Fairness and greatness

When I started writing about the Olympics for this space, I naturally contacted universities around the province to see who was researching what. It turns out there was a lot happening – probably a dozen universities have people doing research directly related to the Games, and everyone has experts in relevant fields.

The more interviews and research I’ve done, the more I keep coming back to the theme of fairness. It’s such a seemingly straightforward concept that becomes elusive as soon as you try to pin down the details. Even the very basics – under whose flag should an elite athlete compete? What’s a reasonable technological improvement and what’s unacceptable? Does the fact that richer countries win more medals invalidate the spirit of fair competition? What is really causing so many world records to fall – athletics or science? And if it’s science that makes the difference, is that such a bad thing?

I’ve asked the researchers I’ve spoken to how their work colours their experience of the Games. I find it reassuring that so many of them still find the Olympics exciting and meaningful. True, those who study doping, branding, and other less idealistic  subjects tend to see the Games through the prism of their expertise, but whatever flaws they notice don’t detract from the overall validity of the games.

As one doping researcher said to me, “Of course, I’m looking from a certain perspective.  I absolutely am attuned to a certain area. But sometimes there are extraordinary performances.

“There just are.”

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