Iran's Beijing Olympic Games: From Cracks to Catastrophes
IranSportsPress.com- At Beijing games, with a large contingent of 55 athletes, Iran recorded its worst results in the Olympics. By reviewing Iran's Olympic preparation management, we can shed light on leading factors causing Iran's catastrophic result at Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
"I will never accept that we have been unsuccessful at the Beijing Olympics."; This was the strange sentiment by head of Iran Physical Education Organization, Mohammad Aliabadi, on the 12th day of the Olympic Games and interestingly his last statement regarding Iran Olympic campaign. AliAbadi not only banned himself from giving interviews after the end of the Olympic Games, but even outside of a cabinet meeting, he refused, with a smile, the requests of reporters for an interview and banned his deputies and the heads of different federations from giving interviews.
On the 12th day of the Games though, when he heard the word "failure," he became irate and snapped back: "I do not accept in any way that we have been a failure."
With Aliabadi not accepting his failure, one could assume that before the start of the Olympic Games, he had surely accurately predicted that the Iranian Olympic squad would place 51st in the medals standing with only one gold and one bronze. Of course, this is in sharp contrast to his predictions a few months preceding the Olympics when he was predicting unbelievable success for the Iranian squad. Not only did none of his prophecies come true, but he has the nerve to totally disregard his promises.
Iran Olympic athletes came back from 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with one gold and one bronze medal and the 51st position in the medals ranking. Prior to Saie's gold in Taekwondo, the Iranian team recorded one of its poorest performances in the Olympics with only one bronze and ranked 72nd in medal standing. Even after Saie's gold, the 51st position is the worst result yet recorded in Iranian Olympic history.
One can approach the comparison from a different perspective; The Iranian squad at the 2000 Sydney games achieved its best ever results by winning 3 golds and one silver. Four years later in 2004 Athens games, Iran's athletes performed well by winning two golds, two silvers, and two bronzes. Even at 1996 Atlanta games, the Iranian Olympic squad won one gold, one silver, and one bronze- a better result than the Beijing Games.
Besides Iran's showing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics- that started only a few days after Iraq’s war on Iran , the performance of the Iranian squad in Athens had been the weakest. However, since Seoul Games, Iranian Olympics has been on a steep upward slope. It seems, however, that with the management of Aliabadi, the ascendance has been reversed and it is not at all improbable that Iran is entering its era of decline in sport.
Lets now turn the focus on the Iranian squad: At Beijing games, with a large contingent of 55 athletes, Iran recorded its worst results in the Olympics. For the first time, Iranian athletes, without using the wild card quota, managed to have representatives in swimming, track and field, archery, and badminton. After Iran’s Olympic campaign at 1976 Montreal games with 73 athletes, the 55 member squad in Beijing was the second largest Olympic squad in its history.
Out of the 12 wrestlers that were sent to the Olympics, only Morad Mohammadi managed to win a bronze medal. Fardin Masoomi and Hamid Soorian finished 5th in their respective weight categories and the remaining 9 wrestlers finished below 10th place. This performance was recorded in sharp contrast to the expectations before the Games, when Mohammad Reza Yazdani Khoram, the head of the Iranian Wresting Federation, was predicting the success of Iran's wrestlers in the Olympics. At the same time, Mahmood Moezipoor, the head coach of the freestyle wrestling team was confidentally predicting that “the 7 wrestlers of the freestyle team would get 7 gold medals”. Also, Reza Simkha, the head coach of the Greco-Roman team, was confident that “the gold medal of Hamid Soorian was a certainty”. In the end, Morad Mohammadi managed a bronze medal, and only because the top opponent, Russian wrestler reached the final to bare Mohammadi the chance to win the bronze.
Ali Kafashian, the Secretary of the Olympic Committee, who was nominated by the Physical Education Organization to run in the election for the head of the football federation a few months before the start of the Olympics, consequently spent a large part of his time engaged with his election campaign to be the football federation chief. Even though he was often in his office at the National Academy of Olympics, he neither managed to be a successful football federation chief nor did he achieve much as the Secretary of the Olympics Committee in preparing the squad for the Beijing Games.
Similarly, Keomars Hashemi, the deputy of the PEO was the acting chief of the Football Federation for 18 months during the time that the Federation was in danger of FIFA suspension following the dismissal of Mohammad Dadkan.
One wonders how can the highest monitoring and decision making Olympic authorities of the Physical Education Organization spend so much of their time on football only months prior to Iran’s important Olympic games at Beijing?
Amongst the chaos that is going on between the people involved in sports who are analyzing the results of the Iranian Olympic Squad, one debate stands out on the role and management of the people who were closely involved in the organization of the Olympic squad's programs. The criticism of the heads of the different sports federations of the National Olympic Committee and their response to these criticisms, will clarify the role of each in this failure. Furthermore, the shadow of the Sports organization looms heavily in this debate.
Obviously different federations will blame the National Olympics Committee for their failure. Add to that the upcoming National Olympic Committee Election this November that most likely leads to replacement of current head of Olympic Committee Gharakhanlou. A new face, yet the same management. This tactic will surely swing away the attention from revealing the parties at fault for the Iranian record low campaign at Beijing Olympic Games.