RIO DE JANEIRO: Athletics legends Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka comforted distraught French pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie after he was booed for the second day by a hostile Brazilian crowd on the Olympic medal podium.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach slammed the behaviour as “shocking”.
Lavillenie who hit out at the host nation’s fans for their conduct during Monday’s pole vault final held his head in his hands but could not hold back the tears which streamed his face as he stood on the podium after receiving his silver medal.
In a private room after, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist was consoled by international athletics chief Coe, Bach and pole vault legend Bubka, an IAAF vice president.
After leaving Lavillenie, Bach said on Twitter that it was “shocking behaviour for the crowd to boo Renaud Lavillenie on the medal podium. Unacceptable behaviour at the Olympic Games”.
The ceremony completed a miserable 24 hours for Lavillenie, who on Monday lost his Olympic crown to unknown Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva in a dramatic final.
“It’s disgusting, there is a total lack of fair-play and I want to stress that the Brazilian is not involved at all,” Lavillenie told French television after coming out of his encounter with Coe, Bach and Bubka.
“But I am going to move on,” he added.
Lavillenie’s final attempts in Monday’s competition were marked by deafening booing and catcalls as he prepared to jump.
The world record-holder later slammed the home fans, comparing it to the treatment meted out to Jesse Owens in the Nazi-era 1936 Berlin Games.
“In 1936 the crowd was against Jesse Owens. We’ve not seen this since. We have to deal with it,” Lavillenie said, before later apologising for the heat-of-the-moment comment.
“It really disturbed me, I felt the nastiness of the public and we do a sport where you never see that,” Lavillenie fumed.
Rio 2016 organisers on Tuesday agreed that the Brazilian fans’ treatment of Lavillenie had crossed a line.
“As citizens of Brazil and as sports fans we don’t think booing is the right attitude, even when you are in a one-to-one competition and a young Brazilian has the chance to beat the world champion,” Rio 2016 chief spokesman Mario Andrada said.
“We plan to intensify our dialogue with Brazilian fans through social networks to make sure that we behave as fans in a proper and elegant manner, without losing the passion for sport.”
Appeals for silence were made before each race at the Olympic stadium on Tuesday night.
Lavillenie is not the first Olympic athlete to be given a hard time by Brazilian fans.
French heavyweight judoka Teddy Riner was booed by Brazilian fans after beating local hero Rafael Silva in their quarter-final.
Brazilians also jeered other teams at the gymnastics and chanted “Zika” at US and Swedish women’s football team goalkeepers during games.
And Brazilian and Argentinian fans fought at the tennis event, in scenes rarely witnessed in the sport elsewhere.
“It is a combination of two things,” Victor Melo, head of the history of sport department at Rio de Janeiro Federal University.
“First, the Brazilians are always boisterous supporters, this is a public party. And they might not be used to the sports they are watching,” he added.
“You have to expect some behaviour that is not in line with the rules and traditions of the sport. And Brazilians never behave like Europeans,” Melo declared.