Should fair play only be required of athletes?
It is too early to guess how future historians will rate the London Olympics, only halfway through. One thing seems certain so far: it will be one of the most talked-about games in both good ways and bad. However, we are afraid that the latter will be the most likely reason.
Most egregious of course are the frequent wrong decisions. The biggest victims of these have been Korean athletes. In swimming, the referees admitted their mistake ― after three hours ― and reversed the original call but the damage was irreversible. In judo, even the foreign athlete who won thanks to the refereeing turnaround appeared embarrassed and sorry. In fencing, the sport’s international governing body is trying to appease the Korean participant with a ``consolation” silver medal.
This move adds insult to injury. What Shin A-lam needs is not a gesture similar to candy given to soothe a crying baby but a formal admission of the error and an apology from the International Fencing Federation, the world governing body for the sport.
What makes Koreans every angrier is the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC), and its head Park Yong-sung. Park defended the reversal of a decision by the head of refereeing association, saying it was according to a rule he made while he chaired the sport’s international body. The KOC also all but coerced the recalcitrant Shin to accept the comfort medal.
That three of the four most glaring cases of bad calls happened to South Korean Olympians may just be unfortunate coincidence. Yet it is also true in the world of sports that even amateur athletics have long been influenced by the powers of the nations that athletes belong to in the name of so-called sports diplomacy. A country with strong players but weak sports diplomacy, like South Korea’s, can be an optimal target of politicized, if not premeditated, moves.
Regarding badminton, the Korean women who were disqualified for intentionally losing a preliminary round to avoid strong opponents have no excuses. They were like drivers who claim innocence for following a preceding car traveling in the wrong lane. Athletes should play fair, whether their opponents do so or not.
Yet in this case, what remains unsaid were the mistakes of the organizers, including bad scheduling.
Some British officials even failed to announce one Korean gymnast’s name due to poor preparation. Even developing countries would have made far better and smoother preparations than this. Mitt Romney, who made many gaffes during his overseas tour, was right at least on one point, doubting London’s readiness to host the Olympic Games.
Fair play and perfect preparation should not be terms applicable only to athletes. No one gave the organizers, referees and international sports moguls the right to sacrifice four preparatory years of sweat and tears.