Shot hits fan for NZOC over Games blunders

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 19/08/2012

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The New Zealand Olympic Committee's golden glow is over as it faces criticism from a major sponsor and comes under scrutiny from the minister of sport.

Kiwi athletes brought home 13 medals from the London Games and the NZOC has basked in reflected glory.

But the record-equalling medal haul has deflected attention from a series of complaints which are set to put the NZOC under the microscope.

The Sunday Star-Times understands NZOC representatives will be summoned to a meeting with Sport Minister Murray McCully, and Valerie Adams' manager, Nick Cowan, during the next week.

They will be discussing a series of avoidable administrative blunders that affected the shot putter's ability to perform at her peak in London.

The meeting comes as the NZOC also deals with claims it helped one major sponsor ambush another. The ASB, official bank of the Kiwi Olympics team, is unhappy that the NZOC took on rivals ANZ as an "insurance" sponsor.

ANZ also sponsored individual Olympic athletes and held a swanky launch of its sponsorship in conjunction with the NZOC at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

NZOC chief executive Kereyn Smith said yesterday she had no knowledge of the ambush claims. She also said she wasn't aware of when the meeting with the sports minister would take place or who would represent the NZOC at it.

“I haven't had any communication from Mr McCully,” Smith told the Sunday Star-Times.

“The meeting will take place in due course. At this stage I know nothing further about that.”

After being belatedly announced as the gold medal winner, Adams last week insisted that the administrative error resulting in her omission from the shot put starting list must not be swept under the carpet.

She also revealed other issues that will be brought to McCully's attention, including her accommodation and ill-fitting competition uniform.

The NZOC will conduct an internal review into the start list error, and Smith felt the meeting with McCully was unnecessary.

“We advised Val and others we would review that [what happened with the start list] immediately,” Smith said.

“That work is under way. We don't need anyone to have an external meeting with us.

“I would have thought more appropriately these matters would have been dealt with in a campaign review by her entourage, Athletics New Zealand and High Performance Sport. That would be the appropriate place for them to be considered.

“We will do our own debrief in terms of our internal team. This time, because of the athletics start list entry, we want to ensure it doesn't happen again.”

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McCully visited Adams in London the day after her shot put final. He has known her for some time and is a supporter of her right to tailor her own high-performance programme.

This is not the first time McCully has intervened when he believes elite athletes have not received the support they require. He also stepped in over the Ben Fouhy kayaking case two years ago.

Adams was miffed that she had to share accommodation at the athletes' village despite asking for her own room months before the Games.

She accepted rooming with rookie middle distance runner Lucy van Dalen while lower-profile Kiwi track and field athletes had rooms to themselves.

Smith pointed the finger at Athletics New Zealand for botching Adams' accommodation and uniform sizing, but conceded the NZOC should be open to scrutiny as well.

“While there was a start-list issue, it's regrettable and we'll look at that, the other matters that seem to be emerging are news to us," Smith said.

"Of course we'd be concerned if they were material and had impact on her performance. If it is within our jurisdiction and it's something we need to change, we will completely undertake to change that. We need to understand what we could do better.”

Adams was also frustrated the competition uniform she received was too small. Smith deflected that criticism to Athletics New Zealand and defended the NZOC's overall handling of Adams' campaign.

“Val has made a few comments around accommodation and rooming. There was also reference about her competition uniform,” Smith said. “Val is an important athlete.

The details of some of those aspects are not taken care of by the NZOC. We need to work out whose jurisdiction they are.

“Within the athletes village, [national] sports organisations take care of the rooming arrangements. That's not something imposed on them by the NZOC.

“Val and her management designed a programme and support structure that they thought was in her best interest. I know the NZOC bent over backwards and did everything they could to accommodate Valerie's requests, without exception.”

Smith said she was also unaware of comments last week made by disgruntled ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman over the NZOC's pre-London decision to appoint ANZ as the official Olympic “insurance provider”.

ASB signed an agreement in 2010 to be the NZOC's “exclusive bank” sponsor and felt the deal with ANZ, done only months before the London Games, clearly compromised its rights.

"I would have thought ‘official and exclusive' meant just that," Chapman told media last week. She refused to say whether ASB was taking legal advice or seeking compensation from the NZOC.

The NZOC's commercial and marketing director, Terry Daly, defended his organisation's actions but Smith denied any knowledge of the spat.

“I've got no idea what you're talking about,” Smith said when asked about the conflict.

“ASB are the official bank of the NZOC. ANZ are our insurance provider. I'm sorry, I haven't seen or heard any commentary about that.”

- Sunday Star Times

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