Sochi athletes find IOC approach cold

The Olympics must have a smiley face on them at all times, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which means there can be no mourning for lost comrades on the playing fields.

In two seemingly heartless moves, the IOC has ordered grieving athletes to remove all evidence of any memorial. Australian snowboarder Torah Bright was ordered to remove a sticker from her helmet that was meant to honour the late Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke.

“For us it is a question of what is appropriate and where would be the best place,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

“We are very keen to help people who want to have a remembrance or do something and to do that in what would be an appropriate place. We have, as with a lot of athletes here, huge sympathy. She needs to be remembered. [But] the competitions themselves, which are a place of celebration, are probably not the right place to really do that.”

Burke died in January, 2012, from injuries suffered during a training crash in Park City, Utah. She was an advocate for her sport, and supported the inclusion of the superpipe event in the Winter Games. While the IOC has allowed athletes to wear tape on their boot straps with Burke’s name, a sticker on the helmet was deemed too visible.

Bright protested by posting on Instagram: “I ride with a Sarah sticker on my snowboard and helmet always. The IOC however, consider Sarah stickers ‘a political statement’ and have banned them. WOW. Sarah is a beautiful, talented, powerful woman, who’s spirit inspires me still. She is a big reason why skier pipe/slope are now Olympic events.”

In addition to this crackdown, the IOC informed the Norwegian Olympic Committee that it should not wear black armbands to honour the brother of cross-country skier Astrid Uhrenholdt who died unexpectedly just a day before opening ceremonies.

While the IOC has banned these small memorial tags, it continues to allow de facto advertising on the equipment used by athletes. Every time a snowboarder skied in Sochi, the manufacturer of his or her board was clearly visible on the bottom, in oversized letters.

Meanwhile Michel Mulder claimed Holland’s first gold medal in the event’s 90-year history, claiming the 500m speed skating crown.

The 27-year-old held off countryman Jan Smeekens and twin brother Ronald as the Dutch team claimed a clean sweep of medals. Defending Olympic champion Mo Tae-Bum of South Korea finished in fourth. In a closely-fought contest, Mulder pipped Smeekens by just 0.01 seconds after two runs of the long track circuit.

Smeekens thought he had won gold after the electronic scoreboard in the arena showed the number one ranking next to his name, but seconds later an adjusted time relegated him into silver medal position. “At first I had mixed feelings because it was so close. I looked at the scoreboard and I thought I’d won, and seconds later saw I didn’t,” Smeekers said. “Now I have to be happy with my second place.”


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