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Peter Williams: Olympics not so golden


Published: 5:57PM Wednesday April 11, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Sir Chris Hoy, one of the greatest track cyclists of all time, has identified through the rules of his sport, the great issue facing the Olympic Games. In too many events it is not the premium world contest.

We've known this for years of course in many team sports. The Olympic football competition is way, way down the list of prestigious titles, after the World Cup, the Champions League and numerous domestic championships.

The Olympic basketball title, while mildly more prestigious than the FIBA World Championship, still ranks well below the NBA and NCAA Championships.

Then in road cycling what matters more - a Tour de France or an Olympic gold medal in the road race?

And we haven't even mentioned tennis. Or baseball when it was there. Or golf when it will be there in four years time.

As for boxing, well if Manny Pacquiao really is the best pound for pound fighter in the world, then why can't a place be found for him at the Olympics?

You get my drift? Far too many sports in Olympics are not the ultimate in their game.

And even if an Olympic gold medal is still the pinnacle for track and field athletes, swimmers, rowers and many other disciplines, there are numerous events inside that sport where the Olympic qualifying rules do not produce the best possible competition.

Sir Chris understandably has a beef with the IOC because they may prevent him defending his Olympic sprint title. It's not that he isn't among the best in the world in this event but rather that only one British sprinter can compete on the boards in London.

That's because the UCI, the international cycling body, has been bullied by the IOC into restricting one entrant per country for each of the track cycling events.

Sir Chris won only a bronze medal in the sprint at the world championships and is danger of losing his place as Great Britain's sprinter to the Melbourne silver medalist Jason Kenny. The British selectors can pick only one of them, so no matter who gets the gig, one of the fastest three sprinters in the world will be missing from the Olympic Games in this event. Can a medal then be said to have been won against all the world's best?

There are numerous other examples where situations like this arise. If the strongest possible field was in the 100 meters, then Usain Bolt would race against his countrymen Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Steve Mullings and Nesta Carter. But only three will race in London because those are the IOC rules.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Olympics. It is the greatest show on earth. Being in an Olympic city during a games is one of life's wonderful experiences.

But let's not kid ourselves about it being the pinnacle of sport across all events. For many it is. But there's a whole gamut of Olympic competition which in the context of a particular sport, is not that big a deal.

And as many an aficionado of athletics or track cycling will tell you, the fields are usually stronger in world championships where the rules restricting the number of competitors per event per country are not as restrictive.

The problem could be fixed pretty easily. Ditch the sports where other competitions outside the Olympics mean more to the competitors and their fans. We all know the culprits.

Then allow more world ranked athletes into events instead of restricting numbers to so many per country. Base entry on world ranking, no matter which countries the athletes come from - as golf will do in 2016.

In the spirit of Pierre de Coubertin, the IOC prides itself on it's inclusiveness. They want to have athletes from as many counties as possible taking part. That means they can sell more television rights. Because, remember, the IOC is more about money than anything.

Read more Peter Williams opinion here .