Two days in a row, Thiago Braz da Silva was celebrated as a national hero in the Olympic Stadium. Both days, Renaud Lavillenie was booed by the home crowd.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach thinks enough is enough.
The IOC leader described the booing that echoed around the stands during Tuesday’s medal ceremony for the pole vault as “shocking behavior,” saying it was “unacceptable at the Olympics.”
It reduced Lavillenie to tears, which streamed down his face at the ceremony.
“I wish this on no one,” he said, again shocked that thousands of people would boo him again.
Da Silva had an upset win over the defending champion late Monday, and thousands of fans kept on booing the Frenchman as he tried to reclaim the gold-medal position during the thrilling, late-night duel.
The raucous booing was meant to unsettle the non-Brazilian. It did. Lavillenie, instead of concentrating solely on his final jump, gave them the thumbs down.
Lavillenie condemned the behaviour of the crowd soon after his event finished, saying nothing like it had been seen since Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Hitler’s propaganda games. He quickly apologised and retracted his statement, but maintained that the Brazilian fans in the stadium were disregarding the Olympic spirit.
“If this is a nation where they only want Brazil and they spit on others, then you should not organise the Olympics,” he said in the early hours of Tuesday, comments unlikely to endear him with the host nation.
So he pretty much knew what was coming when the ceremony for the medal presentations.
“I expected some whistles, and it would have shocked me, but I didn’t expect it to be so violent,” he said.
During the medal ceremony, Da Silva raised his arms to calm the fans and applauded the silver medal of world-record holder Lavillenie, who won gold four years ago in London. Soon the tears were rolling down Lavillenie’s face, and it was not because he won the silver medal.
“I held it till the moment I no longer could,” he said.
Lavillenie was consoled later by Da Silva and pole vault great Sergei Bubka, an IOC member.
After the ceremony, the stadium announcer for the remainder of competition reminded fans for “the utmost respect” for all athletes.