There’s no question that the upcoming Summer Olympic games in Tokyo should absolutely not happen while the world grapples with the ongoing — and intensifying! — coronavirus pandemic. There’s also no question that the Olympics are, in general, a fundamentally flawed institution predicated on grift, racism, and all sorts of “don’t ask how the sausage gets made” fuckery. It is an institution that almost never actually delivers on its promise of international unity through the majestic power of capital-S Sport. Sure the athletes can screw, but at what cost??
More germane to this blog, however, is the fact that like any sort of massive, multi-national bureaucracy build upon dozens of smaller organizations with varying degrees of internal regulations and safeguards, the Olympics is absolutely ripe for hilarious fuckups. Enter: Poland.
This week, six of the Polish National Swim Team’s 23 athletes were sent home after — whoopsie doodle — it turned out only 17 could actually compete in the upcoming games, per the rules set by the international aquatics governing body FINA. Poland, it seems, had simply overcounted how many swimmers were allowed to go splishy splashy in the pool.
“6 days before the grand finale, it turns out that you were denied your dreams because of the incompetence of third parties,” Alicja Tchórz, one of the six uninvited Olympians explained in a lengthy Facebook diatribe singling out the Polish Swimming Federation for the goof.
“Several sentences from official emails have missed changes in international IO qualifying rules,” she added.
This is, of course, a horrible tragedy for the six swimmers whose lifetime of training and preparation was wasted thanks to what is, by all indications, the extreme stupidity of the organization whose sole purpose is to understand, and implement basic rules such as: “how many people can go to the Olympics?” and “did we send the right number of people to the Olympics?”
To his credit, Polish Swimming Federation president Pawel Slominski has been upfront about taking the blame for the screw-up, saying “the attack on the Polish Swimming Federation is understandable to me and justified.” The problem, he explained, was that he simply wanted to “allow as many players and coaches as possible to take part in the Games.” Isn’t that nice of him? I guess it’s the thought that counts. Not that any of this is much comfort to the six Polish swimmers who are now stuck back in, well, Poland, after having already made the schlep to Japan only to be booted from the Olympic Village with just days to spare. If anyone here is a victim, it’s them — a group of world-class athletes who simply wanted to go get in the water and go very fast.
But, take a step back and let’s appreciate the lesson this whole incident offers us: even if we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic that’s already breached the less-than-airtight Olympic bubble, it’s nice to know that good ol’ fashioned human ineptitude can still fuck things up for everyone. I take some comfort in that, and you should too.