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LETTER OF THE DAY - Broadcasters should not control starter's gun

Published:Monday | August 29, 2011 | 12:00 AM


The rule governing false starts at athletic championships resulted in shattered dreams for three athletes at the 13th staging at the World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea, yesterday. Among those affected was the fastest man in the world, our beloved Usain Bolt.

As an aside, please allow me to compliment Usain on his handling of his devastating moment. It was all one fluid movement: he picked the start, he showed recognition of his action and what that meant; then it was off with his vest and off the track. No protests, demonstrations or non-verbal pleas. Thank God, he didn't remonstrate the way Linford Christie did in 1996, or 'drap a grung an' refuse fi lef' as John Drummond did in 2003.

But even as Bolt came to terms with this tragedy, this false-start rule has been brought back into sharp focus: this marriage of media, money and the control and management of broadcast-rights holders.

I will not accept that the most prudent considerations in determining the rules at athletics meets are those designed and implemented primarily to honour time and programme schedules.

While I am cognisant of the fact that several false starts on any one day will throw out the very tightly organised schedule, I will not accept that allowances cannot be made for human error.

It appears that the athletes' main purpose is to make money for rights holders, sponsors and media - pot loads of it. I hope managers, coaches, agents, handlers, publicists and the rest of us will stand up and speak out. There is nothing quite like people power to make a difference.

Trade-off with commercial interests

If you do not know, let me tell you that this rule and others are driven primarily by commercial interests. The rights holders and media houses need to manage time, but it should not be to the detriment of the athletes, patrons and viewers. Patrons, viewers and listeners are also affected. How can there be a race without a defending champion 'an him nuh dead'?!

The same commercial interests that argued for and got the rule changed (it's the first time it's being used at a World Championships), I am sure, are now deliberating what could, in the future, have a negative effect on their bank accounts.

I wonder what they'll suggest now.