News Of The Tweet: Olympian Interests

Tripping balls, Tiddlywinks and Phil Liggett

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By Seb Kemp

And so it began, the biggest sporting event slash capital-investment program in the universe kicked off in Old Blighty this week and I, for one, wish I was in London to see it all come together. I’m not interested in watching all the rubbish sports being played (more on that later), but I’m rather interested to see the pageantry and drama of the Games presentation.

More than anything I wish I could have being present to see the Olympic opening ceremony. Usually this is a bit of an expensive bow out that means f-all but it seems the London Olympic organizers really went to town on this one by commissioning Oscar-winning director, Danny Boyle. Now most members of the press have referred to Boyle’s movie, Slumdog Millionaire, when referencing his work ignoring his greatest work, Trainspotting. Anyone who has not seen Trainspotting needs to take the afternoon off work to give themselves an education in Scottish contemporary history and council estate linguistics. Oh, and there is one or two references to drugs in there. Not much though.

I really wish I could have been there, especially because there is a bit of a block on the internet for a replay of the ceremony.

If you are struggling to work out what old Bradley Wiggins is saying here then look up Cockney rhyming slang. Lucy in the Sky = high. And Stella refers to Stella McCartney, the high fashion designer who, alongside many other members of the glitterati of catwalk creativity such as Armani, Raplh Lauren, Prada, was asked to design Olympic athlete kits. Here’s a little look.

I’ve always found the Olympics to be full of absolutely awful, irrelevant, boring and resource-intensive sports. In the winter you have bobsled, skeleton bob, and luge. All great fun to watch, but not real sports per se. They are the kinds of sports that only have a handful of participants around the world (it’s not really a competition if the depth of the field is so shallow that a baby couldn’t drown in it) and require the kind of insane investment to justify facilities that cost a fortune to build and just as much to keep running once the five rings leave town. They produce white elephants and Olympics medalists in sports that mean as much as the guy who can stick a roll of quarters in his foreskin.

Track and field are the big ones. It is the only time that watching swinging lunchboxes becomes even tempting to watch.

However, it’s the inclusion of “sports” like table tennis within the Olympics that makes me laugh. Table tennis isn’t a sport, it is something you do on a rainy day in the common room of your bible camp. It is a game, not a sport.

However, all Olympic sports have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Look at mountain biking. Whoopee! Mountain biking is in the Olympics, however, we all know that the selection process means that it really isn’t the very best cross-country racers battling it out for the prestige. When numbers of the UCI top ranked racers are omitted because their country only has two places and yet due to some hodgepodged selection criteria and juggling countries like Rwanda get so send a rider, despite the fact they may be ranked 329th in the UCI rankings.

And don’t get me started on the course, because I think it could be a good thing. Perhaps it will make it rad for TV and kids at home will watch it and think, “Hang on, that’s not what I think of when I think mountain biking. There appears to be some disparity between my reality and what the TV tells me is reality.”

But other sports have come under fire from powerful commentators. Phil Liggett was vocal about his thoughts on the restructuring of the cycling component of the Olympics and was berated for it.

However, most of what he said was taken out of context. What he said was “It is absolutely disgraceful what they have done. They have devastated the track with the new events and taking out the iconic events of the Olympics.”

The removal of the individual pursuit, the 1km and 500m individual time trials, the points race and Madison events (which have also been removed in the interests of gender equality) was done so to make way for MTB XC and BMX.

@jasonWSJ has a point. BMX is the gateway drug that is being peddled to young children. Get them interested with a sport that is fun and thrilling, but requires an increasing amount of dedication, training and fitness as they come up through the ranks and then WHALLOP! one day tell them that the powerful little thighs and fine twitch muscles they have developed would be very useful on the track…the big, bad, banked oval track.

Regardless of whether the inclusion of BMX is one-part Child Catcher it is good to see sports that are relevant to our times and still retain the honorable Olympic values, which are beyond just sporting excellence.

■ respect – fair play; knowing one’s own limits; and taking care of one’s health and the environment
■ excellence – how to give the best of oneself, on the field of play or in life; taking part; and progressing according to one’s own objectives
■ friendship – how, through sport, to understand each other despite any differences

(that last preachy bit above, by the way, is taken from the official London Olympic 2012 website)

Oh, and it is about much more than even these values. Money, vested interest, and corporations securing sweet contracts, the rest of the Olympics is just for show.

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