October 22, 2021

The SOC has not been held accountable

In our last article on this topic, we made clear that we were left with many unanswered questions.

We cannot see that the SOC has even engaged properly with key questions about their strongly criticized non-selections for the Tokyo Olympics. In our opinion this ensures that the selection process remains opaque. A non-transparent selection process is convenient for the entity and people in charge of making the selections as if it is impossible to scrutinize their thinking it also becomes impossible to highlight any potential flaws in their reasoning.

Our impression is that Sweden is an open society where fairness and integrity are highly valued. We were not aware that it was the norm in Sweden that people in positions of power get to make decisions with huge ramifications for young people’s lives, which are widely condemned by experts and still retain the prerogative not to properly answer questions about it? Unless this is the norm in Swedish society, is the SOC not obliged to provide answers?

If the SOC refuses to engage with the questions in a proper manner and justify why the non-selection did not fulfill the selection criteria, which many experts have made clear that they think the athletes did fulfill, does that not make the SOC’s decision-makers morally obliged to resign?

With privileged positions comes great responsibility, if the people enjoying such positions are not even willing to try to justify their decisions, should they retain their positions and keep making such decisions?

It has now been more than three months since the decisions were made and if this had been the kind of issue that happens one time and there would be no potential for more or less the same to happen again, we would have put the issue to rest long ago. However, the sad reality is that we are on the doorstep of another selection process. The Beijing Games are only some months away and it appears to us that the selection criteria itself have been poorly defined.

Even key stakeholders like athletes and Karin Torneklint, the previous head coach of the Swedish Athletics Federation, have made clear in our correspondence that they did not know what kind of chance to finish top 8 was required to fulfill the criteria. Is it not shoddy work to not have defined the criteria more precisely? Should the SOC not have to explain why this is the case? Surely the criteria should be better defined as soon as possible?

As far as we know the top 8 criterion which Kajsa Bergqvist is working to have changed to a top 12 criterion remains, remains as poorly defined as it was during the lead up to the Tokyo Games.

We cannot see that it has been at all defined what kind of a chance is needed to fulfill the criterion. Is it a 50 percent chance or a 30 percent chance or more like a 10 percent chance? As even main stakeholders do not know what kind of a chance is needed, it should be obvious that the SOC must make sure to define this properly.

Some two months ago on August 13, we sent the SOC these three questions:

“1) Have I missed something? Have the SOC ever properly engaged with the question of how you arrived at the conclusion that Lovisa Lindh did not fulfill the top eight criterion? If yes, it would be greatly appreciated if you would point me in the direction of the answer.

If no, is someone at the SOC willing to explain how you arrived at the conclusion?

2)    Unless I am mistaken, the SOC made it clear that Melker Svärd Jacobsson would need to clear a height of 5.80 to be judged to have met the top eight criterion. How can the SOC justify this, as a height of 5.65 would have sufficed in the last four Olympics?

3)    How is the top eight criterion to be understood? How good of a chance does an athlete need for the SOC to conclude that the athlete has fulfilled the criterion? Can you indicate the percentage chance needed? Is it 0.5 per cent or 1 per cent or more like 5 per cent or 20 per cent or 50 per cent or 80 per cent? Where does the SOC draw the line?”

We were informed that as the SOC’s press contact was on vacation we could expect answers in September. However, September came and went, but we did not receive answers to our questions above. Early in October, we reached out again requesting some clarification if the SOC would answer our questions or not. On October 12 we received this from the SOC:

“-Top eight criterion is about results that have been accomplished, not results that may be done in the future. Those who did not make the team compete in Tokyo did not achieve results on a necessary level, says Peter Reinebo, CEO of the Swedish Olympic Committee.

We are obviously happy that Peter Reinebo responded to our questions, but it should be self-evident that the reply above does not even engage with most of our questions. We got back to the SOC’s press contact and pointed this out. The press contact responded by sending us these two links:

https://sok.se/sok-och-den-olympiska-rorelsen/sveriges-olympiska-kommitte/sa-gar-os-uttagningarna-till.html

https://sok.se/download/18.24d1e3b61513e2cb2f438353/1448892002796/Regler%20f%C3%B6r%20uttagning%20till%20OS_%C3%A5rsm%C3%B6tesbeslut%202014_140424.pdf

However as we could not see that they contained any answers to what we had asked, we replied that the links do not contain answers to our questions. This led the press contact to send us a statement Peter Reinebo had made previously:

“Lovisa har inte klarat den officiella kvaltiden 1.59,50, men har ändå erbjudits en internationell kvalplats av World Athletics. Enligt deras olympiska rankningssystem är Lovisa på 37:e plats, om man räknar bort 17 deltagare från länder som redan har maxantal idrottare kvalificerade på 800 meter.

SOK rankar Lovisa betydligt högre än World Athletics, men hon har alltså inte gjort de resultat som krävs för att nå upp till grundkriteriet som exempelvis innefattar att klara kvaltiden – även om Lovisa varit väldigt nära.“

Lovisa has not made the official qualifying time of 1.59.50, but was still offered an international qualifying slot by World Athletics (WA). According to WA’s Olympic ranking system, Lovisa is in 37th place, if you exclude 17 participants from countries that already have a maximum number of athletes qualified in the 800 meters.

The SOC ranks Lovisa significantly higher than WA, but she has not made the results required to fulfill the top 8 criterion (grundkriteriet) which, for example, includes meeting the qualifying time – even though Lovisa has been very close.)

The reality is that Lovisa Lindh at the time was ranked as the 22nd (currently she is 17th) best female 800 meter runner in World Athletics World Rankings and that there is no mention whatsoever of a qualifying time in the top 8 criterion.

If Peter Reinebo is correct that you need to produce a qualifying time to meet the top 8 criterion, surely that would become clear by reading the document highlighting the SOC’s rules for qualifying to the Tokyo Games for the sport of athletics. However, that document contains a paragraph highlighting that for athletes like Lindh and Svärd Jacobsson who are invited by World Athletics because of their ranking, but who have not produced the qualifying standard, an overall assessment if the top 8 criterion has been met will be made?

“Om en aktiv inte uppnår resultat enligt nomineringsnivåerna enligt bilaga men blir inbjuden till OS via rankingsystemet. Då görs en samlad bedömning av resultat uppnådda under kvalperioden om den aktive anses uppnått grundkriteriet eller framtidskriteriet.”

If an athlete does not achieve results in accordance with the nomination levels from the appendix but is invited to the Olympics via the ranking system. An overall assessment of the results achieved during the qualifying period will be made to assess if the athlete is considered to have achieved the top eight or future criteria.

The above paragraph would be nonsensical if failing to produce the qualifying time automatically meant that you had not fulfilled the top 8 criterion and it shows that Peter Reinebo’s statement is hardly coherent with what was communicated by the SOC about their selection process.

Even as we are grateful for the SOC’s press contact sending us the reply from Peter Reinebo, the PDFs and the old statement made by Peter Reinebo, the facts of this matter are very straightforward.

After two months of waiting, the SOC has not answered most of our questions. Some months before Sweden’s team for Beijing will be selected, the top 8 criteria seems to remain as poorly defined as it was when the team for Tokyo was selected. As we see it, there are no reasons to believe that the selection process for Beijing will be more transparent. This is because the SOC has shown what seems to be a deeply rooted reluctance to engage properly with questions.

Our correspondence with the SOC has left us with many unanswered questions, however, by far the largest question we are left with does not revolve around the SOC or the selection for the Tokyo Games. What we really cannot get our heads around is; do the Swedish mainstream media and journalists not think it their job to hold the SOC accountable? Do the Swedish mainstream media really think it okay not to call out the fact that the SOC are not answering questions and that this makes the Swedish Olympic selection process opaque?

Several weeks ago we reached out to several mainstream Swedish news media and journalists, challenging them to hold the SOC accountable, but few answered and it seems to us that none of them took on the challenge.

The above is, strangely enough, more or less precisely what we expected yet at the same time rather surprising. As expected because we are a small foreign sports blog which the SOC and the Swedish mainstream media will not find it difficult to ignore, yet still surprising because of the issue at hand.

In our opinion, it is surprising that the mainstream Swedish press seems to think that what has transpired is appropriate for a society like Sweden. Furthermore, it is an issue which in our opinion has repeated itself in the recent past and unless the SOC is held responsible is not unlikely to keep happening going forward.

We have already written some 12 000 words about this and at some point, it does not make sense to chase the issue any further. However, we will round off with another challenge to the Swedish mainstream media to demand proper answers from the SOC regarding this matter. Some three months after the non-selections were made, the SOC has not been held accountable. Will someone in the mainstream media finally hold them accountable, by demanding that they answer questions in a proper way?

Mathis Brorstad

Mathis Brorstad

Mathis Brorstad is a Norwegian freelance writer. He is mainly covering Athletics, Biathlon and other Winter Sports. In the past he has done work on odds and probabilities.

View all posts by Mathis Brorstad →

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