The blackest day in Australian sport has now been superceded.
The release of two reports into Australian swimming demands improved hyperbole.
Perhaps superblackest or megablackest or uberblackest can do the job.
Black is the new white.
Whatever, the reports have blown the federal government-Australian Crime Commission-ASDA supposed drug-taking, match-fixing shock-horror revelations out of the water.
After a fortnight, what has that blackest-day nomination achieved?
Sponsors pulling plugs, all sports tarred with the same bats and balls and football clubs threatening lawsuits, and still no specifics.
Just a vague promise that all will be revealed in the fullness of time.
Compare and contrast with the Australian Sports Commission’s report: ‘‘a lack of accountability, transparency and communication...a broader theme identifying compromised leadership across all levels of the sport.’’
Or the Bluestone report: ‘‘There were enough culturally toxic incidents across enough team members that breached agreements (such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying) to warrant a strong, collective leadership response that included coaches, staff and the swimmers. No such collection.’’
All this confirmed by swimmers on the London Olympics team who have spoken out.
That’s what you call blackest.
The question is: how did it come to this?
Once upon a time Australian swimming’s management was so autocratic and iron-fisted, its Olympians were treated like errant children.
Dawn Fraser could be banned for 10 years for taking a Japanese flag at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Lisa Forrest can speak of matchsticks being left in doors so officials could tell of any curfews being broken at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
But then she can also speak of the women’s relay team members beating their previous bests and finishing 40m behind the East Germans.
It’s now known the East Germans had artificial assistance, of course.
This dovetails in with the watershed Games in Australia’s Olympic history — the 1976 Montreal Games, at which we didn’t win a gold medal.
The disgrace, the blow to the national psyche..
Hard work and the amateur’s approach would never be enough again.
The response was the Australian Institute of Sport, subsequent institutes of sport; talent squads, supertalent squads, mega and ubertalent squads; high-performance, mid-performance and low-performance managers, all the rest of the bureaucratic support and buckets of money..
It has worked, or at least it worked until London.
Swimming has always been crucial to Australia’s Olympic campaigns and the national self-image as the greatest little sports country in the world: Australia, the land of sun, sand and surf and bronzed superfish.
The London swimmers were under immense pressure, as all Australian Olympic swimmers will be under immense pressure, to maintain the myth.
James Magnusson was under the most pressure of all, having already been conceded gold medals — at least by the media.
He may get another chance in four years — but not to atone. No shame in not winning.
Gold medals aren’t a given and success is relative to what the idnvidual is capable of, and Olympic history is littered with champions who didn’t win gold.
The team didn’t fail because it didn’t win gold medals; it failed because it had none of the components that make team success or individual triumphs.
Easy to say the swimmers’ behaviour was just reflective of societal changes, but that just lets everyone off the hook.
Plenty of them over 18, and some over 21.
And coach Leigh Nugent is just delusional in thinking he has a choice other than walking the plank.
Easy to isolate him as the fall guy, but everyone at the top has to take the fall.
What’s needed is a Brian Smith, Warren Ryan or Wayne Bennett type to come in and sort it out in the short term.
Beyond that, what price a medal — in the figurative sense — so Australians can feel good about a myth?
Many swim but few are chosen.
This is how cricket priorities have been distorted.
A journalist delivering the sports report on the Macquarie radio network gave the scores of the one-day cricket game between Tasmania and Western Australia.
Not a word about the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and South Australia.
It says something about news judgment: it says as much about how the money-mentality has replaced the game.
But then Gosford races were on a Saturday at the same time as Apollo Stakes day at Warwick Farm.
Says everything about what greed has done to the races.