COMMENT – Austrian farce

THE CONCLUDING week of the 20th Winter Olympic Games began with pure farce that might be considered hilarious, were it not for the serious implications that accompanied it.  

Under Italian law the use of any forbidden substances is deemed a criminal offence. When police received a tip-off that Walter Mayer, Italy’s banned coach was staying in the Olympic village a full-scale police raid was initiated. The episode that involved one of the leading winter sport nations has cast an indelible stain on what should have been a grand occasion.

After the British women’s curling team failed to make it past the round robin stage, the men’s medal hopes were ended first by Finland in the semis, and then by the United States in the bronze medal play-off, Team Britain returned home with a solitary skeleton silver medal. Slalom possibles Chemmy Alcott and Alain Baxter did nothing to boost the tally.

If two individual failures on the big stage should be singled out, it would have to be Bode Miller and Anni Friesinger. Both the American downhill king and the German speed skating star left Italy without a single individual gold to their names. However the Games also produced its share of heroes. Austria’s Benjamin Raich took both the giant slalom and downhill golds, a feat emulated by his countrywoman Michaela Dorfmeister. Germany’s Michael Greis even went one better, contributing greatly to his country’s overall win with three biathlon gold medals, while the Swiss brothers Schoch turned the parallel giant slalom into a family affair: Philipp, 26, took gold ahead of silver medal winner Simon, 27. These athletes proved that the Olympics are about fair competition and not about drugs.