An Olympic Games to savour despite all the controversy

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

This month’s Olympic Games in Rio have taken place against a backdrop of controversy.

The build-up to arguably the most spectacular sporting spectacle in the world was overshadowed first by the withdrawal of some of the leading names in golf, including our own Rory McIlroy, over the threat of the Zika virus.

More serious still was the pre-games saga over the participation of Russian athletes amidst an ongoing drugs saga.

The International Olympics Committee could have banished the Russian team for its alleged state-sponsored doping programme but instead stood accused of fudging the issue and placating Vladamir Putin by not enforcing an all-out ban.

Against the backdrop of such controversy, it’s almost a surprise that the event got under way at all, never mind proving once again how sport can inspire and unite people across the globe.

Despite the time difference between Brazil and Northern Ireland, many thousands of people here have sat up to the early hours, revelling not only in the successes of Britain’s athletes, but in the true all-time greats like sprinter Usain Bolt.

No doubt the brilliant performances of the British athletes have made these games feel that little bit more special. You almost expected a glut of gold medals when the games were held in London in 2012 with familiar surroundings inevitably delivering an advantage.

But the achievements of the British team in 2016, from the record-breaking achievements of Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins, to the golden couple of the velodrome, Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, are even more worthy than 2012.

If there’s a negative it’s the inevitable scepticism that greets modern-day success. After Britain’s remarkable cycling success, one German competitor felt the need to declare that she had ‘no idea how they do it’.

Forget the negatives though. It’s been a wonderful exhibition of sport. It’s a pity it all has to end this weekend.