American Olympic bobsledder Justin Olsen was on a team with teammate Ted Ligety that won the gold medal in the two-man race on Monday.
On Tuesday, Olsen posted a video on his Instagram page of Peng Shuai — Chinese bobsledder — using a translator in a video call to Liu Shaoqi. Liang Shaoqi is the Chinese team’s vice president, who helps relay translator information to Shuai.
The video was apparently posted to show what Americans should expect in bobsledding, but does that really give the Japanese a level playing field?
Giant slalom specialist and vice president for Tokyo 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee Prince Takamado said that although he agrees with Yao Ming saying that some athletes in bobsledding should know English, he doesn’t expect such a rule in the future.
“I don’t see a Japanese sled or a Japanese squad call, for example, but it seems to me that in the future, when Japanese athletes say they want to go somewhere, they will call and say ‘look, I am in the middle of some mountain, please escort me,’” Takamado said.
Pound said that reaction to the video call was “very bizarre” and he would like to see the use of translators stay in place for better communication and understand how to gain advantage.
“I’m really, really puzzled by all this … at the moment,” Pound said. “I’d really like to see this stopped. People should be making contact for convenience.”
The international body didn’t respond to media requests for comment.
Pound, who has served on the International Olympic Committee executive board, said that he would like to see a solution but said the body was not to blame.
He added that officials with “no experience” could not communicate with the officials from a nation where the language is not English.
Pound, who competed at three Winter Olympics for Canada in snowboard cross and also for Peru in skeleton, said the world should be looking ahead to future problems when bobsledding changes completely and is no longer a sport reserved for Americans and Europeans.
He added that for Tokyo 2020, Japan could hire a sports marketing expert and get a good translator for the athletes.
Although Tanaka said bobsledding was a sport that was very difficult, the top Japanese athletes should be handling the language changes to a large extent.
“The Japanese athletes should have studied English for two to three years at the best university and be really confident,” Tanaka said. “But for the moment, they don’t know it.”