I felt rather sorry for Chinese Olympian He Zi yesterday. Having picked up the silver gong in a women’s diving competition, her boyfriend decided then was the perfect time to propose. Without a thought for Ms Gold and Bronze, he jumped onto the podium and professed his love to his tearful girlfriend. The media claimed Zi was crying out of happiness, but part of me wondered if she was thinking: 'Darling, couldn’t this have waited for an Italian restaurant?'
The diver is not the first woman to be proposed to at the Olympics - and she won't be the last. On Tuesday it was the turn of Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo, whose girlfriend popped the question after her match. It's understandable why people want to propose at the Olympics. It’s an event that fuels heightened emotions, and judging by the last games - in which 150,000 condoms were handed out, and these ones, where 450,000 condoms have been distributed, athletes are very loving people.
But the Olympics is not about confetti and sparkly rings; it concerns individual achievement. Sports stars will always be grateful to their coaches, friends and family, but ultimately they got to Rio because they are the ones with the talent. In the short duration of each event, they deserve the entirety of the limelight - and others must support, not detract from, their high points. The podium should only be shared in team sports.
When Zi's boyfriend proposed to her, he made marriage look extremely insignificant. She had just become one of the world’s top athletes, but all that was to be trumped by a lovely ring. She has now made the headlines for her fiancé, instead of her sporting performance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a romantic and like the idea of marriage. But some of its rituals are still infuriatingly sexist. More often than not, the archaic proposal disempowers women. And even though Zi is a powerful, talented athlete, her boyfriend's proposal was a gentle reminder of who calls the shots.
A sensible man would have allowed his girlfriend to have her moment. It was a show of bad manners, more than anything. Romance comes and goes, Olympic medals don't. I hope in years to come, Zi remembers that silver beats diamond.