Contenders again: how London debacle shaped Australia’s Olympic revival | Aaron Timms

After a ruthless, high-profile overhaul and the emergence of a new generation of Olympic stars, Australia is well set to vault back up the medal tally in Rio

The toilets don’t work, the pipes leak, the stairwells have no lights, there’s dirt all over the floors: thanks to chef de mission Kitty Chiller, the list of things the Australian team finds wrong with Rio’s Olympic village is well known. But given the recent history of this country at the Olympics, the bigger and more important question might be: will Australia’s athletes have access to a chill-out room?

In early 2013, following a showing at the 2012 Olympics near-universally derided as a “disaster”, and with the hyperbole now obligatory in a country with far too much going for it, the Bluestone Review – a thorough investigation into the multiple failures of the Australian swimming team in London – was published. This was the document that famously detailed the worst abuses of the team’s “toxic culture,” which included, according to the report, instances of athletes “getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, and bullying”. In the years since, the Bluestone Review has assumed such a mythological importance in the narrative of Australia’s post-London rejuvenation that elite swimmers refer to it as simply “the inquiry”.

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