Rio 2016 Olympics – a postscript

23 August, 2016

Quite a long post today. I’ve been back in the UK for five days, but I’m still dreaming about Rio every night. Odd new sports. Athletes in desperate need of quotes. It’s left an impression on me. I hope it did the same for you.

OK. Firstly, the Olympic channel has finally got busy and started putting up videos from the finals on YouTube – although their attention to detail (& logic) leaves something to be desired. You can watch everything currently available on this playlist here. Some of the highlights:

Women’s individual final with (I think) BBC commentary here (you may have to click for an external link)

Men’s individual gold medal match here:

Just a bit of the women’s team bronze and gold medal matches here (spoiler alert):

Hardly any of the sublime men’s team final here:

…but most of the men’s team bronze match here. Well done Alec and the boys:

Then there’s a really quite funny quiz with Brady Ellison:

Want baffling, dialogue-and-narrative-free ‘highlights’ of Mauro Nespoli’s big dance?  Knock yourself out. And there’s plenty more on the full playlist – although right now, frankly, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Keep an eye on it, perhaps it will in the future. (in contrast, you can watch full replays of London 2012 sessions).


So after the match between Chang Hyejin and the North Korean archer Kang Un Ju, the latter sprinted through the press mixed zone like Usain Bolt with two dozen screaming Korean journos reaching after her and gunning the Nikons. Shortly afterwards, I was informed that there was a weird incident involving a dodgy Korean (presumably South) camera crew out the back of the venue trying to interview Un Ju and getting some cables ripped out the back of their camera by her ‘coaches’ (read: minders).

Suffice it to say, both archers were very much expected to win that match, the only direct one-on-one North v South matchup of the entire Games (if I checked correctly).  Hyejin suggested cooly afterwards: ‘It gathered a lot of attention in our country. I had a lot of pressure and I knew that I needed to win it.” which I suspect is a grand understatement. It’s a bit of a shame, especially as elsewhere there was a rather sweet story involving North and South Korean gymnasts getting a selfie together.


Photo: Reuters


There’s a bit of fallout from the teams which didn’t perform as hoped; looks like Malaysian coach Lee Jae Hyung might be paying the price for not taking any of his team quite deep enough.

Despite the clean sweep of gold medals in the Sambodromo, the Republic of Korea came up a little short of expectations in Rio, with fencing falling short and their most famous athlete, swimmer Park Tae-hwan not even making his big final.

Taiwan, more commonly known around these parts as Chinese Taipei (the very short version: it’s complicated) took a well-deserved bronze in the women’s team event. Apparently Taiwan, despite taking just a handful of medals in an eventful Games for the country, is the strongest Olympic performer of all time if you adjust for GDP, as this interesting article points out.

Off the Games, there’s this thing about a corner of the archery world I knew nothing about: Ancient Indonesian archery finds mark in the modern world


Bow - arch

“I think this is a really iconic Games. It is also a Games in the middle of reality. They were not organised in a bubble. They were organised in a city where there are social problems, social divides, where real life continued and I think it was very good for everybody.

“To be close to reality and not to have it in a bubble for 16 days, the Games somehow being isolated. To be in the middle of it, to see reality and by seeing this to put sport into perspective.” – Thomas Bach, president of the IOC

I’m going to discuss a few things now. I suspect the Rio Games will be remembered for a long, long time, as a major pivotal point in Olympic history. The ‘old model’ is gone.

In the end, despite terrible doomsaying and a handful of dark mishaps, it went off mostly without a hitch – but against an unignoreable backdrop of a city struggling to put on the event financially and a population that seemed to largely, but certainly not completely, turn its back. They did it very much their way. The best bits shone bright, but the empty seats across the board, whether due to disinterest or overpricing or sheer distance from anything else, told a tale which was impossible for a global TV audience to ignore.

Few cities on Earth could have lived up to 2012.  London sold out almost every ticket across the Games, which no Olympics has ever got close to before , and may never again. The London Paralympics was almost sold out before it started. The British people – belatedly – got fully behind it, seeing sports they’d never heard of, plus London has hundreds of large immigrant communities from all over the world which helped to fill seats everywhere. For example, there are over 15,000 Koreans resident in London, who bought a lot of tickets for archery, taekwondo and much else besides. And London is a densely populated, obscenely wealthy city with a lot more potential for an extended legacy for the infrastructure.

So it was always going to be difficult to follow London (let alone Beijing and/or Sochi), but as many people at home and away have said to me, there seemed to be something missing – a genuine sense of festival, or a sense of the transformative power of sport. For spectators, there was nagging feeling that it might not quite have been worth it. The full competition had many highlights across the board, but without that collective atmosphere, that powerful sense of identity.

In Rio, the threat of Zika and crime scared off more casual tourists, whatever the milder reality might have been. The tickets were far too expensive, just as they were for working people in London, but Brazil is in a horrible recession with rampant unemployment – and there were many other issues over the buildup that I’m sure you’ve already read about over and again. And I’m not sure if anyone realises quite how long-term toxic the wider issues with doping in athletics, the flagship of the fleet, have been to the Olympics overall.

A less-mentioned problem is a general lack of Olympic cultural identity. Britain (for example) has a long legacy and cultural memory of Olympic participation and success, from Coe and Ovett and Thompson in the 80s, Redgrave & Backley in the 90s etc. It’s a part of the culture, and there are collective memories of it and being part of it.

cristo 4

yeah, I went up it. like everyone else (it was brilliant)

It’s a shame, but many Brazilians just don’t have that sense of the Olympics as being something the country is involved in, where Brazil plays a part in the narrative. (They love some sports –  football, of course, and volleyball; the only two sports that really shifted a lot of tickets). But a lot of the rest of it just didn’t register as something you could play a part in, and the average person in Rio had more pressing things on their mind.

When even the athletics session for Usain Bolt running the 100m, an event watched by two billion people in 2012, isn’t sold out, you know something is very wrong.  (It didn’t help that, due to TV demands, the athletics ran very late and finished close to midnight, in a part of town that isn’t the best and is ill-served by public transport).

Ultimately the people spoke, and they said: There are more important things than a canoe slalom course. And of course, they are absolutely right. I still believe in the Olympics as a powerful force for good in the world, as the single time every four years when the world comes together to celebrate what humans can achieve. But it has become, in the 21st century, something that is too simply large, too expensive, and too difficult to impose upon people in its present form.

Believe it or not, when Rio was awarded the Games in 2009, on a grand-scale it seemed like a genuinely brilliant idea. The economy was going through the roof. Oil was at record highs. It fit past Olympic narratives of a national power thrusting fully into the world after a long period in the wilderness. Memories of Tokyo ’64, with a modern industrial nation emerging from losing a war, and similar tales at Seoul in 1988. There’s a strong sense that everybody wanted it to work like that; Brazil, with all its extraordinary natural advantages and increasing financial clout, finally taking a place at the forefront of the modern world with a Rio Olympics as a catalyst. Everyone was hopeful.

But there’s a grim proverb popular over there: “Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be.” It didn’t quite happen as intended, for reasons recounted ad nauseam already, and because of that, a lot of rather bright light has been shone on the Olympic movement, the IOC, its legacies and its future.

I count myself very lucky indeed to have been able to visit such a great country with some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met – and Rio itself is a extraordinary place, rugged and difficult, but often exquisitely beautiful, with a manic, creative energy unlike anywhere else on earth. It would be a terrible shame if the legacy is as grim as many are predicting. And when I think about some of the brilliant, brilliant Olympians I met, the athletes who had worked so incredibly hard, and the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Sambodromo, all working to make something amazing, I start welling up once again.


There’s a gazillion articles out there this week about the wider Olympics. (If you want to keep it frivolous, I recommend this one.)

Some more interesting longread postscript articles you might enjoy:

After the party: Rio wakes up to an Olympic hangover, by Luis Eduardo Sores, which explains much of the background to the Rio Games and where the city goes after this.

Rio 2016 was not an easy Olympics but has been saved by the brilliance of the sport, by Nick Butler at insidethegames, which talks a lot about the IOC’s role in Rio.

Rio Notebook: Reconciling The Olympics Bubble by Caley Fretz on Velonews.

OK, thanks for reading. Let’s get ready for the Paras. Cheers, John.






Rio 2016 – best archery quotes

21 August, 2016

Deepika Kumari & samba girls. #Rio2016

“There’s an expression here that says, ‘If you’ve got ginga, you can do anything’.”

– Ane Marcelle Dos Santos (BRA). Google ‘ginga’. Go on. 

“I don’t have to say anything to them, because I know just how much hard work and effort I’ve put in.”

 – Deepika Kumari (IND), on what she would say to the notoriously harsh Indian media about the team’s performance.


“Very proud, just to put on the green and gold every morning, remember where I come from and how lucky I am to represent the country that I love.”

 – Taylor Worth (AUS) on representing Australia


“I was feeling great and enjoying every arrow, so there was no reason for me to stop smiling.”

 – Alejandra Valencia (MEX) on smiling all the time while competing


“I have never imagined that I wouldn’t shoot an arrow everyday.”

 – Choi Misun (KOR) on whether she will continue as an archer after Rio


[wry smile plays across her face] “That is something I’ve never thought about.”

– Chang Hyejin on whether she is going to retire after Rio


“I have been shooting since I was eight and now I’m 28, so with my 20 years of doing this, I feel like I’m the king and I have the crown.”

 – Florian Floto (GER) after winning one match. One.


“It means everything, it’s a part of my life. How I am is because of archery.”

 – Antonio Fernandez (ESP) on his relationship with the sport


“New world record.”

 – what Kim Woojin said out loud, in English, half a second after putting in that final arrow to make the 700


“There are many athletes that dream about competing at the Olympics but only a few of them get the chance to do it at home. If there’s anything I will remember, I think it would be the match with the team where I shot a 10 and the crowd went crazy. Hearing my name and Brazil so loud, wow, that will remain with me forever.”

 – Bernado Oliveira (BRA)

“Despite the results, I feel satisfied with my performance. I think I will always remember the support of the people in the stands. That sound, if I close my eyes, I can still hear it.

“This journey has been amazing and completely different from what I thought it could be. It’s been more exciting than any other international event. There’s hope, there’s a future and there’s the capability in Brazil to make archery a great sport.”

 – Marina Canetta (BRA)


“My goal is to do my best to tell them: it’s not over, they can still fight with the situation and do great things. Don’t let your disability defeat you. Sport is the best means to defeat disability.”

– Zahra Nemati (IRI), on what message she would like to send other Paralympic athletes


“I didn’t need my glasses today, therefore everyone saw the evil eye.”

 – Sjef Van Den Berg (NED) on competing with a burst blood vessel in his eye

“I prepared a lot, and it’s all gone now.”

– Kim Woojin (KOR) on being knocked out in the 2nd round


“It’s the most respectful way to give thanks to the spectators who cheered for me.”

 – Ku Bonchan after him and his coach getting on their knees on the field after his individual win


“I’ve had it told to me before, even when I was younger. I personally don’t see a huge resemblance, maybe besides the facial hair. He is a good-looking dude so I guess it’s a compliment.”

– Brady Ellison (USA) on dozens of frivolous international press articles suggesting he looks like  – or possibly even is – Leonardo DiCaprio


“Who ever wins, wins: it’s archery. It’s not life and death.”

 – Zach Garrett on going up against Brady Ellison


“Bowing is in their culture, they bow as we shake hands. We respect them so much and they would always do the same for us.”

 – Jake Kaminski (USA) on the USA men’s team bowing to the Koreans on the field after the win

“Yes, if I go back out there and do it.”

 – Park Sung Hyun, archery legend, on whether she believes that her 1405 FITA world record will ever be broken. (She was there to commentate for Korean TV along with husband and fellow legend Park Kyung-Mo). 


“When it´s time for me to sleep, I always think about archery. That is why I can stay on top.”

– Ki Bo Bae (KOR)


“For me, it tastes like rainbow coloured candy.”

– Chang Hyejin on what her first gold medal tastes like


“I’m still hungry.”

– Choi Misun on what her first gold medal tastes like


“I did cry. You just couldn’t see me.”

– Choi Misun on why she did not visibly cry on winning team gold


[Made no statement after crying and remaining silent for 16 seconds]

– Choi Misun after her individual early bath


“The important thing is that you have to fight until the last arrow, with your heart and mind.”

Ilario Di Buo (ITA) – six-time Olympian and Italian women’s coach

“Every athlete’s dream is to come to the Olympics and to become an Olympian in their life. Whether I win or lose, I want to compete with champions.”

 – Karma (BHU)


“We just thought that all the cheers were all for us.”

 – Guendalina Sartori (ITA), on the crowd cheering against them and for Brazil


 “Perfect is hard to beat. That was a world-record performance that they put on. You’re not going to see three sets going that high probably ever again.”

 – Brady Ellison on the Korean men’s team performance in the final


“I see Korea as a challenge, not a threat.”

 – Tan Ya-Ting (TPE)


“Everybody that I meet along the way, everybody you meet adds something to your life. My mother is my coach, my team manager, she’s my everything. She has always been there for me in archery, she is my biggest rock.”

– Shehzana Anwar (KEN) on her heroes


“If I fail, I fail my whole country, so I need to play my part and do it good.”

 – Yessica Camilo Gonzalez (DOM), on representing her country


“Shooting one point more than your opponent.”

 – Rick Van Der Ven (NED) on what it will take to win the gold medal here in Rio. Yeah, thanks Rick.


“It’s a dream, like a little boy, when you start practising archery and you’re getting better and better and (at) a little young age you are dreaming about shooting at the Olympics… so yeah, dreams come true.”

 – Mitch Dielemans (NED), on dreaming


“It’s a joke. I think it takes away from our sport. I don’t know any other sport where you can make a huge detrimental mistake and still win.

“It’s no longer ‘the best team wins’. It’s a beautiful sport and I don’t think you should be able to make big mistakes and win. Individually, we’re used to it (the set system). In the team rounds there’s no place for it.”

 – Brady Ellison on the set system in team rounds


“We’re the first Britons competing with the newly designed GB kit on. If you think about it historically, archers in battle were always the first people to attack, because of the long-range aspects of the weapon. So that fits in quite nicely with Britons leading the charge.”

 – Patrick Huston (GBR), on being the first Olympic sport out of the gate


“There’s no one I fear. I don’t want to meet a Korean in one of the early rounds of the tournament, because they won’t be nervous and will be whitewashing everybody. So if I rank well in qualification, that’ll keep me avoiding them for a while. But in the last 16 or later? They’re probably more nervous than I’m going to be. I’ve mentally rehearsed beating them all, so (in my mind) I’ve beaten them before and I’ll beat them again.”

 – Patrick Huston on the mental game


“I’d like to watch Usain Bolt run the 100m. And the rhythmic gymnastics.”

 – Kim Woojin on other sporting events he would like to go see at Rio 2016. Why didn’t I follow this up with “Rhythmic what now?”


“My Korean colleagues.”

 – Ku Bonchan on who he fears facing most


“Any one of us has to win the gold medal. It’s kind of a competition among Korean archers. So I’m very grateful to my friend Chang Hyejin, she has fulfilled her responsibility.”

 – Ki Bo Bae, one of several quotes illustrating that Korea consider Olympic archery gold medals manifest destiny


“The only real difference is the silence for archery when you shoot. You do samba with your feet. Archery with your hands. The emotion and the excitement is the same.”

 – Ane Marcelle Dos Santos (BRA), samba dancer, on the difference between doing samba and archery in the Sambodromo


“Archery is my life, and I was born for only archery.”

– Bombalya Devi Laishram (IND)


*Thanks to all the archers;  Kendra, Catrell, Chris, Andrea, and Ludi.*

Rio 2016 – women’s individual finals

12 August, 2016

That was just extraordinary.

No-one, no one conceived anything like that. Unruh taking out the much-fancied Tan Ya-Ting who collapsed in the last 16. Unruh? And then that fabulous, unreal match when Alejandra Valencia, the giant killer, thumped Choi Misun 6-0, to deafening roars across the concrete, and everything turned upside down.

Both Choi and Ki seemed to have every expectation strapped to their backs like a millstone. Neither of them seemed entirely comfortable in any elimination match. I predicted earlier Choi would not get the final gong, but I thought Ki would step up and deliver like she has so many times, when it seems effortless.

But the pressure on them, internal or external, was just ridiculous. Chang’s shot was on point leading in to the business end and seemed to have so much less on her shoulders, although you could see the fear in her face backstage when Misun fell apart. I like to think that I’m a sympathetic, empathetic soul, but I’m still bummed that this flash quote, taken immediately after by my GSOH student reporter, got spiked by the desk:

It’s a lot of time to be out here, a long, long time to maintain concentration. Worse, there was a four-hour gap between the 1/16 rounds and the machine-gun rounds of the quarter-finals onwards, the train that goes where it goes with no more time to think. I’m guessing a lot of brooding went on in that gap. Too many thoughts, two weeks of being away in Rio, too much waiting, too many ghosts. And it left time for a capricious, djinn-like wind to grow strong and start throwing things about even more.

Choi and Ki left it somewhere else. The team medal means a great deal, but the individual title is everything to the Korean women. A chance to step up with the gods. Collectively, they still top the world; individually, the pressure to live up to the legacy was too great.

Ki kinda, almost guardedly acknowledged as much in the soft-soap press conference afterwards, at which the only minor frisson came when Chang was asked if she was going to retire after these Games. A wry smile went across her face, before she replied, in the flat tones of the translator, “That is something I’ve never thought of.”

Lisa Unruh and Alejandra Valencia brilliantly derailed the train, and Chang Hyejin, the ‘third’, the hard worker, the unlucky one, a deeply religious woman and an proud, gutsy athlete, went out there and did it. There was an aggressive snap to her shot today, a sense of power. She knew it was good.

And a special well-done to Lisa Unruh. Kept her head when all about were losing theirs, and picked up a big gong for it.

And they’re still letting me in the call room. I guess I’m there for the duration now. Last day tomorrow. Thanks for reading.  -John










(Colour version of the above pic here).

more pictures from the call room

11 August, 2016

The call room is a tiny area underneath the east stand of the Sambodromo where the archers wait for their match, wait to go on stage. There’s a lot of thinking – or maybe trying not to think too much – in a very small, unglamorous space. They actually moved one ‘wall’ of it inwards due to the winds a few days ago, which makes it feel a bit more like a prison cell.

For some reason, I’m allowed in there, with a camera. I’m trying to make the most of it.















“Describe archery in a single word.”

10 August, 2016


At the Sambodromo, during Tuesday and Wednesday’s eliminations, athletes were asked to describe archery in a single word. This is how they replied:


Marina Canetta (Brazil)


Antonio Fernandez (Spain)


Lisa Unruh (Germany)


Tan Ya-Ting (Chinese Taipei)


Florian Floto (Germany)


Alejandra Valencia (Mexico)


Juan Rodriguez (Spain)


Gabriela Bayardo (Mexico)


Zach Garrett (USA)


Crispin Duenas (Canada)


Ku Bonchan (Korea)


Karma (Bhutan)


Guendalina Sartori (Italy)


Robin Ramaekers (Belgium)


Le Chien-Ying (Chinese Taipei)


Choi Misun (Korea)


Patrick Huston (GBR)


Laxmirani Mahji (India)

“Not easy. Oh, that’s two words. But it’s not easy!”

Comments made during Olympic 1/32 and 1/16 eliminations at the Sambodromo, Rio De Janeiro on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th August 2016.  Thanks to Kendra, Catrell and the many volunteer translators who helped with this piece.


Olympic archery memorabilia collection

9 August, 2016

Some pictures taken in Shanghai this year but never published: the Olympic memorabilia collection of Mr. Song Tao, a bequiffed Chinese dude who has been collecting for nearly eight years.

It was on display in the entrance to the Yuanshen Stadium where qualifying took place, and was the first time the whole collection had been out in public.

Take a look below:

AWCShanghai-0821 copy
























The proud owner with some of his favourite pieces.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games day 2 / 3

8 August, 2016

So I was really pleased that Chinese Taipei women got a medal. I’ve become a bit of a fanboy of their team. They seem to want it just as much as the Koreans, with just as much to prove. Their technique is spectacular, effortless.

The match of the day on women’s team Saturday was the Chinese Taipei v Mexico semi-final. 4-0 down, Aida Roman blew it with the last arrow due to time issues, and Taipei pulled out an absolutely blistering, confident comeback. No match after that on Sunday was better – and some were downright terrible.

The ladies in blue never really mounted enough of a challenge against Korea in the semi. You could feel there wasn’t enough under the hood. If they’d qualified second, hammered their bracket and met them in the final maybe the story would have been different – even just a little bit.

In the interminable press conference afterwards the Korean women were keen to listen to what Taipei had to say and shot them respectful glances, reminding me of how the USA men bowed to the men in white after the final on Saturday. I really enjoy the respect shown at the very highest level.

Russia lucked their way through some inconsistent opponents to get to the last match, but the way they were shooting, you knew they were going home with silver. Unlike Saturday’s top seed action, this was a coronation of the Korean women. Although some questions remain; individually, there are just a few chinks of light in the armour. I can’t see a clean white sweep of the podium.

I’m writing this on Day 3. I just walked past Kim Woojin, tanked by serial giant killer Ega Agatha Riau in the day’s biggest news story. He was laughing, although someone said they saw him crying too. I was in the OBS pen when Aida Roman broke down in tears, on camera, after her first round loss to Alexandra Mirca. It was agonising to be there, nearly set me off too when transcribed the tape.

I was willing on Ane Marcelle Dos Santos, as was everybody else in the stadium. The best ever Olympic result for a Brazilian archer. Pandemonium. Mobbed by the crowd afterwards. She’s awesome.

Anyway, enjoy some backstage pics from today and yesterday. Keep following along wherever you are. I’m still hoping this Games is remembered for all the right reasons.  – John.


KOR – call room 1


TPE call room


ITA call room


Lin Shih-Chia faces the media


KOR call room 2


RUS arrows


KOR face the media


there was more samba – new costumes


Shehzana from Kenya’s turn to shine.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Day One

7 August, 2016

The day belonged to Ku Bonchan, Lee Seungyun, and Kim Woojin. It didn’t belong to ‘Korea’, that archery monolith. It belonged to those three guys who looked like what they were; a team. Distinct personalities, distinct styles – but indisputably a team, and delivering the most sublime, confident high-level target shooting the world has ever seen. Literally on another level.

The USA were great, on point, delivering the goods, and just as close. They bowed to the Korean lads afterwards. That was nice. Australia punched up.

There was samba dancing. On the field. A lot of it. TONS of it.

A lot of today’s pics are mostly about athletes in that weird limbo period in between doing the deep magic. The waiting. Who knows, tomorrow’s pics might be too.



7 days to go… archery and Olympics news

29 July, 2016

We’re in the countdown zone. Teams are arriving, the Sambodromo is being rapidly polished up for the debut next Friday morning, and there’s a growing air of anticipation. On Monday this was just a training field, this weekend it’s starting to seem like an Olympic venue. We’ve now got a steady stream of broadcast media coming in; today, we had Aida Roman being interviewed by Mexican TV.


Some more pics from the last two days:


TPE arrahs


Areneo David of Malawi










Marcus D’Almeida

And look who turned up late this afternoon – not to train, but just to have a look around. There’s been three Korean camera crews hanging around the Sambodromo for two whole days. When the Great White Sharks finally turned up for a nose around it was like watching shipwrecked men suddenly find a barrel of water.


KOR turn up, hit the social media


Hail Woojin, King Of Media


Choi Misun. “Win it? Yeah, probably.”


“So I put one in there, right, but the next one went in there…”


This pic of Park Chae Soon actually taken by Ku Bonchan. He snatched the camera off me.

Some external news: Ki Bo Bae sticks to the script in a video piece on MSN, and feel free to enjoy the youthful exuberance of the Korean men’s team.

Turns out Atanu Das collects stamps. Who knew? A rather charming story in a tidal wave of media hype coming from the notoriously tempestuous Indian media. The Indian team have been out here working damn hard all week. If they don’t bring something home, watch the furies being unleashed.

Marcus D’Almeida in a rather flowery news piece (in Portuguese).  The Brazilian team have been working really hard out here, and I’d love to see them go deep.  Rather pleased that my piece on Bernado Oliveira and the Brazilian squad made it onto the front page of

Patrick Huston has made another video about his journey to Rio:

I’ll do my best to keep blogging over next week, but it really depends on how busy I am. Stay tuned. Thank you!