Looking back on the Rio Olympics
Published on August 16th, 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… here was his tenth report:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 15, 2016) – Malcolm Page spent a couple decades as an athlete in pursuit of the Olympic Games, a mission that earned the Australian three trips and two gold medals. But now he is giving back to the sport. After extensive involvement with the Athletes Commission, over a year ago Page put down his gavel as Chair to take over as Head of Media for World Sailing.
So how is his first Games now as an administrator? “It’s not as bad as I feared,” remarked Page. “I have been so busy working in Rio that it has kept my mind off of it, but the day when the 470s were racing on the ocean course, that day with big wind and waves, I got a bit anxious. The boat is so good in that stuff, so much fun.”
Now 44 years, the past competitor has had his eye on the athletes competing in Rio. “I have been watching how they approach the Games,” he admits. “I learned a lot during my three Games, and you see a lot when you look at those that have been successful and those who have not.
“I am curious how their mindset is, and how it might change for the Games compared to a Sailing World Cup event or their World Championship. Can they handle the pressure of the Games and remain the same sailors, or is the weight of the Games too much.”
In his role with World Sailing, Page was front and center in advance of the Rio Games. “We had to face a lot of issues leading up to the Rio Games, which led World Sailing to initiate a lot of protocols in how we handle these issues. I’d say World Sailing is now in a much stronger position as we look toward the next Games.
“World Sailing does not get to choose where the Olympic Games are held, but given all the factors that Rio has thrown at us, it is something that we now have knowledge about and processes for. It has already helped us influence the Tokyo Games.”
Case in point was dealing with the air traffic that crossed the Rio race course. “The original venue for Tokyo was going to be in the city, very close to the airport, which we knew was not possible given the needs of our aerial coverage,” Page explained.
“In Rio, we had to have the airport closed during our race period, which is a big ask that most airports can’t accommodate. So we started this conversation with Tokyo which helped to influence moving the sailing venue, and being involved in where the sailing will now be held.”
With his long career competing at the Games, Page has a steady stream of coaches and athletes that seek his counsel during the Rio Olympics. “I recall when World Sailing President Carlo Croce said to me some time ago how World Sailing ‘missed its smile’,” reflected Page.
“Carlo has a vision, but was worried that community did not really understand what World Sailing was doing, or did not respect and embrace the organization. He was saying how it needs its smile, and perhaps that’s why I got my position so I can better make that connection between sailors and World Sailing.”
World Sailing has had its share of detractors. “It is very easy to criticize World Sailing, especially in this digital era in which everyone has a keyboard,” remarked Page. “They can say whatever they think, because it’s easy, but these same people aren’t always willing to step beyond their computer monitor to engage in conversation, and quite possibly, better understand the issues.
“So in this day and age, it’s just so easy to blame the international federation. With that said, I know there are times that is right to criticize us. We will own our mistakes, and if we deserve to be criticized, than it is fair to do so. But if the criticism is unwarranted and unfair, than I seek to straighten that out.”
During the racing in Rio, Page is found in his office glancing at the live broadcast in between corresponding with the event team. “Rio has proven to be an incredible venue,” assessed Page.
“Having grown up in Sydney, which is another great harbor city, I was very fortunate for that to be my playground, and now seeing this venue and how each area of Guanabara Bay is so different, and so different day to day, with its incredible surrounding backdrop, I would easily rate it top five in the world, and could even debate it being among the top three. Putting my sailor’s hat on, would I want to compete here? Absolutely!”
Racing was staggered among the 10 events from August 8 to 19.