Sunday, 24 August 2008

Ginger's Olympic Round-up

Well. What a fortnight. I've watched more sport in the last couple of weeks than I usually notch up in a year. And how much fun it was. So much to say that I've forgotten most of it already. But here are a few of my thoughts on various highlights/newsworthy elements:

No idea I'd find this so gripping. Something rather enthralling about all the action in the velodrome. They're just so fast and sleek. And good. And the British squad seems to comprise a number of genuinely likeable and admirable people. Will definitely try to pay more attention to this sport in the future.

I've even been persuaded to take my own bike out a couple of times since the start of the Olympics, which has been rather underused since I bought it. I've had my reasons - neither my mudguards nor my left elbow were quite the same after that incident. But perhaps it's time to get over my phobia. I think I'll start by aiming for London Freewheel - at least there won't be any scary cars involved.

Finally, Shanaze Reade finally give justification to the journalistic over-use of the phrase 'crashing out'. Ouch. I was really disappointed - she seems a great character, a very ballsy young woman, and I was hoping that she'd add to her World Championship titles. But alas. I hope her bones knit well, and that she has more luck in London.

One of the few sports that I used to watch on a regular basis, I did lose interest in athletics a while back. Although there have been a few magic moments in the last few years, disappointment and underachievement seems to be key to our appearances. Christine Ohuruogu's gold was a rare spectacle. There are too many excuses and caveats made for many of our performances. And am I the only person who really doesn't give a monkey's about Paula Radcliffe? Even if she'd won the marathon in world record time, I don't think I'd get as excited as by some other performances. As it was, she came 23rd, and all the media hoo-ha focused on that, rather than the creditable sixth place of fellow competitor, Mara Yamauchi (highest place ever by a Brit woman). Perhaps we need to get over our favouritism of certain athletes and cast the net wider.

Oh and please can we get rid of Brendan Foster and his down-in-the-dumps commentary style? Most other sports commentary seems to be done by a combination of trained presenters and ex sportspeople. But whilst many of the latter were Olympic champions in my lifetime (Gary Herbert, Jonathan Edwards, Adrian Morehouse), Foster's greatest achievement was a bronze medal in 1976. Perhaps time to step aside for someone a little younger?

Modern Pentathlon
One of those odd events that kind of appeals to me, despite the fact I hate running, have never fenced or shot, and on the one occasion I found myself on horseback, I demonstrated all the grace and style of a sack of potatoes. That said, perhaps I wouldn't have been much worse off than the men, who rather suffered from a combination of terrible weather and peculiar horses. At any rate, the women deserve a mention - we've managed to get at least one medal in this in the last three Olympics.

But is is really a sport?
A debate that always turns up with regard to something or other, usually in relation to events in which the outcome is decided by judging. I don't mind judging as such, so long as it is fair and accurate. But some events do seem divisive in this respect. I don't know why it is, for example, that I should feel totally at ease with synchronised diving being a sport, but not synchronised swimming. Having watched the winning Russian performance in the latter, I was very impressed, and have no doubt of the physical skill and effort that goes into it. Perhaps the problem is the word 'performance'. I do think that a sport shouldn't have make up and glitter as an integral part of its presentation. There is also the functional element - a lot of sports do have a sense of real life purpose to them. It is easy to come up with practical applications for a lot of the skills - being able to run faster, jump higher, lift greater weight etc all could be useful under certain circumstances. Synchro swimming falls foul of both those ideas. I am willing, however, to see it continue if they ditch the make up, and get the men to do it as well. And I promise I'm not just picking on it cos it helped the Russians overtake us in the medals table. How could I possibly be disappointed with our 4th place?

Compare and contrast:
(i) Blake Aldridge, who vented his frustrations at coming last in the synchro diving on his 14 year old teammate. Aldridge certainly wasn't blameless, and his comments were highly ungracious and unsporting. (And I'm rather with Daley on the inappropriateness of ringing your Mum in the middle of a final).
(ii) Bradley Wiggins, double gold medal winner, who explained that he didn't push for a world record in his Individual Pursuit victory, because he wanted to make sure he was still fit to perform the Team Pursuit, especially as members of that team had given up their chances of competing in other events in order to give their all to the team event.

Olympic Greatness
Much debate over who is the greatest - Bolt or Phelps. Not really comparable - very different, totally great achievements. In terms of British achievement, I caught a brief glimpse of a table of 'British Olympic greats' that slotted Chris Hoy (four golds, one silver) above Sir Matthew Pinsent (a measly four golds) and below the king of the table, Sir Steve Redgrave (five golds). But there is a serious omission, who I'm ashamed to say I, too, failed to think of until I read this. Where, in our list of great Olympians, is Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson? Eleven gold medals over twelve years in four events. Wow. Sure, the paralympians perform in separate events for obvious reasons (although Natalie du Toit came a highly creditable 16th out of 24 in the women's 10K open water swimming) but being an Olympic champion means putting in the best performance of all your peers at a point in time. Dame Tanni surely deserves to top that table? I'm looking forward to seeing if the GB paralympic team can take up the baton and keep the medals coming in. Let's face it, if they at least pick up the baton in the allotted time frame, and keep hold of it, they'll be doing better than our sprint relay squads.

"Yes, I've had offers while I've been here. But with the London Games in 2012, it would be crazy to go. This is the greatest job in the world."
- Dave Brailsford, British Cycling Performance Director, on why he won't be bought by other countries.

"If I'd even missed one session, I would have lined up with doubt and fear in my mind. What would happen if I lost the gold by one thousandth of a second, because there was a training session I skipped or didn't give my all to?" - Chris Hoy, showing an attitude that some of our other sportspeople could learn from.

"Can I just say one thing: Mum, if you're watching at home, I'm fine and safe." - Shanaze Reade, after her first-round crash.

"I was disappointed with the time" - Rebecca Adlington, on her winning 400m freestyle performance.

The Handover
How cool was that bus?!? Gold medal for the engineers, surely.

I think we acquitted ourselves quite well - it's always tough to work out how to fill that kind of thing. I did have a quiet chuckle when they said that the little girl had been chosen by Blue Peter viewers - hard not to think "Oh, really?" As for the other representative choices? Dancers/singers, fine. Jimmy Page - rock legend. Leona Lewis - internationally-known pop princess. David Beckham - sportsman who has never competed in an Olympics, or won a championship for his country, who now practices his sport away from his homeland. Hmmm. Wouldn't have featured in my top 50 list.

Oh and ah... Boris. Well, he didn't fall over, or poke anyone's eye out with the flag. But he might have looked a tad more professional if he'd done up his jacket and stopped trying shove his hands in his pockets at every opportunity. I wish him no personal ill, but I do hope that he doesn't sit out the whole of his four year term of office.

London 2012
I may well be in a minority in my home city, but I was actually delighted when we won the Olympic bid. None of the typical London cynicism for me. I really think it'd be great to have such a huge event here, and I look forward to my wonderful city having some major positive attention. And now we've had so much sporting success at this Olympics, it gives us a great platform from which to enter into the games.

Bring it on.


Anonymous said...

I must have a look to see how well the Johnson-Ali economic medal predictor went this year. Hitherto it's been pretty good.

I propose an adjective alternative to "ballsy": - "cuntsy". It implies much more courage under pressure, as anyone who's given birth will agree. Or possibly, "vadgey".

Criticizing BJ for unprofessional turnout? And you a scientist who doesn't even (sob of disappointment) wear her labcoat? Er-hem, I'm coughing my double-standard cough!

Give Boris a break. He cycled around London, even after an accident where he was knocked off his bike. Whatever his political stripe, he must be a vadgey guy.


Ginger said...

I see where you're coming from but... well, this side of the globe, I can't imagine that ever sounding like a compliment!

I can assure you, if I was going to be a scientist in front of a global audience, I'd do my pristine lab coat up, line up the pens in my top pocket, and don a pair of goggles. And maybe get some Mad Scientist hair.

As it is, I've applied to be a volunteer for 2012, so if you see a steward who looks like a ginger science geek, perhaps it'll be me.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't entirely serious. But - poor guy - anyone whose initials are "BJ" had his custard pie thrown at him at birth. No wonder he plays it for laughs.

The Johnson-Ali got the national rankings right for total medals, but not for golds. New Zealand did less well than predicted :( but Great Britain did much better (only three gold medals were forecast, and a total of 28.) So props to you, punching above your weight.

Oh, yes, I will look out for the gleaming lab coat, though I might have to get a TV first. (I streamed the bits I watched. Then I decided that was much too expensive - the net costs a bomb here. So I watched almost none.)


Anonymous said...

And filed under "I was unhappy because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet," our friends from Singapore are delighted because Singapore won its first medal in forty years - a silver for table tennis.

Kia pai tou wikene - have a good weekend.


Anonymous said...

"Just as I had it taped, just as I was in the zone, I became aware of a chap beaming and pointing at his midriff. Then another chap was pointing at me, jabbing his finger in the direction of my stomach. Was I too fat? Was I insufficiently Olympian? ‘Button,’ said the chap. ‘Do up button.’ I looked and saw that my fellow performers on the podium all had their jackets done up, and so did my charming Beijing counterpart, Mayor Guo. I reached instinctively for my middle button, and then thought, sod it. I checked swiftly with the chap from the International Olympic Committee, and no, there is no Olympic jacket-button protocol. Open or shut: it’s up to you. I was going to do it my way, and on the matter of jacket buttons I was going to follow a policy of openness, transparency and individual freedom. I am sad to see that some Chinese bloggers are now attacking me for my ‘lack of respect’, since there was no disrespect intended. It’s just that there are times when you have to take a stand."

BJ in this week's Spectator. He has a point, albeit obnoxious!


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