Three weeks away and much to discuss. Lets begin with the non-action of the Olympic integrity officials.
They have already failed.
In case you missed it amidst the barrage of fancy sounding “anti-corruption” conferences and announcements from various bureaucrats about how they are fighting hard against fixing, leaving no stone turned, standing vigilant, etc, etc [fill in your favourite cliché here]you may have missed the po-faced declaration from Interpol and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about their joint campaign to eradicate corruption in sport.
Interpol even featured an interview with the IOC integrity officer Pâquerette Girard-Zappelli where she said, “Through our partnership with INTERPOL, we aim to continue to Capacity Building and Training for effective investigations of crimes related to sport and breaches of sport regulations and so that actions to Recognise, Resist and Report competition manipulation are implemented. We need to continue our efforts to build firewalls around sport to keep out crime and protect clean athletes. [sic]”
Well, wonderful if you like pronouncements of the importance of human rights by various blood-stained generals in the People’s Republic of Somewoebegonestan or the awarding of medals to themselves by self-important bureaucrats. For the rest of us Interpol and the IOC have managed to score yet another black eye in their inept campaign to guard sports integrity.
You see the week before they made all their self-aggrandizing mission statements there was possibly the most blatant case of match-fixing in Olympic sports that a fan could ever witness.
To explain, just in case you are not up to speed with current events in the exciting world of water polo Olympic qualifications. France lost a water polo game to Canada. Now you might think, “Fair enough. Those French chaps are too busy eating croissants, smoking unfiltered cigarettes and discussing existential philosophy to compete with muscular, manly Canadians who are forever plunging into frozen lakes and swimming brisk laps.”
I take nothing away from that analysis, however, in this case the plot goes deeper.
You see, according to the Canadian team the perfidious French did not just lose the game, they lost the game deliberately.
The Canadian water-polo official and four-time Olympian David Hart said of the game, “It was horrific. Any educated person would know. It was quite clear… Even more telling was that the announcers were apologizing to their audience on French television in the third and fourth quarter saying it’s clear the French team decided to lose this game.”
According to the CBC one of the Canadian players, Constantine Kudoba also said,
“From my opinion as a player it was probably the most embarrassing game I’ve ever played. They were not trying, or making any effort, to put the ball in the net. When you have a national team throwing the ball 10 feet, 20 feet over the next… you know something’s up.”
Why might the French have done such a thing?
Because whichever team lost that particular game would play the Dutch team. If they won that game they would qualify for the Olympic tournament. Evidently, the Dutch secure in the knowledge that their dykes and canals prevent any flooding of their country are not very good swimmers or water-polo players. In the meantime, the winners of the Canada vs. France game had to play the super-power (in water polo) Spain.
So it benefited the French team to lose to the Canadians as they got to play the easier team in the next match.
After France “lost” to the Canadians, they went on to defeat the Dutch easily and thereby qualified for the Olympics. The Canadians played valiantly but ended up losing to the Spanish by one goal and did not qualify for the Olympics.
Score one for the possible fixers, zero for the honest team.
What has been the reaction of the International Olympic Committee or Interpol to this possible fix?
Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
This is not surprising. For all their pronouncements about their fight to guard sports integrity the crafty administrators always add somewhere in their speeches something about the fight “being complicated” or “very difficult” before going on to say that they will “leave no stone unturned” or “carry the fight to the fixer.”
Ninety percent of fixing in Olympic sports is preventable ninety-percent of the time. Most of the fixing in the Olympics does not feature gambling; rather it is about tournament incentives where one team/athlete benefits from losing. Remember the badminton players who engaged in a similar dishonourable farce at the London Olympics?
If the IOC wanted to show they were really serious about guarding the integrity of the Olympics they would investigate this match and then if the accusation was proven, say to the French water polo federation, “You are all banned for the next four years.” This would mean that every French water polo team – men and women – would miss not only this Olympics but also the next one.
Unfair? Not really, in this type of fixing it is not just the players who engage in losing the game, a team’s coaches also presumably have told their players what to do. If the French team were losing deliberately, they were doing so while representing their nation. They wore their flag on their swimsuits. If they win the Olympics they hear their national anthem playing over the pool. They bring honour to their country. If they truly behaved in a dishonourable fashion than their entire national federation should be punished.
So why does not the International Olympic Committee start an investigation against the French team?
Well, for start it has nothing to do with Ms. Pâquerette Girard-Zappelli the IOC integrity officer being French. I am not being ironic. As an IOC official nationality means nothing to Ms. Girard-Zappelli. Rather she and Interpol are pieces of intellectual cholesterol in the fight against sport corruption. They are happy to make statements about the need to protect sports integrity so long as they do not have to do anything controversial like actually investigate for potential match-fixing.