Dick Pound, an IOC member and former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has questioned how the video call from the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony went ahead and apologised to the Chinese gymnast Peng Shuai.
Peng was left fuming after appearing to be blocked by a member of the IOC’s video match refereeing team at the Rio closing ceremony.
With the IOC’s video match officials in place for the first time at an Olympics, it transpired that Peng, 22, had not made a video call to Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, the 2013 and 2016 Olympic men’s all-around champion, as required.
The Japanese broadcaster NHK played the footage to thousands of Japanese people from state broadcaster NHK and aired it after Japan won the country’s first gold medal at the Rio Games.
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“I think it was a mistake,” Pound told Reuters in an interview. “I must say that when I saw it, I was puzzled. I didn’t quite understand how it happened.
“I don’t know what all the protocol is, so I can’t be an expert in this. If it was an innocent mistake I thought it was on its face a very harmless little bit of a blunder. On reflection I think it was a bungle. I really do.”
Pound, however, said the committee could not be held responsible for Peng’s reaction.
“The first time I saw the video, which happened very recently, I said to myself ‘They can’t do that, they can’t do that’. And it looks to me that it was a mistake, all right?
“You can’t blame the IOC in the end. So it’s only on my behalf. The IOC members must be completely perplexed.”
Pound also defended the quality of the closing ceremony video calls, saying there was no way to ensure they were quality enough for the thousands watching them.
“The real truth is that the most important task that the IOC members have to do is to ensure that the best possible videos that they can put together, because frankly there isn’t a software package or a person that can handle the heavy loading of these large multimedia presentations,” he said.
“That was the important thing for me, that there is sufficient time in between the presentation of each video to allow for the process. So in all honesty, unless we do a massive windfall … I’m not sure that we can come up with even an acceptable result.”
Pound, who was due to attend an IOC board meeting in May, suggested the video calls should be looked at in an Olympic-style structure where the smaller associations control its operation.
“I have a suggestion that I’d like to see that the smaller associations have an equivalent organisation to the IOC that would be the link between the IOC, the smaller associations and everybody who wants to make a video call,” he said.