Europeans and some Americans might wonder what the Commonwealth Games are all about: they are a mini-Olympics for the Commonwealth, a group of countries largely based around the old British empire.
The latest edition of the games are about to start in Dehli and a row has blown up over the athlete’s village. In particular, the condition of some of the rooms looks appalling, see for yourself at the BBC. Most worryingly a footbridge collapsed this week, raising fears about construction standards.
But some of the reporting appears sensationalist, the photos clearly show the worst of the worst, in actual fact most rooms are clean and ready. Similarly reports of a ceiling collapsing turned out to be a few tiles; not ideal but hardly a dealbreaker.
With this as background today, we learn that Team Sky riders Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh have pulled out of the games, Kennaugh citing fears of mosquito-born disease. At first rumours suggested this was actually because of pressure from Team Sky but this was hurriedly denied by Sky in a press release headlined “Team Sky Clarify Position”. But for me the press release only muddies things. Here’s Dave Brailsford:
“nobody would blame the athletes for staying away, but there is no instruction from Team Sky on this issue… …We at Team Sky will support them in whatever decision they make.”
That’s normal at first sight. You can imagine Jonathan Vaughters saying the same about Jack Bobridge and Cameron Meyer.
Only Brailsford is also British Cycling’s performance director and paid to support British riders. Should the British Cycling version of Brailsford be sitting back and taking such a neutral view? Surely he should be talking his riders into going, especially if others deem it safe to travel and compete? Medals are at stake.
British Cycling is state-funded partly so Britain can bask in reflected glory from medal wins, there is a duty to attend international competition. Whilst some riders might withdraw and this could be beneficial to Team Sky, it can reduce the chances of medals for the British nations (Wales, England, Scotland etc compete separately). British Cycling should be trying their utmost to win medals in the games and a performance director shouldn’t be taking such a relaxed attitude when his riders get scared by media hype.
- As a footnote, note the likes of Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton won’t be taking part, they’ve opted out in order take part in the upcoming European championships which are themselves a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics. This suggests that the games are not crucial but nevertheless I’m suggesting British Cycling should be aiming to send the strongest squad possible to Dehli.
I’ve written about the conflict of interest between Team Sky and British Cycling, see Team Sky vs Great Britain. The investigation into the matter by Deloitte is ongoing.