NZOC error compounded by Bates' scapegoating

FEELING THE PAIN: A 2009 file photo of New Zealand athletics official Raylene Bates.
FEELING THE PAIN: A 2009 file photo of New Zealand athletics official Raylene Bates.

What an unedifying spectacle and what a tragedy that such an epic Olympic Games campaign was brought undone by such incompetency.

"Val-Gate" will go down in New Zealand's Olympic history as a sad, cautionary tale of what happens when sports administrators see themselves as more important than the sportsman/woman.

We will never know how much impact the New Zealand Olympic Committee's blunder over confirming Adams for the shot put event actually had on her.

But one thing can't be disputed - it did have an effect.

You only have to watch the exclusive interview Adams gave to Fairfax Media's Simon Plumb yesterday to realise that.

Yes, it is arguable how much it should have impacted upon her. But the reality is that it did. And that is unforgivable to have happened to any athlete, let alone one of our favourite champions and one seen by pure track and field international devotees as a superstar on the same level as Usain Bolt.

Equally as regrettable was the way the athletics official supposedly responsible for the gaffe has been hung out to dry.

Raylene Bates may have wanted to be "outed". That is a laudable sentiment. But the haste with which the NZOC seemed to grab her offer was almost obscene. A contrite Bates offered to be the scapegoat and was almost trampled in the rush to take up her offer.

In some ways, she is as much a victim as Adams. It sounds like she has been run off her feet in London. Her clerical error is understandable to so many of us who have committed the same mistake, whether at an airport or with the taxman. Our errors aren't as costly, and that's the point.

Given what was at stake, it's unacceptable that the NZOC did not have a safety net process in place to check off work that others were doing on their behalf.

Does this go to a mentality of the blazer-wearing administrator considering themselves to be more important than the athlete?

The recent television dramatisation of the Arthur Lydiard-inspired band of Olympians headed by Sir Murray Halberg and Sir Peter Snell highlighted a divide between NZOC officials and athletes and their support personnel in 1960.

Over 50 years on, Val-Gate suggests that divide is still there.

* Trevor McKewen is the head of sport for Fairfax Media

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