Looking back on the Rio Olympics
Published on August 3rd, 2020
Four years ago, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck was in Brazil to report on the Rio 2016 Olympics. With the Tokyo 2020 Games postponed until 2021, we keep that Olympic Flame alive through Leweck’s observations from the Carioca nation:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 4, 2016) – We relate to sport by our experiences. Maybe we played the game. Maybe we cheer for our home team. Maybe we like the players. Or maybe we have a sense of nationalism that is honest and pure and overrides all our objections to stir our interest.
Which brings me to the Olympic Games, that quadrennial event that brings out the rah rah in all of us. Or so I hope.
For Olympic sailing in North America, we are in a challenging era. There are ten events, but just a few have traction in our harbours. Competitively, the continent has been on freefall. Our Olympic heroes have aged. For many of us, our interest has been strained.
I get this, trust me. I see the traffic reports on Olympic coverage in Scuttlebutt. We don’t know the players, most of the events are overseas, and the road to the Games seems a bit indulgent. It is not hard to look the other way.
But if you spend time with the athletes, you get it. You are awed by the sacrifice, by the commitment, by the desire to do good for their country. When you witness the Olympic world, it becomes hard to look away.
I had my brief foray in the Olympic world, campaigning a Tornado for the 1992 Games. But I couldn’t go all in. You have to go all in. I also worked alongside Mark Reynolds when he collected two of his three Olympic medals (1988 and 1992 Games). Mark had what it takes. I didn’t.
Mark’s focus was frightening. To succeed at the Olympic level requires the medallist to go places few of us can manage. This is what makes the Olympics so special, so worth caring about.
For the past four years, I have watched as the campaigns have progressed. Many did not survive. Others flourished. I have seen as the athletes trained in silence, mostly beyond view. I have followed the Sailing World Cups, the World Championships, the European Championships. And I have sought to share the stories in Scuttlebutt.
But there is nothing like the Olympic Games, so with a keen sense of safety and a bottle of Purel, I am off to Rio de Janeiro to witness the spectacle. For two weeks, 271 entrants compete for 30 medals. Their work and sacrifice to be tested against the very best in our sport. In full view. Finally.
As 2-time gold medallist Shirley Robertson, who will be in Rio working with the BBC, said to me: “I know the kind of effort that’s gone in behind it and everyone has a story. And at the end of each event, there will be those that are most excited or others most devastated. It will be a privilege to witness it all.”
Racing was staggered among the 10 events from August 8 to 19.