Fresh on the comeback trail, double Olympic champion Andy T Hodge is well on his way to competing at the Rio Olympics. “I feel good. We had a few trials recently, and from the results it’s going well,” explained the 36 year old.
“The machine rolls on and they just keep winning”.
Hodge, who was struck down last year by a recurrence of an illness he suffered before the 2012 Olympic Games, spoke of his admiration for the athletes he trains with day in day out. “The team is so strong, and you don’t feel missed at all really,” he laughed. “The machine rolls on and they just keep winning. It was interesting to watch it happen without us. It became obvious at final trials last year that I wouldn’t make the team. I’m in a very different place now”.
Despite his timely return to full fitness, the former Oxford Blue is concerned by the problems surrounding this summer’s games. The Zika Virus, which is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and new-born children, has been deemed an international health emergency and Hodge is concerned for the welfare of his family. “My perspective is that there is a virus out there, but there needs to be more information available,” he explained. “People need to make real decisions about Rio to protect their families; this virus has a huge impact on people’s lives. If you’re young and you want to go out to the games, you have to take it seriously. It’s an issue, and people have to be wary. Even if you aren’t immediately planning on having children, it can be problematic and dangerous in the future”.
The two-times Olympic champion does not believe that the IOC can provide a 100% guarantee on safety – and that is worrying for every facet of the games. “I want to be a part of the information process, not stir any inaccurate rumours”.
The Zika virus is not the only issue faced by the games currently. The questions are obvious, but the answers aren’t quite so apparent. “You look at some of the choices; is Rio a suitable destination for an Olympic games?,” asked Hodge. “There is such a huge gap between the rich and the poor, widespread poverty and a real issue with financing the games. They pledged to spend £5 billion on sanitation to bring it up to developed world standards, but scrapped the budget three or four years ago. Whilst I have some sympathy over the Zika virus, there are a lot of issues to which certain organisations need to face up to”.
“While I’m sure that Rio will deliver an excellent two week event, I wonder what the Olympics will deliver to Rio. I just hope it’s worth it in the long run for everyone who remains when the Olympic circus leaves town. I’m also a little worried about the unrest which preceded the Fifa World Cup in 2014″.
“Whilst I have some sympathy over the Zika virus, there are a lot of issues to which certain organisations need to face up to”.
A specific problem for rowing are new entrants to the games, which is putting the sport under threat. Rugby and golf, two such events, have huge financial backing and a much larger reach, and the 36 year old understands the danger. “The IOC’s big sponsors want to get out to developed countries where there is a wider market. Not only do we not have any major sponsors, we also have low volumes of spectators who would voluntarily go to buy tickets, combined with the high expense of staging a rowing event. You’ve either got to build yourself a two kilometre lake, or essentially build a floating grandstand to adapt an existing body of water – a plan which the Rio organising committee have just scrapped. I’m concerned about where rowing will be in 12 years time. This sport has a lot of evolving to do but it seems like there is little appetite at the top to do so”.