Looking back on the Rio Olympics

Published on August 17th, 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 eleventh report:


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 16, 2016) – Our sport has rules. Heck, every sport has rules, and since this is the Olympics, the Sailing events have a few more rules. No problem, I say. It’s the Olympics, the sailors are the best, and they have more support personnel than ever before. Some teams have layers and layers of support. Following the rules shouldn’t be that hard.

What we learned, however, as Medal Races got underway, is that following the rules is hard. Or that people didn’t think there’d be consequences. Or people didn’t respect the game enough to follow the rules. I really don’t know, but the jury was forced to make some hard decisions.

So what are the rules?

“For the top ten sailors that qualified for the Medal Race in their event, we have to make sure their equipment is kept within the quarantine area,” explained Chief Umpire Peter Shrubb (BER). “This is to maintain the fairness of the regatta.

“We don’t want anything going wrong with the boats or equipment overnight, by virtue of those competing or by any outside source. The boats are held in quarantine and guarded through the night until the next day when sailors arrive. The boats are then reviewed by the equipment inspectors, and when approved, the boats are released for racing.”

You have to put the equipment exactly where specified, you have to do it by 18:00 the night before the medal race, and you need to return the following morning no later than three hours before the start of the race. Once equipment is checked in, from that time on it is guarded and kept out of reach. No access is permitted, and nothing more occurs until morning inspection.

“When the sailors arrive in the morning they present their boat and equipment for the measurers to inspect,” notes Shrubb. “The inspectors are looking for all the measurement decals and safety equipment to insure the boat is in the same trim as it was when measured at the beginning of the regatta.”

Simple, right? What can go wrong? All the information is posted on the notice board by 16:00 in the afternoon prior to the Medal Race. There are different quarantine areas so it is important for people to pay attention, but as long as they are looking for the information and taking the equipment to where it needs to go by the appointed time, and then arriving for inspection by the appointed time, then there is no problem.

But there have been problems.

RS:X Women – Marina Alabau Neira (ESP): RS:X was put in the wrong rack in quarantine.
RS:X Men – Byron Kokkalanis (GRE): Arrived late (amount not stated) for morning inspection.
Radial Women – Paige Railey (USA): Brought boat late (11 min.) to quarantine.
Radial Women – Josefin Olsson (SWE): Arrived late (80 sec.) for morning inspection.
Laser Men – Julio Alsogaray (ARG): Arrived late (at least 1.75 hrs.) for morning inspection.

“In each case, the jury needs to determine the source of the problem,” Shrubb notes. “English is not everyone’s first language, so there is a possibility of information not being fully understood. But we know this, and we make every attempt to make the instructions as clear as possible. However, when there is a clear breach of the rules, we have to give a penalty.”

What were the penalties?

Marina Alabau Neira (ESP): 0 points; breach was inadvertent, minor and accidental (Case 67).
Byron Kokkalanis (GRE): 2 points; failure to follow equipment regulations (Case 68).
Radial Women – Paige Railey (USA): 2 points; failure to follow equipment regulations (Case 75).
Radial Women – Josefin Olsson (SWE): 2 points; failure to follow equipment regulations (Case 79).
Laser Men – Julio Alsogaray (ARG): 6 points; failure to follow equipment regulations (Case 80).

It is of some relief that these penalties did not impact the medal standings, or perhaps that is why they occurred. Maybe the sailor was done, saw the Medal Race as a formality and the rules a nuisance. I don’t know. I didn’t interview the sailors, the jury did, and they found fault and assigned penalty. Harsh? Perhaps, but what would the system be without repercussion?

Olympic Games is the highest peak in our sport. It deserves the highest of standards and the greatest of respect. Ensuring fair measurement and equality of equipment seems like rules worth following.

Event detailsResultsPhotos

Racing was staggered among the 10 events from August 8 to 19.

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