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Controversy Over Betting on Australian Flag Bearer

Wed, Aug 1, 12:58am by Kevin Pitstock

With all we’ve written about the safeguards being put into place to protect the integrity of the Olympic games and the bets punters place on the events, who knew that the first gambling controversy would crop up during the opening ceremonies?

But that’s exactly what happened in London, as while the games have gone relatively smoothly over the first few days, there was one minor betting controversy here at home regarding who would be chosen to carry the Australian flag during the Parade of Nations.

Basketball player Lauren Jackson was always considered a contender for the honour, but not a particularly likely one. Jackson has been a three-time silver medal winner with the Opals, and Australia was once again considered one of the favourites to medal in women’s basketball this year. The early betting on her being the honoured athlete saw her as a 30-1 dark horse, with many other members of the delegation being favoured ahead of her.

That is, until the night of the ceremony. In the day before the ceremony, the odds on Jackson fell precipitously, falling to 2/1 by the time betting closed. This has led many to believe that someone had to have inside information on who would be selected – and it would seem to make sense that those sources may have included one or more Australian athletes.

No Rules Broken

All told, this is a minor controversy: after all, this is the kind of event that bookmakers know punters might outfox them on, and as such, betting limits are normally kept at a very low level. But many have found it disturbing not that gamblers benefited from the information, but that Olympic athletes may have been involved in the scheme – or may even have bet on the event themselves.

To be sure, even if this were the case, no rules would have been broken. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge admitted as much himself, but still worried that such incidents went against the spirits of the Olympic Games.

The letter of the law is not breached, but you shouldn’t bet on that,” Rogge said. “I would say for the spirit of the law, definitely it’s not good…I feel unease and disrespect.”

Still, such an incident is a far cry from any sort of match-fixing scandal, which is what the IOC really has their eye on. Rogge noted that the IOC has a group of specialists monitoring all events in order to immediately investigate and suspicious incidents.

In other words, if you have a friend in the Olympic delegation, they very well might be willing to give you some inside tips on ceremonial aspects of the games – but don’t expect them to throw away their Olympic dreams just to help you win a fiver.

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