90 - Rules, gamesmanship & reportage

Example No1: the empty seats at the Olympics

Reported, that there are loads of empty seats – as seen on tv and with a picture above that could have been taken at 05:30. Not a London-only problem (though not reported like that) and as true in Beijing, for the same underlying reasons. Reported as a scandal. Lord Coe shown talking about accreditation (unexplained). Half a decent (BBC World Service) explanation about what accredited seats means was bracketed by shit-stirring commentary ignoring that explanation completely. Not a half-decent explanation, but half of a decent explanation. Irritating enough to make me leave the room yet again.
Proper response: the empty seats are from the 25% reserved for sponsors, Olympic committee members—and the press. Sponsors (several) have been quick to say that they’ve used all of theirs and returned what they don’t want. Of course, that doesn’t say that ALL sponsors have done that and it doesn’t say that ALL tickets are being used. However, Seb Coe did say that his investigations show that it is not a sponsor issue. That leaves two groups; the privileged and the press. I note that the reporting I found does say Locog investigated which tickets were not being used, but doesn’t say what the results were. The Telegraph reported³
While some empty seats were those reserved for dignitaries who did not turn up, others were among 120,000 unsold tickets allocated to foreign countries which have not returned them”¹
I’d guess they mean the Olympic family members; committee members, people in and attached to a countries’ teams—but the Telegraph doesn’t say that. I found a BBC reference saying “Pictures of rows of empty seats have angered members of the public and prompted Games organisers to appeal to sports federations to return tickets that accredited spectators were failing to use.” … organisers were also having "quite detailed conversations" with the International Association of Athletics Federation on their accredited seating in the stadium, which starts on Friday.
Aljazeera³ quoted Coe and the British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said they suspected that most of the no-shows were the guests of the games' corporate sponsors. Coe said the committee might name and shame those responsible if they don't take steps to get real fans in the seats. "We think it was accredited seats that belonged to sponsors. But if they're not going to turn up, we want those tickets to be available for members of the public, because that creates the best atmosphere. So we're looking at this very urgently,'' Hunt said.

So. Is any of that clear? I do not think so; not least the two quotes seem to me to be in conflict with each other. There are counting problems, of course. Empty seats are easily counted, but the ticketing process is not easy to make work so that seats are filled. You have a ticket for a venue and a day (I expect); the extent to which you fill your seat during that day is then up to you. Yes, there are ways for ticket holders who leave to surrender their tickets for others to use; yes, I hear that tickets through the lottery have your name on them to discourage re-selling. Neither of those issues refers to the empty seats that are seen on tv in big blocks and such discussion is not pertinent to the issue of visibly empty seats. It is evidence instead of very poor thinking on the part of those people supposedly keeping us informed. The enemy is the Press, yet again.

Here’s a better illustration of understanding (but it isn’t an explanation) from the London Evening Standard’s Mihir Bose:
Lord Coe and Locog should stop trying to pretend they can solve the problem of empty seats at Olympic venues. They cannot.
Coe hinted as much at his press conference yesterday as the swathes of empty seats led to a public outcry.
His explanation: “There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within the accredited ‘family’ that are trying to figure out what their day looks like, where they are going to be asked to go to, frankly working out how you divide your time.”
Given that most of us worked out months in advance where we would be during the Olympics, it seems strange this “family” is either so busy, or so dysfunctional, it cannot decide, even hours earlier, whether it will go to gymnastics or swimming.
But then this is no ordinary family. This is the Olympic family, the most extraordinary family on earth. At its head are the members of the International Olympic Committee. But the family extends far beyond that. It includes officials from the 205 Olympic nations, whose athletes paraded before us on Friday night, and the people who run the international federations of the 26 sports being played in London.
The brutal truth is this Olympic family owns the London Games. We, the British people, do not.
Yes, we will have spent very nearly £10billion to stage them but all that has given us is the right to lease the Games for 18 days. At every step of the way, the Olympic family, as the “freeholder”, has told us what we can do. In effect, this has extended to telling us what sort of curtains we can hang up in our leasehold property.
Within the family there are, of course, strict divisions. So the IOC members decide which city will host the Games. But, once a city gets the Games, each international federation decides how its sport is run.
The Olympic family has developed quite a cosy uncle-nephew relationship and, to glimpse this, take a good look at the next medal ceremony. The medals will be presented by an IOC member but the flowers will be given by a member of the international federation. It is measure of how well regulated this family is that a nephew will never encroach on an uncle’s territory.

And, during the Games, sport is not the only thing on the minds of the family. London is the centre of a ferocious bidding war. Representatives of nine cities from around the world are in town trying to woo the family members in their attempt to secure either the 2020 Olympics or the 2018 Olympic Youth Games.
The cities range from Istanbul, Buenos Aires and Poznan to our own Glasgow, which wants the Youth Games. This means many meetings in hotels all over London. Given that, can you really blame a member of the family if they forget they have a ticket to see Rebecca Adlington swim?
Naturally, the sight of empty seats angers the millions of people who tried in vain to get tickets for the Games but the fact is we cannot change how the Olympic family operates.
Instead, let us rejoice that, where we have control, we do things better than any other nation. Danny Boyle proved that in a masterly fashion on Friday night. I have been to many opening ceremonies but I cannot imagine another nation which would have had the imagination, let alone the courage, to present its head of state talking to a fictional character. And then be seen to jump from a helicopter.


No2: team sprint cycling deliberate crash. Spinning.

Philip Hindes said on live TV "We were saying if we have a bad start we need to crash to get a restart. I just crashed, I did it on purpose to get a restart, just to have the fastest ride. I did it. So it was all planned, really."

This is not what he said after winning a medal. It is not what he is said to have meant and what he has been excused for saying (there’s a spin). The rules for cycling are clear; a restart occurs after a mishap, a fall or a false start.

Cycling Regulations Team Sprint section 3.2.154 Qualifying rounds: In the event of a mishap, the team must restart at the end of the qualifying rounds.
Any team which may have been hindered by a mishap to its opponents may, by decision of the commissaires' [sic; proper noun used in cycling] panel, be granted a restart at the end of the qualifying rounds. In the qualifying rounds a team may only be permitted two starts.

So that makes the falling off no worse than the gamesmanship practised by all track sprinters as the bulk of their event up to the point when they actually start to race.

But the press, collectively, manages to mislead the reader into thinking this is an exceptional and odd rule that needs to change. It would have been much better to make a considered discussion of how sports treat the start of races—in rowing, horse-racing, running, skating and so on.
Note that the ‘fall’ occurred in a qualifying round, not the final as often implied. Also suppressed in the reporting are the two other mishaps in that event. UCI commissaires were quite right to say “There is no need to question the result.” So what we see is the press doing exactly that; questioning the result.


...and  on the very same day..

Example No 3; ‘match-fixing’ in the badminton

At the same time, we have gamesmanship in the badminton. To me ‘match-fixing’ is done by more than one party agreeing to a result in advance. Deliberately losing a match (race, competition unit) without the agreement of other parties is not match fixing. So, if the four pairs disqualified were representative of two matches where both parties were trying to lose, that is not match-fixing, but it is a reversed competition.

This is from the Badminton World Federation (BWF) website:

Four pairs who contested Women’s Doubles matches in the London 2012 Olympics last evening (Tuesday 31 July) at Wembley Arena have been disqualified by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
After a hearing this morning before the BWF’s Disciplinary Committee the following pairs were disqualified: Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang (China); Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari (Indonesia); Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na (Korea); and Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung (Korea).
The Indonesian and Korean pairs have appealed the decision. The pairs were charged under BWF’s Players’ Code of Conduct – Sections 4.5 and 4.16 respectively – with “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”.

Those are correct quotes from the Players’ Code of Conduct; [Handbook 11, Part III, Section 1B, Appendix 4]6. Further reading suggests that the crowd reaction (at being deprived of some proper sport to watch) was indicative of what is a bigger problem in the world of badminton. Again, the rules are what they are, and if people don’t follow the rules, they should expect the proper consequences. But much of the press reportage misses this point and concentrates on disgrace, blame and emotive matters instead of standing up for proper behaviour. Some sports do have rules that permit this sort of gamesmanship—where, by losing one match, you give yourself a better sequence of matches later in a tournament. Badminton expressly forbids it, so what we have seen is badminton (at last) seeing their world federation behaving properly. The story to be told is what happens to the brave official who made a stand and thus (will have, I hope) changed the sport for the better. The discussion to take place is how blatant losing a match must be for these two rules to apply.


DJS 20120508

1 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/9437316/London-2012-Olympics-fiasco-of-the-12000-empty-seats.html

2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19090195

3 http://www.aljazeera.com/sport/london2012/2012/07/201272995336893788.html

4 http://www.standard.co.uk/olympics/olympic-news/dont-blame-london-for-the-empty-seats-its-a-family-issue-7986830.html

5 http://www.bwfbadminton.org/news_item.aspx?id=65297

6 http://www.bwfbadminton.org/page.aspx?id=14923

reportage |rəˈpôrtij, ˌrepôrˈtäZH|  noun   -  the reporting of news, for the press and the broadcast media: extensive reportage of elections.

• factual presentation in a book or other text, esp. when this adopts a journalistic style.

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: French, from Old French reporter ‘carry back’.


© David Scoins 2017