Australia

Controversy as Olympic event scrapped

One of the toughest events in the Olympics — the 50km race walk — is coming to an end after today’s event, in a bid to boost gender equality.

If you want an example of just how weird the Olympics can get, you need look no further than the 50km race walk.

With their arms swinging and hips swaying more than Peter Garrett after a few schooners, the incredible event sees the best walkers from around the world hit the road for a marathon showdown.

While it’s entertaining to some at first, that usually passes and has viewers falling asleep with boredom after the first few hours.

Purists though love the simplicity of the sport and, to be fair, the athletes taking part are absolute specimens.

Take the world-record holder, Yohann Diniz of France, for example who nailed the 50km course in just three hours 32 minutes and 33 seconds in 2011.

The athletes are so cooked at the end of the gruelling event that it’s not unusual to see them being carted off in wheelchairs.

However, this is all coming to an end today — as the final ever 50km race walking event gets underway in Tokyo.

The Olympic committee has decided the race does not fit with its stated mission of gender equality.

It is the only event on the Olympic program that has no approximate equivalent for women. Rather than add a women’s race, they will bring in an unspecified mixed-team race walking event.

The event, which was introduced in 1932 at the Los Angeles Games and held every Summer Olympics since then except the Montreal Games in 1976, is also apparently a ratings flop. It is thought to be too slow and tedious for younger sports fans.

But the cancellation has angered Elliott Denman — a sportswriter who was a race walker for the USA team in the Melbourne Games in 1956, who is lamenting the removal of “the longest and toughest of all events”.

“Unless the situation takes a drastic U-turn somewhere down the road, and don’t get your hopes up about it – the (Tokyo) 50K champion will be the 20th and last in an amazing series,” he wrote for a running blog.

“Sadly, you’ll need to go to the list of ‘discontinued events’ to get the names of all those past winners.

“The event has been full of all these gutsy guys over the years, slogging it out on the roads of Olympic cities from those “down under” (Melbourne, Sydney, Rio) to those ‘up top’ L.A., Berlin, London, Helsinki, Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich, Moscow, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Athens, and Beijing.

“Truth be told, they loved every step of their long journeys. They loved reminding people their event was the ‘longest and the toughest’. And now, for all that effort, they’re being told to ‘go take a hike’. Somewhere else.”

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