French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie succumbed to tears after he was booed for the second time in two days.
Lavillenie was jeered by the Brazilian home fans Monday night after he tried to surpass the mark set by Brazilian Thiago Braz da Silva. Lavillenie failed in his attempt and the gold medal went to Da Silva.
The unexpected defeat was a huge upset for Lavillenie, who as the current world record holder was expected to win and he let loose his frustration by comparing the boos to African-American sprinter Jesse Owens’ treatment at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. The statement was way off kilter as Lavillenie was just subjected to a case of severe boos, not greeted with scissors as happened with Owens. However, the vaulter quickly recanted his statement citing his as the reason behind his careless words.
Yes, sorry for the bad comparaison I made. It was a hot reaction and I realize it was wrong. Sorry to everyone. https://t.co/rK5mmuMgqH— Renaud LAVILLENIE ® (@airlavillenie) August 16, 2016
But once Lavillenie stepped up to receive the silver medal Tuesday, the boos started again, this time reducing the already upset athlete to tears.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach condemned the “shocking” and “unacceptable” behavior of the crowd in Rio.
IOC President Thomas Bach: 'shocking behaviour for the crowd to boo Renaud Lavillenie on the medal podium. Unacceptable at the Olympics'— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) August 17, 2016
However, in a show of sportsmanship, da Silva was later photographed comforting the French athlete backstage after the ceremony.
No words. pic.twitter.com/ccSL7JQn2c— Renaud LAVILLENIE ® (@airlavillenie) August 17, 2016
"Those tears were tears of disappointment in this crowd," former 400m world record holder Michael Johnson told BBC Sport. "They should be ashamed. I can't let that go — it's not what competition is about.”
The Brazilian crowd has been particularly volatile during the Olympics.
U.S. soccer star Hope Solo was jeered mercilessly every time she touched the ball and soon the stadium was filled with chants of “Zika” in response to a Zika virus tweet she sent out weeks ago.
Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova was heckled relentlessly every time she entered the Olympic Aquatic Stadium in Rio after she was linked to a state-sponsored doping scandal.
“Brazilian fans seem to be pretty egalitarian,” IOC’s director of communications Mark Adams told the BBC. “They seem to be able to boo athletes from many countries. It’s quite difficult to work out why they might be booing one athlete and not another.”