Has the Olympics lost its lustre?

Sporting events produce more than their fair share of elation and disappointment - and few could not be moved by the tears of defeat shed by Katie Taylor this week and empathise with the anger of Michael Conlon when decisions went against them in the boxing ring in Rio. It has prompted widespread accusations of corruption at an Olympic Games that has been marred with issues since winning the bid in 2009.

With allegations of drug taking, a first-ever national doping ban in Olympic history for the Russians, poor ticket sales, green diving pools, fixed results, and now the arrest of Pat Hickey, president of both the European Olympic Committees and the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI ), the allure and integrity of the event unquestionably has been undermined.

Worse it has detracted from the athletes for whom this event is the pinnacle of careers.

Yet, for all that, it remains the biggest sporting event in the world, the dream of all sportspeople to compete, to test themselves against the best in the world, and represent their country on the largest and most prestigious stage. That is the constant - certainly it has been for our silver medallists Analise Murphy - and the O'Donovan brothers from Skibbereen. Tears, whether prompted by winning or losing, reflect the huge emotions the Olympics inspire, and one of the most poignant this year was to see former Galway oarsman Neville Maxwell crying with joy and pride when the O'Donovan boys made Irish rowing history. Maxwell, despite being the holder of world silver and bronze medals, knows the pain of missing out on an Olympic medal when his Irish lightweight crew finished fourth in Atlanta 20 years ago. His tears represented the anguish and the elation of all of those rowers who came before and after him.

Emotions remain at the heart of all athletes who dare to struggle, compete, and win, and also of spectators who have glued themselves to televisions, radio, and social media accounts during the Olympics. From our armchairs we involve ourselves; we identify with athletes - not just our own - we follow their progress, and we admire, shout, and cheer them on because these athletes love their sports, want to push themselves, win medals, and experience that moment of utter joy when they have produced their ultimate performance.

We cherish special moments that still embody the Olympic spirit - none more so than the New Zealand and American women runners who helped each other complete the race after a track collision.

That is why we love the Olympics and Olympians. Yes, it may have lost a little lustre, but the Olympics remains a real life story of human endeavour with which we will continue to be enthralled and captivated.


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