Brazil Olympics 2016


Rio 2016 opening ceremony: After the scandal, ethical leadership is more important than ever


IDG associate John Steele, is also Chairman of The English Institute of Sport. In this role, he will be in Rio this summer helping with Team GB’s bid to improve its record medal haul from London 2012. On the eve of the opening ceremony, John reflects on his hopes for the games in the wake of the well-publicised doping scandal as well as Team GB’s previous success.

As a nation we have had no lack of change and political activity over the past six months. Sport often mirrors the mood of the nation and conversely can greatly influence it.

I am sitting in a hotel not far from the Copacabana in Rio waiting for the transportation to the opening ceremony to mark the start of the Rio Olympics. It hardly seems four years since London closed an amazing summer of sport that lifted the nation with unprecedented success, not only from our athletes and coaches but also the leaders and volunteers that demonstrated our ability to put on a great show!

For the high performance system, the challenge post-London was how do we better our most successful games in history. Not “Good to Great”, but “Great to Better”. Living with success can often be more challenging than creating success in the first place. Historically, host nations have seen about a 20% uplift in medal success to the previous “away” Games, but then always dipped in the next Games. Team GB is looking to change that trend and be the first country to improve at the games following hosting.

This is hugely ambitious but none the less possible. We will need to win at least 48 Olympic and 121 Paralympic medals for the British teams heading to Rio 2016. Achieving these targets would represent a historic best ever “away” Olympics, and bettering the London 2012 home Paralympics medal haul would be an incredible achievement.

The opening ceremony at London 2012

For my part as Chairman of the English Institute of Sport, I will be looking to ensure that the “team behind the team” delivers the right support to enable our athletes to perform at their best. We have 122 practitioners working with sports in a variety of support roles.These are the unseen heroes who enable athletes to have a shot at making their dreams come true.

The run up to the Games has seen some formidable challenges for the Olympic movement play out publicly,and the need to protect the values of the Games and also the rights of fair-minded athletes against cheats who threaten the very essence of what sport is about. Add to this the normal press appetite for bad news stories as we approach any major event and you have a tricky environment.

But the old adage “control the controllables” is never more appropriate. Our athletes and staff must and will block out the noise and focus completely on delivering optimum performance. Once the festivities of tonight’s opening ceremony are over we need to see early success and land that first medal quickly. This is so important to settle collective nerves just as landing the first punch is in boxing, or pushing that first run in cricket achieves the same. You can feel the excitement and apprehension in a city that is bracing itself ahead of the greatest show on earth. I have been privileged to experience a total of six Olympic and Paralympic Games winter and summer, but who knows, this might just be the best yet…

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