‘You Don’t Need to Know’

A nice entry on The New York Times Olympics blog on the hair’s-breadth finish in the men’s 100-meter butterfly that gave U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps his seventh gold medal in Beijing. The Times and its sister publication, the International Herald Tribune, tried to get underwater footage from the official timekeeper, Omega, that reportedly gave a clear view of the finish. At first Omega said the footage would be distributed. Then FINA, the body that oversees competitive swimming, said the news media would not be allowed to view the pictures. The explanation, as related by the Times, is a pretty good working definition of arrogance:

“[FINA’S Cornel] Marculescu said it was a matter of policy, and that the Serbian team [whose swimmer finished second] was satisfied with the ruling after seeing the images — so there is no need to share the images.

“[Asked] why FINA wouldn’t distribute the footage if it showed the margin conclusively. Marculescu said: “We are not going to distribute footage. We are not doing these kinds of things. Everything is good. What are you going to do with the footage? See what the Serbians already saw? It is clarified for us beyond any doubt.

“He’s the winner in any way. He’s the winner no doubt. Even if you could see the pictures, I don’ t know how you could use them.”

[By way of Pete in the comments: Sports Illustrated has the next-best thing to the official photos–an amazing underwater sequence showing the race’s final two meters or so.0

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4 Replies to “‘You Don’t Need to Know’”

  1. I can’t imagine what harm could come from releasing that footage. There’s no need for secrecy. Show it to the world.

  2. SI had cameras underneath. This picture shows Phelps clearly having touched the wall (the fingers on his right hand are beginning to bend against it) while Cavic (go Bears!) is at best just reaching the wall. Amazing stuff. It just didn’t seem possible — yet it was, and it did happen. Fifty years ago, without underwater photography, slo-mo, touchpads, etc. Cavic would have been declared the winner and few would have doubted it….

  3. wasn’t really questioning the result–I heard someone say that the touch pad never lies–but the idea that this swim group would just say, no — you can’t see it, period. That just seems wrongheaded, especially since the result looks clear cut. The really incredible thing, both seeing it last night and in the SI images this morning, is that Phelps clearly took it away from Cavic with that last move. What a competitor.

  4. Oh, I didn’t read your first post as skeptical of the announced result. And I agree that FINA’s stance was arrogant, not to mention weird. I just can’t get over that finish. I watch it, Phelps nearly half a body from the wall, Cavic mere inches away … and Phelps wins. Phelps wins and keeps alive the chance of winning eight golds. It’s like God snuck in there or something. (God being an American, you know it could have happened.) Just wild stuff. Damn shame we on the West Coast couldn’t watch it live.

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