Sat, Oct

Olympic Games with a difference!

Prof. Francis Dodoo — President, GOC

Every Olympic Games has its own version of attraction, and this year we are bound to see the difference. While locally, our attention is firmly switched to last Sunday's magic and the great effort, determination and versatility that enabled Division One side, Okwawu United, overpower strong premiership side, Liberty Professionals to qualify for the grand-finale of this year’s MTN-FA Cup against Bechem United, the worlds focus is obviously switched to the coming Olympic Games slated for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

One of the interesting features that will make the Rio Games tick for pundits, is football, which in accordance with recent International Olympic Committee  (IOC) decision it prescribes a limited number of professional stars to be used in the competition to enhance the greater euphoria in the event. That will make the coming Olympic Games a historic and classic event, not to talk about events like tennis which has promised to be extra tough considering the type of quality that will feature, including the Williams sisters.

In football, hosts Brazil, will feature stars such as Neymar and others who have made the headlines in recent times, England has promised to parade their best, including top stars Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and others. Germany comes off with players like Draxter, Tony Kroos, Muller and other youngsters. It is also possible that the newly crowned European champions, Portugal, would feature players like Joao Moudinho, young Rebekti Sanchez and Lui Patricio, with Spain featuring amazing stars such as Sergio Ramos, Fabregas and David de Gea. Italy will also be showing their tough class with men like Azaz, Georgeo Chidini, with Gianluigi Buffon himself in the posts.

Let me categorically state that the coming Olympic football competition will be sensational with nobody leaving any opportunity to chance. The competitors will like to keep a clean sheet and win on merit, as performers struggle to make fresh records, thus avoiding the much-trumpeted drugs problems that have bedeviled some notable, well-respected nations.

Despite the drug menace, one sporting nation that has broken through is Jamaica with the best of sprint runners who have made the Olympic Games most exciting with lots of record holders promising to better their records at the Rio Olympic Games. Six times Olympic record holder in sprints, Usain Bolt, has already vowed to break fresh best sprint times, but that will depend on challengers around the globe. U.S. sprinters aiming to spoil Bolt's swansong as athletes stumble through the moral haze created by the Russian doping scandal, are leaving no stone unturned to make the sprint event extraordinary this time.

One of the leading personalities is sprinter Justin Gatlin, who is a principal threat to the world champion. Twice suspended for failing drug tests, Gatlin is struggling to clear his name and poses a strong challenge for gold at Rio. One other challenger to Usain Bolt is America's LaShawn Merritt, who served a 21-month ban for testing positive for a banned steroid. Merritt is the fastest over 200 metres this year. One other sprint star, Tyson Gay returns to the tracks in the company of strong challengers that will make the American squad for the 100 x 4 metres relay.

This is one Olympic event that has been preceded by a real war against doping, and there is that Russian threat that has rocked the Games. As of now, Merritt is hoping to reclaim the 400 -metre crown he last won in Beijing, in 2008. It is intriguing that with the anti-doping war still raging, one wonders how many records will be broken at the Games and who would replace the old guards.

One question that comes to mind is whether Africa is taking advantage of what is happening at the IOC to make an impact including finding out which stars from Africa.

 It is sad to reflect that some few months ago, the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) came out to state that owing to inadequate funding, it must not be a surprise to anyone if our athletes go to Rio de Janeiro and return with empty hands.  Of course, some attention has been switched to that statement, and against all odds, some philanthropic individuals and corporate bodies have helped our contingent to embark on their journey to Brazil with the hope that something unexpected would happen to raise the image of our land.

I must say that never in our history has our Olympic preparations been this low key. While the world was parading the best at the recent Muller Anniversary Games in London, in preparation for the Rio Games, the best we could hear was our various federations locking horns with the GOC over a purported congress slated in Accra. And that event was halted by a court injunction, just some few days to the commencement of the Games.

In which other way could we expect our athletes to get the best of preparations for such important event? It must be a great pity if we watch television only to find our athletes struggling at the bottom of the heats. May God forbid! In the past, the motto of the Olympic Games was not the winning of medals, but the participation.  However today, the tide has changed, with each participant aiming at amassing medals, and that calls for record making performances which demand intense training.

The Ethiopian and Kenyan long distance runners, we know, are gearing up for new records and that pose a big challenge to us as observers who might be wondering what has gone amiss as the years pass on with our athletes falling out. The conditions have changed from the days our Olympic Committee's power struggle which culminated in the ban by the IOC. That unfortunate incident must be a serious lesson in our sports, and for sure there must be a way out to overcome that challenge.