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Oliver L Campbell :
A bolt from the blue at the 2012 olympics

 

 

I spent two weeks glued to the television. I have to congratulate the BBC because they did an excellent job showing simultaneously all the events that were taking place at one time. You just had to press the red button on the remote control to be able to switch from one event to another and I did just that.

For me, athletics is the most important part of the Olympic Games and the hero of the 2012 Olympics was Usain Bolt who won the 100 metres and the 200 metres sprints. He also came like a Bolt out of the blue to run the last leg and win the 4 x 100 metres relay. The next hero was Mo Farah who won the 5,000 metres and the 10,000 metres. The latter race was one of the most exciting of the Games. I must not, of course, forget Michael Phelps who won seven medals in swimming.

During the first week I spent the mornings watching the rowing at the Eton Dorney which is a man-built rowing lake owned by Eton College. It is a magnificent venue, near Windsor and close to the River Thames. There were two types of events--a) rowing with two hands on one oar, and b) sculling with an oar in each hand. In the mornings of the second week, I watched the canoe events. These also took two forms a) the Canadian canoe, and b) the kayak. The technique for the Canadian canoe is quite difficult--the paddler puts one leg forward and kneels behind on the other leg. His paddle has only blade and he paddles on just one side. The kayak has the more natural position since the paddler is seated and he uses a paddle with a blade at both ends which he dips on one side and then the other.

In the second week, I watched the cycling events at the velodrome in the early afternoons and the athletics later on in the evenings. Both the stadium and the velodrome are impressive buildings specially built for the 2012 Games.

The table below shows the countries that won ten or more gold medals, and also the medals won by the Caribbean Islands and American countries. The population size helps to put these into perspective.

Country

Gold

Total

Population

In Millions

USA

46

104

314

China

38

87

1,300

United Kingdom

29

65

62

Russia

24

82

143

South Korea

13

28

50

Germany

11

44

82

France

11

34

65

 

 

 

 

America/Caribbean

 

 

 

Cuba

5

14

11

Brazil

3

17

192

Colombia

1

8

47

Mexico

1

7

112

Argentina

1

4

40

Venezuela

1

1

30

Jamaica

4

12

2.7

Trinidad y Tobago

1

4

1.3

Bahamas

1

1

0.4

Grenada

1

1

0.1

Jamaica won the three medals in the 200 metres sprint. The crowds in Kingston shouted out "One, two, three" in jubilation. It is amazing how a country with less than three million people could win 12 medals in total. Cuba won fourteen and Colombia eight but Chile, Peru and Ecuador did not win any. In Africa, Kenya won two gold medals and eleven in total which is quite some feat.

Venezuela's cyclists, especially the women, rode very well in the velodrome, though they did not get a medal. I believe they have a future and just need to improve their strength by training at altitude--in Merida and Táchira--as many cyclists do. Ruben Limardo won Venezuela's only medal, a gold in epée fencing, and should be congratulated. Someone commented that fencing is an elitist sport but, athletics apart, most sports are elitist to a some extent as not everybody can afford to practise them. A 50 metre Olympic pool is expensive, so is a velodrome--the one in London cost $140 million--and a horse trained to jump fences can cost some $6 million. The horses don't belong to the riders but to rich men who sponsor them.

One gold medal is a good start but Venezuela must now plan for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The other day I read an interesting observation that sports can be divided in two categories: a) those where you stand, and b) those were you sit down. I believe Venezuela should concentrate on the former, i.e. athletics, but cycling and swimming events should be maintained. I should like to see other sports being considered such as archery--Robin Hood would not recognise the bows that are used nowadays--shooting, handball, kayak and the triathlon. The last one is becoming very popular--two of my sons are keen on the sport which involves swimming, cycling and running.

For women, beach volleyball and football are two possibilities. Football is a popular game and I was surprised to see how well the women played. Wembley stadium was filled for the final match between the USA and Japan. I am glad the term women is used because ladies would be inappropriate--some of their fouls were decidedly not ladylike!!

How can Venezuela prepare athletes which are capable of winning medals? I have come up with the following:

1) Physical attributes. The great change I have noticed in the last 50 years is the height of the athletes of both sexes--swimmers, rowers, long and high jumpers and track runners. Many are giants of six feet three inches or more. The high jumpers and pole jumpers are often tall and with very thin legs. On the other hand, it is an advantage to be short for gymnastics and diving from the ten metre board.

2) Aptitude. The athlete must have a natural aptitude for the sport combined with the burning desire to win. Experts can detect aptitude at an early age.

3) Dedication. The athlete must be prepared to practise every day. Practice at weekends is not enough and playboys need not apply.

4) Coaches. They should know what it is to win a medal at some international event like the Pan-American Games and have the ability to encourage and teach.

5) Sports facilities. Running tracks are not so costly. Open air velodromes and 50 metre swimming pools cost somewhat more. The important thing is to construct these facilities in large towns throughout the country and not concentrate everything in Caracas.

6) Funding. Forming athletes costs money and funds should be distributed in a logical manner--more to those sports and athletes where winning a medal is most likely, but without starving other sports of funding.

The United Kingdom won 65 medals but the government is worried that although only 7% of students go to private schools, they won close to 40% of the medals at the 2012 Olympics. The reason is quite clear--private schools encourage sports more than state schools. The government wants to popularise sports and proposes state schools should include sports in the curriculum starting at the primary school level. The government also wants volunteers to give up their time to teach sports at an increased number of sports' clubs. There has already been a great response. I believe Venezuela should follow these examples if the country wants to win several medals at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Oliver L Campbell
14.08.12


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Oliver L Campbell MBA, DipM, FCCA, ACMA, CGMA, MCIM was born in 1931 in El Callao, Venezuela where his father worked in the gold mining industry. He spent the WWII years in England, then returned to Venezuela in 1953 and worked with Compañía Shell de Venezuela (CSV) where he became the Financial Controller. Upon nationalisation of the oil industry, he went to Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as its Head of Finance. In 1982 he returned to England and became the Finance Manager of the British National Oil Corporation prior to its privatisation. He then worked as an oil consultant and retired in 2002 after fifty years in the oil industry. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

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Petroleumworld News 08/15/2012

 

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