone knows that they aren’t referring to that.

The same is true of the Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen who supposedly “came from nowhere” to win her title. No she didn’t. And neither did Makhloufi. When it became clear that Asbel Kiprop was unable to defend his crown effectively owing to injury, the race was wide open. Makhloufi was one of five men who could have won it. Given that his PB for 800m is 1:43.88 it is no surprise that, in a slow race, he was able to kick away from the field. His PB for 1500m is 3:30.80 from this year and he is only 24. It surely cannot be a surprise then that he has a major breakthrough in Olympic year.

In fact, his breakthrough is no more surprising than that of Mo Farah last year, who went from being just about world class over 5,000m and 10,000m (similar to Makhloufi) to being the World Champion.
But Mo is British so he can’t be cheating.
Paula Radcliffe’s mark of 2:15:25 over the Marathon remains the best ever by some minutes.
But Paula is British and so can’t be cheating.
Rebecca Addlington – in Beijing 2008 – came from nowhere to win the 400m freestyle.
But Becky is British and so can’t be cheating.

When you question his accusers, the evidence they appear to have on Makhloufi is that he is Algerian (a country quite close to Morocco, which may also be ‘full of cheats’) and is quite good at the 1500m. No mention of the fact that the individual “robbed” of Olympic glory – Leonel Manzano – is American, a nation that has contributed more drug cheats to this world than the rest of it put together.

Makhloufi’s performance on Tuesday night was fantastic and deservedly won Olympic Gold. It is not disturbing. What was disturbing is the ‘where has this come from?’ style of commentary from Cram and Foster; the tweets from UKA members of staff, fellow athletes and members of the press accusing him of cheating. But he is Algerian so it must be right, mustn’t it?

CHINESE CHEATS: THE PROOF

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Inside the Rings has been given conclusive evidence that “all Chinese athletes” at the London Olympics are on performance enhancing drugs. The details have come to light after nearly five minutes of painstaking – and life threatening – investigative journalism from our most senior contributors. It shows beyond all doubt that the entire country has been on a doping regime that brings shame to the Olympic ideals. The IOC have been handed the findings of our investigation and Jacques Rogge has given assurances that the Chinese will be dealt with “swiftly and appropriately”.

Herewith the facts that prove the Chinese are systematically cheating:

- They’re good
- They’re foreign

LET THE (BRITISH) GAMES COMMENCE

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ONLY IN BRITAIN could the opening sequences to the one of the biggest ceremonial occasions of all time resemble a cross between Ground Force and Countryfile. Only in Britain could you seriously suspect that Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh were about to appear to develop a water feature in the centre of the stadium. Only in Britain could one of the world’s most revered Heads of State feature in a VT alongside the world’s most famous fictional spy. Only in Britain could a global sporting superstar be dispatched to a powerboat in a river the duration of the festivities. Only in Britain could an Olympic Opening Ceremony feature a tribute to the most admired healthcare system in the world (thus thoroughly embarrassing the Prime Minister who is subjecting it to deep cuts). Only in Britian could a past it, out of tune, retiree arrive to close the show.

And only the British could get away with all of this.

The Opening Ceremony to the 30th Olympiad was magnificent. The criticism of London 2012 from many quarters has been the very ‘un-British’ qualities of seeming to take everything far too seriously (sponsors, security, compulsory happiness etc.) And as many tuned in yesterday evening, it was with sense of foreboding that we waited to see what Danny Boyle and co had in store for us. But the cynicism was at once dispelled by the question: ‘is this really being broadcast to the whole world right now?’ It never once took its self seriously; it veered superbly from tongue-in-cheek humour (dancers having to clear the meadow up themselves; you half expected a cup of tea to be on the go within momenets), to dark explorations of the industrial era, to serious tributes to our healthcare system; to a group of ‘lads and gals’ getting ready for a night out. Even Mr Bean played his part. The most cynical among watchers couldn’t take their eyes off it. It wonderfully encompassed the British psyche; one moment laughing and the next being spine chillingly transfixed by the 7/7 tribute (which was the absolutely incredible).

The lull in the proceedings came (as it always does) with the pointless introduction of the all the competing nations. Clearly under pressure from the IOC, this did switch away from British tradition (where an announcement stating that all those taking part were listed at the back of the reasonably priced programme would have sufficed). It did, however, give the BBC an opportunity to force its commentators (including the odd choice of Trevor Nelson) to earn their money. Hazel Irvine enlightened the audience of Rwanda’s record of mass genocide, while Nelson repeatedly informed us that the British were ‘moments away’; yeah, quite a few moments (but then again, there’s nothing quite like a British delay is there?).

The lighting of the Olympic Flame had dogged everyone’s thoughts in the build-up: would it be Redgrave? Would it be Beckham? Would it be Bannister? Would it be Coe? Would it be Holmes? Would it be the Queen? No, it was a group of school kids. Redgrave must have been fuming as he was forced to hand over the flame (that he had been forced to run with from the river) to some random sporty kid. But that too was gloriously British; underneath all the self-deprecation, satire and cynicism we are an isle of hope. And we don’t half do these big events well.

OPENING CEREMONY: THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS

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