“we are asked to take seriously people who spend their entire lives trying to get better at the Hop, Skip and Jump (now called the Triple Jump lest we start to dwell on how ludicrous this is)”
“swimming has voted itself the right to award medals, not only for being the fastest over several different distances, but also for varying degrees of slowness using breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke”
It has been a silly season like no other. The media, led of course by the BBC, has believed its own propaganda and relentlessly assumed the entire nation is bowled over by the Olympics.
It forgets that one of the easiest ways to define a corrupt and brutal fascist dictatorship in the past was its success at the Olympics. The more athletes from the USSR, or East Germany or China accumulated medals, the more their priorities and their methods looked suspect. (The U.S. was excluded from this because its athletes were funded by universities and private donations). Every day, the newspapers are full of huge amounts of unreadable tripe. Normal people will just turn the pages until they find a little bit of real news.
The BBC, even before the games end, has started adding little features to its main news about the athletes, as if the breaking stuff is not enough. A couple of these caught my attention though. It would appear that the cyclists are funded as though they were a Formula One motor racing team. Nothing is too expensive. There are laptops monitoring the athletes and machines. The bikes are the most expensive available. There are teams of doctors, nutrionists, and technologists. Scientists have examined the theory of biking to make sure our team is the best. The trouble is, this is all being paid for by you and me out of taxation (and the lottery). Don’t forget, we are a skint nation. We are borrowing kerzillions to fund day to day government activity. The BBC also reported just before the opening of the Games that the entire British Track and Field team was ensconced at a resort in Portugal. How on earth can our politicians justify this expense?
And we are asked to take seriously people who spend their entire lives trying to get better at the Hop, Skip and Jump (now called the Triple Jump lest we start to dwell on how ludicrous this is), hammer, discus and javelin throwing. An event like the decathlon makes sense, proving the all-round ability of an athlete, but individually? Britain’s Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and Aston Eaton of the U.S. in the decathlon for instance make the likes of Usain Bolt look narrow and second rate. They are the true Olympic Champions. The trouble is, finding this out would only take a long weekend and you couldn’t justify a £9 billion budget for that.
They call the 100 metres the Blue Riband event but that is ridiculous. Why would anyone want to train for years to be good at something that only lasts 10 seconds? Who would want to buy a ticket to watch something that lasts 10 seconds? Again, as part of a decathlon event this makes sense, but on its own, surely not.
Young people are shown crying their eyes out after winning the double skulls lightweight 1,000 metres speed team canoeing short course or some such. Can you imagine the boredom involved at being good at this variation on a theme? Or swimming, which has voted itself the right to award medals, not only for being the fastest over several different distances, but also for varying degrees of slowness involved in racing using breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke. And there is women’s boxing. What kind of movement thinks it is a good idea to persuade women to box? The Olympic movement. Personally, I’m all for women having the opportunity to be the best they can be, but I don’t want to live in a country that persuades itself women should fight in wars for me, or perform in the boxing ring. How degrading.
Now we are getting to synchronised swimming, after enduring the synchronised diving, all paid for by the taxpayer.
The politicians are being asked to maintain this level of funding after the Games to secure “The Legacy”. Every other Olympic Games has left a legacy of crippling debt and often empty, white elephant stadiums. There’s no reason to think that ours will be any different. Prime Minister David Cameron is being asked by the likes of “Lord” Moynihan to step up with the funding. A known grandstander like Cameron is unlikely to take a brave stand against this. Sure, it makes sense to restore sporting facilities to schools and provide basic funding to allow athletics, football, rugby and make sure children are allowed to find out if they have a talent for things like tennis and golf. But to obsess about how we do in the international medals table is a waste of time and money.
Perhaps my cynicism has never recovered from watching a Michael Bentine comedy show routine in the 1960s which satirised athletics. One item was truly memorable. It showed the competitors for the five metre sprint. They paraded up and down before the start doing warm-ups and stretches. Then they received pep talks from their coaches and got to their marks, making signs of the cross and imploring for help from their maker. The starter’s gun went off, and the winner collapsed into the arms off his coach a split second later before being helped away from stadium by admiring hordes. Doesn’t that say it all?