Olympics

RTÉ Make One Glaring Omission In Otherwise Superb Sporting Review Of 2016

RTÉ Make One Glaring Omission In Otherwise Superb Sporting Review Of 2016

RTÉ have published a quite remarkable, interactive sporting review of the extraordinary year that was 2016 on their website.

It beautifully encapsulates such hair-raising moments as Marty Morissey's mesmerising opening monologue to the All-Ireland Senior hurling final, while delivering a special five-slide, stand-alone segment to honour the passing of one Anthony Foley, a loss so untimely and monumental that still Irish sport shakes.

Understandably the Euros, too, gets its own mini-pullout - a cracking trip down Memory Lane. So too does the Paralympics, but it's within the Olympics section - lodged between August and September on the timeline - where there's one glaringly noticeable absentee.

The failed drugs test of middleweight boxer Michael O'Reilly leads the Olympic reminiscing...

O'Reilly's acrimonious departure is followed by boxing teammate Paddy Barnes carrying the Irish flag into the Opening Ceremony on August 5th.

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Then we jump to August 11th - the breakout performance of Cork's O'Donovan brothers, both in their lightweight double sculls and behind the RTÉ microphone. On August 12th it's the brothers Lisheen once more, earning the country's first ever Olympic rowing medal and blowing up globally with a tremendous post-race interview.

Then comes a shirtless Scott Evans, who became the first ever Irish badminton player to win an Olympic match in reaching the Last 16. Evans is followed some other Olympian who spends much of his time shirtless - a bloke named Michael Phelps - who on August 14th ended his Olympic career with a record-breaking 23rd gold medal.

Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan's unceremonious Olympic exits are next, with RTÉ throwing back to their cheeky but absolutely genius Can You Beat Nikitin game. It was an admirably edgy - and extremely fast - move to make light of the sheer state of AIBA, and Conlan's non-defeat to his outclassed Russian opponent.

Then comes Balls.ie Woman Of The Year nominee (and current leader) Annalise Murphy, and sweet, silver redemption after the tears of four years previous. And the sensational Simone Biles. And Thomas Barr's heroic efforts in the 400m hurdle. And Usain Bolt cementing his place as the greatest sprinter to have ever lived and breathed on this here planet.

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And then, 'September'.

Ermmm... Lads?

Is the arrest in Brazil of the then-president of the Olympic Council of Ireland - during the Olympics, no less - not one of the more noteworthy moments from the past sporting year?

Hickey was certainly deemed a figure worthy of exclusive coverage across all RTÉ platforms prior to the Games, for example...

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And yet coverage of the charges made against him by Brazilian authorities was, according to swathes of RTÉ viewers, severely bereft of a platform on the State broadcaster at crucial junctures.

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Of course, when the story was given significant coverage, Marian Finucane interview with Hickey's lawyer on RTÉ Radio was eviscerated by listeners across the country for Finucane's failure to ask, well, questions.

While they were less forthcoming with television and radio coverage of Hickey's situation, the former OCI chief did make curt and careful news headlines aplenty in RTÉ's online section, throughout what was undoubtedly a strenuous four-month spell in Brazil for a man of his age.

Indeed, we were provided with a plethora of updates as to Hickey's wellbeing throughout the investigation; that of Kevin Mallon, for what it's worth, far less so.

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Mallon currently remains in Brazil, but here are a few examples of RTÉ reporting on Hickey's ongoing legal case (featuring a few disgruntled news consumers tweeting RTÉ links):

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Pat Hickey recently arrived back in Ireland relatively quietly, in the absence of any RTÉ cameras. He wished people a happy Christmas and denies all allegations made against him.

RTÉ's caution in its treatment of his case was doubtless necessary; first and foremost, it upheld the law - a highly underrated trait sadly lacking in an age where people can't leap to conclusions quickly enough. Secondly, it prevented any legal action against itself, which in the current climate is unsurprisingly desirable.

But to suggest that Hickey's arrest in Brazil back in August, regardless of its eventual outcome, was not one of the defining sporting stories of the year, is ludicrous. Mick Conlan flipped the bird at the AIBA judges whom he labelled "corrupt", Ireland won two Olympic silver medals, and the Pat Hickey's 'controversy' was - by some margin - the biggest sports story in the country in August. It was mainstream news.

For RTÉ to seemingly ignore it by design, or to sweep it under the rug for convenience sake, sets a dangerous precedent. It renders an otherwise beautifully-crafted reflective piece somewhat non-reflective of the sporting year that was.

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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