THE London Olympics might be bordering on a Montreal-style disaster for the Australian team.
At every turn there seems to be a hard-luck story from an Australian athlete who woulda, coulda or shoulda brought home gold.
So much so that interest in the Games had waned by mid-week. Maybe it is the time difference, maybe it’s the many petulant performances out of the pool, maybe it was the pre-Games distractions about sleeping pills, social media misuse or the team selection dramas, or maybe we just can’t stand not winning but the fever that normally surrounds the Olympics is in short supply in these parts of the world.
And it seems if we can’t win, then there is something seriously wrong.
Take the case of budding superstar Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who slashed five seconds off her personal best in the 400m individual medley to take gold.
Denis Cotterell, the former coach of Olympic gold medallist Grant Hackett, has trained Ye. He says she is clean and pointedly suggested those making the accusations over doping did not understand the sport.
"If people do their homework and you have a look at some of the world records ... the margins that they have been dropped by some of the extremely talented swimmers that have applied themselves over the past - it is a combination of their talent and their work ethic," he told the ABC this week.
"Talent comes along and makes a good drop and shocks a few people but we generally seem to have accepted it," he said. "But for some reason in this case now, it’s not, because of the Chinese."
We wonder how offended Australians would be had the same accusations been levelled at Australia’s relay gold medallist Alicia Coutts? There would be outrage.
Coutts, for her part didn’t feel dudded by finishing second to Ye in the 200m medley, saying athletes deserved to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
Instead of concerning ourselves with what other nations are doing, Australia should assess how it has invested in elite sport and its athletes.
In the lead-up to a "home" Olympics, the host nation significantly increases its elite sport spending. It certainly happened in the lead-up to the 2000 Games in Australia, in Greece before the 2004 Athens Olympics, in China before Beijing in 2008 and this time around across the UK.
But the results don’t flow immediately, which might tell you something as to why China has performed so well in the early stages of the London Games.
For example, at the 2000 Olympics, Australia won 16 gold medals. Four years later in Athens, we won 17. China won 51 gold in Beijing and is on track to do better in London, and could again outstrip the United States as the world’s sporting giant.
As the United Kingdom sporting chiefs are finding out the hard way, you can’t buy immediate success.
The context created by past drug-taking by Chinese competitors is that we remain eternally suspicious about that nation’s results. They have form, we say.
It’s the perfect way to create a distraction when success isn’t going our way.
* Just how bad is Channel 9’s coverage? Most commentators seem out of their depth and far too parochial and interviewing is shallow at best.
* Golden boy James Magnussen has misfired in and out of the pool, polarising public opinion on the way.
* Just how good is Michael Phelps? Is he the greatest Olympian?