Saturday 21 September 2019

A few rays of light in depressing Games

Weird Wide World of Sport

Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate after finishing second in the lightweight double sculls final
Paul and Gary O'Donovan celebrate after finishing second in the lightweight double sculls final

Dave Devereux

The somewhat obscure TV channel Challenge is probably the most watched station in the household of yours truly at the moment.

I'm rather partial to an episode or two of Pointless, and will admit to letting out the odd 'whoop, whoop' if I can find an answer in the depths of my brain that will get the counter to tick down to zero.

I'd also gladly sit through classic Catchphrase or Wheel of Fortune and you can't beat a bit of Bully of an evening if there's nothing else on the box, with the Jim Bowen-hosted Bullseye offering great viewing for the more nostalgic among us.

The young fella loves Gladiators, especially when the fearsome competitors go toe to toe with giant cotton buds to literally try to knock each other off of their pedestals.

Another thing the little lad has a penchant for is crazy Japanese gameshows, like the original Ninja Warriors and one we discovered recently called Takeshi's Castle.

Basically it involves trying to catapult yourself on to velcro targets, suffering the embarrassment of falling into water over and over again and being unceremoniously landed on your backside when you fail to clear an assortment of spinning obstacles.

When I strolled into the sitting room on Saturday evening to be greeted by a glut of competitors, red-faced and glistening with sweat, racing around an arena and stopping every now and then to fire a few shots at a target, I thought my four-year-old had discovered some new Japanese attempt at family entertainment.

Turns out it was the finale of the modern pentathlon and I hadn't hopped, skipped and jumped into a parallel universe.

The Olympics, certainly from an Irish perspective, have had all the hallmarks of a Japanese gameshow - utter humiliation, embarrassment, an overbearing sense of injustice, a bit of laugh out loud merriment and the rare celebration of defeating the odds and wearing a beaming smile as the credits roll.

There's no prizes for guessing where the humiliation angle comes from.

The whole Pat Hickey saga has shown the country in a very bad light and when pictures of the 71-year-old's arrest in a state of undress were beamed across the world it was obvious the Brazilian authorities were determined to get to the naked truth.

With other high-profile names being dragged into the investigation into the OCI ticket touting scandal, there's no telling how long this debacle will run, but the scars are sure to run deep from the whole sorry mess.

The Rio Olympics couldn't have started on a worse note for the Irish, and Michael O'Reilly's failed drugs test was the beginning of a nightmare fortnight for the boxing team.

The scandal rocked the most talented Irish boxing squad that has ever been sent to an Olympic Games, and O'Reilly's shame was followed by defeat for Paddy Barnes, who blatantly struggled with his weight, Joe Ward who lost after being dragged into a brawl, and Katie Taylor looking a shadow of her former self.

On top of that Michael Conlan was robbed of his dream by scandalous judging, with the Belfast boxer's scathing comments hitting the headlines around the world.

The IABA's treatment of Billy Walsh, forcing him out of a job, was also thrown back into the spotlight, and you have to believe the Wexford man would have made a difference in the corner.

Our loss was America's gain though, with the US team earning a gold, silver and bronze in the ring.

Mercifully we were treated to a few chinks of light in the dark chasm that was the Olympics.

Rowers Gary and Paul O'Donovan brought their wonderful charm to the Games and made the most of their time in the sun, filling the airwaves with hilarious sound bytes and more one-liners than comedian Jimmy Carr.

Their laid back approach was truly refreshing and they showed that they have the talent to match their big personalities by brilliantly claiming silver in the lightweight doubles sculls.

Annalise Murphy fought back from the heartache of finishing fourth in London in 2012 to win silver, while Thomas Barr came agonisingly close to stepping on the podium, but took it on the chin with a smile on his face.

Other Irish athletes gave it their all. There was national records, personal bests and creditable performances from many who represented their country with pride and showed the true ideals of the Olympics are not completely dead in the water.

The Games heads to Tokyo for its next instalment in four years time and here's hoping it will be more sporting spectacle than tacky Japanese gameshow.

Wexford People

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