Nick Butler
Nick Butler I had a problem last week and at the time it felt like a pretty big one.

After arriving in Rio De Janeiro for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission following an 11-hour flight and checking into my hotel at 11pm I switched on my laptop and was greeted by an ominous "popping" sound followed by an utter refusal to display any sign of life.

After no amount of prodding and probing by me - and more technically efficient hotel staff -  brought about any improvement, I was faced with the terrifying prospect of being alone in a far-off country working without my number one tool of the trade and no way of filing a story.

Of course, after sleeping off my frustration, I realised it was not really a terrifying prospect at all. It took only a glance out of the window towards Copacabana Bay to remind me that instead of worrying I should be making the most of my time in a city as beautiful as Rio.

Thanks to the kind loan of a spare by the Rio 2016 Organising Committee I was ultimately spared the problem of having no way to work and was even granted the privilege of spending one afternoon working in the main Rio 2016 office floor due to the lack of an alternative power source. 

Being without a laptop felt at first like the  journalistic equivalent of going into battle without wearing armour ©Getty ImagesBeing without a laptop felt at first like the journalistic equivalent of going into battle without wearing armour ©Getty Images

But the experience got me thinking about times when equipment has malfunctioned in sport.

This is something that happens less and less in the professional world of today, although it still does occasionally.

One example close to my heart relates to problems with contact lenses. I can think of multiple occasions when rugby players have mysteriously started rustling their hands along the ground only for one player to gesticulate at their eye in reference to a missing lens. And they are not easy to find I can testify...

Perhaps the best known contact lens malfunction happened to the future world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic in a World Tour Finals match against arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal in 2010. The Serbian suffered a heavy loss after being unable to see properly due to double vision caused by a shifting lens and, despite trying three different lenses, he was unable to remedy the problem.

For an example of an athlete overcoming a handicap, you need only to look at the first great Ethiopian distance runner Abebe Bikila. When shoe sponsor Adidas produced only ill-fitting shoes ahead of the marathon at Rome 1960, Bikila made the impromptu decision to run barefoot and promptly won the gold medal in a world record time.

When asked afterwards why he had done so, Bikila replied: "I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism."

Abeba Bikila barefooting his way to marathon victory at Rome 1960 ©AFP/Getty ImagesAbeba Bikila barefooting his way to marathon victory at Rome 1960 ©AFP/Getty Images

In the Olympics there is a rich heritage of athletes being helped by others when their equipment malfunctions.

This was seen most recently in Sochi when a Canadian coach lent a Russian cross-country skier a spare pole when his was lost, before German skiers and biathletes were lent kit by the Russians after experiencing problems with their own gear.

At Beijing 2008 we had a controversial ending to the 49er sailing competition when the leading Danish duo suffered a broken mast at the beginning of the final race and promptly swapped boats with out-of-contention Croatia before holding off their rivals, and several appeals, to win the gold medal.

Denmark trimphed in Croatian colours at Beijing 2008 ©Getty ImagesDenmark trimphed in Croatian colours at Beijing 2008 ©Getty Images

The most famous example occurred many years before at Innsbruck 1964 when Italian bobsleigh star Eugenio Monti provided a spare bolt to fix the broken sled of British rivals Tony Nash and Robin Dixon midway through a competition in which Britain took gold and Italy silver.

In non-Olympic sports this sort of behaviour is less common. Although it is a regular feature of Sunday league matches I was unable to find many examples of a footballer turning out for an opposing team.

Yet there are many cases of teams borrowing the kit of an opposing team, including at the 1978 World Cup when France ended up wearing the green and white stripes of local Argentinian side Kimberley after black and white television proved unable to distinguish between their initial strip and that of opponents Hungary.

Cycling is another sport rich with camaraderie and sporting gestures. Riders within a team will regularly swap bikes when a leading rider suffers a mechanical problem, but riders from opposing teams will often slow down to wait for a rival when they are struck by equipment failure.

A recent example occurred during the 2012 Tour De France when Team Sky's race leader Sir Bradley Wiggins halted the peloton to wait for rival Cadel Evens after the Australian was one of many riders to puncture after an unknown saboteur covered the road with tacks.

Rather unorginally Wiggins was christened "Le Gentleman" by the French media following this act...

Bradley Wiggins slows the peloton down during the 2012 Tour de France ©Getty ImagesSir Bradley Wiggins slows the peloton down during the 2012 Tour de France ©Getty Images

Once again, this behaviour is less common in other sports. Earlier this month during the New York City Half Marathon, Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai took advantage of rival Mo Farah tripping and falling by surging clear to win the race ahead of the Briton.

We also had a bizarre case in bobsleigh when Manuel Machata was banned for a year by the German Bobsleigh Luge and Skeleton Federation for lending a personal sled to Russian rival Alexander Zubkov ahead of him winning two gold medals in Sochi.

I am not condoning the behaviour of Mutai or the German Federation - with the exchange of money in the latter case casting aspersions over the sportsmanship of the gesture -  but it is important that these values of fair play and helping others should continue in sport as in other areas. 

For life is a struggle to find ways to overcome obstacles but, as I discovered last week in Rio, it would be an awful lot harder to do this without the help and assistance of others.

Nick Butler is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.