Friday, 27 July 2012

I, too, hate the Olympics

Like every true Englishman, I've been deeply moved by the wave of contempt and derision directed at the organisers of the track and field meet that has recently seized (up) our nation's capital. I'm delighted to see that the whole thing has begun in a shambolic fashion and, like Al Jahom, I look forward to many more misfortunes in the future, especially during this evening's politically correct propaganda-fest.

The whole thing needs to be a disaster. Hurricanes must strike, electrical storms must render structures unsafe, events must be abandoned. Visitors must be stranded by our collapsing transport infrastructure, bullied and assaulted by the ragbag of spivs who will be doing event security and victimised for taking photographs by the ignorant thugs of the Metropolitan Police.

There are so many anti-Olympics articles out there that one almost wants to put across a contrary view, but this is one of those rare times when everybody is right and I'm happy to join the consensus. I wish ill on the London© 2012© Olympics© for so many reasons that I find it difficult to condense them into a single burst of rage (the Adam Smith Institute has done a particularly job of this, however). Naturally, I'm disappointed that great companies such as Coca-Cola have lowered themselves to associating themselves with LOCOG's evil empire. Yes, I'm annoyed by the colossal expense of this vanity project. And of course I loathe the vile collaboration between the state and the corporations to turn everyday words into fiercely policed trademarks.

Things got off to a cracking start when, almost unbelievably, the organisers issued what The Times called a "grovelling apology to North Korea" after showing the wrong flag before a woman's football game. (Why are events taking place before the opening ceremony? Why is North Korea allowed to participate at all? Hasn't every North Korean who can run, jump or swim escaped to South Korea?) As much as I want the Olympics to be a catastrophic embarrassment, I worry that the nadir has already been reached. It's difficult to think of what could happen next that would be more humiliating than having to apologise to a country which is one massive concentration camp.

That cock-up was a microcosm of the Olympics in general, involving an obscure sport, logistical incompetence and pathetic subservience to a totalitarian state. As if to demonstrate that this was no one-off, the authorities then removed the Taiwanese flag from the streets of London so as not to offend the sensibilities of the Chinese.

This is all splendid stuff. If the Olympics is to have a "legacy", let it be thousands of foreign visitors returning to their homes with tales of ineptitude, extortion, censorship, surveillance and bureaucratic officiousness. May our visitors go forth into the world with tales of Britain as it really is.

None of this, however, really explains my rampant Olympiphobia. What really gets to me—as it does every four years, regardless of which city is burdened with digging the money pit—is the phony hysteria and the spastic nationalism (see also: diamond jubilee). As a festival of sport, the Olympic 'games' cannot help but under-deliver since most of the events are neither sports nor games. As Doug Stanhope said in one of his routines, running, jumping and throwing are components of sport. They are ingredients. They are not spectator sports in themselves and they can only become watchable if they are combined in a way that requires guile, intelligence and a scoreboard. Without the alchemy that is required to make a game of these individual physical acts, all you have is a test of genetics and patience.

It is true that there are a few actual sports in the Olympics, but these are subject to such random and arbitrary rules that they exist in a world entirely removed from the meaningful contests which take place the rest of the year, eg. football (everyone has to be under 23, except three players), boxing (everyone has to wear headguards and pretend to be amateurs). Of the few sports that people might choose to watch outside the netherworld of the Olympics, only the tennis promises to offer the world's best players under realistic conditions, but as this will take place at a hastily re-turfed Wimbledon, it can only be a peculiar and pale shadow of the tournament that finished a mere three weeks ago.

When major football tournaments take place, those who dislike sport invariably complain about the extensive coverage. Yes, there is a lot of football on television during the World Cup, but it is no more difficult to avoid than the constant, year-round soap operas which infest the schedules of the major TV networks. It is certainly easier to avoid than the Olympics, which blights every medium 24/7 for what seems like an eternity. This, for example, is the top news story on the BBC's website as I write this.



Moreover, football is an extremely popular sport which most men and many women have at least a passing interest in. The same cannot be said of rowing, cycling and the hop, skip and jump. The fact that athletics meets are normally televised on Channel 4 and Eurosport—if they are televised at all—and take place in front of rows of empty seats is a testament to the warranted apathy with which such alleged sports are treated by the vast bulk of humanity.

There are, in short, very good sporting reasons for treating the Olympics with disdain. There is a qualitative difference between being the world's footballer or boxer and being the world's best triple-jumper or pole-vaulter. To be a world-class striker, you need to be better than over a billion other aspiring footballers from every corner of the globe. You need to be truly gifted. To be the world's best triple jumper, on the other hand, you basically just need to stick at it after everybody else has moved on to less silly pastimes. To be the best sailer, you need to live near water and get your father to buy you a boat. To be the best rower, you almost certainly need to have gone to Oxbridge. By pointing this out, I don't seek the downplay the dedication and physical stamina required to be a contender in these events, but the pool of talent is clearly shallower when there are barriers to entry and when persistence, rather than genius, divides the good from the great.

Nevertheless, a festival of quasi-sports and glorified hobbies has a certain eccentric appeal. Obviously most of the events are unwatchable, particularly if they involve swimming or running. (If you ask most self-proclaimed fans of the Olympics what event they are looking forward to, nine times out of ten they will mention the 100 metres. This demonstrates that the Olympics is for people who don't like sport. The 100 metres is the antithesis of sport. Sport is about tension, tactics and the rollercoaster ride of a game swinging back and forth. The 100 metres dash contains none of this. It is over before it has even begun and, like many Olympic spectacles, is an exhibition of nothing more than genetic freakishness and steroid abuse.)

It is not inconceivable that I might find myself watching a bit of ping pong or weight-lifting if I really have nothing better to do. There will surely be stories of triumph over adversity. Records will be broken. Acts of individual brilliance will be witnessed. Alas, no one over here will notice them because all eyes will be on some bloody Brit who's hoping to win bronze in the mixed paint-drying finals.

Remember how we all got excited by the cycling and badminton at the 2000 Olympics? No, nor do I, but then 'Team GB' didn't have any contenders in those sports in 2000 so no one in this country paid the slightest bit of attention to them. This time we do, so expect wall-to-wall coverage of sports that you wouldn't cross the road to watch were it not for the crude nationalism that the Olympics inspires.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with a bit of patriotism in sport, but when the whole nation pretends to be excited by events that are on a par with the egg and spoon race purely and only because one of the competitors was born on the same lump of rock as them, we need to find other ways of boosting our self-esteem.

The great tragedy is that although cynicism about this glorified sports day and its venal organisers has been widespread in recent weeks, it is a certainty that by the time it ends we'll be slapping ourselves on the back and reminiscing about Team GB's plucky performance in the 400 metre canoeing. On the last day there will be a firework display because fireworks mysteriously impress grown human beings. Some bloke you've never heard of will have won a gold medal in some event you didn't even know was in the bloody Olympics and he'll be well on his way to becoming sports personality of the year and receiving his MBE from her majesty (gord bless her!). Meanwhile, the government will be trying to work out what the hell we're going to do with an Olympic-sized water polo pool in London's glittering east end, the athletes can breathe a sign of relief that their new masking drug fooled the authorities and the rest of us can count down the days until the Premiership starts again.




22 comments:

Barman said...

I take my hat off to you sir! An excellent piece of writing!

I will watch none of it - partly because I fled the septic isle ten years ago. It is much easier to avoid when you are abroad.

Anonymous said...

Heard that a Beeb reporter this morning was referring to The Torch as "she".....

...and we are now so dumbed-down that no-one has pointed out that we shouldn't refer to 'the torch' since some 8000 of the bloody things have been used, but 'the flame'.

(I was idly wondering yesterday if The Flame has blown out by accident (apart from at the ceremony in Athens - in hindsight an auspicious moment)and what the flame bearer would/did do. Well, what would anyone do? :>)

Jay

Jonathan Bagley said...

Got to disagree guys. Apart from the sponsorship and trademark stuff, I love it. My grievance is that Daley Thompson, by any objective measure, Britain's greatest ever sportsman, won't be lighting the cauldron. This illustrates one of the reasons why the honours system has such a corrupting influence. "Why wasn't this guy ever made a Sir if you've chosen him to light the cauldron instead of those other guys who've been made Sirs?"

Tuco said...

One good thing has come from having the fastest cyclist,s in the world ,there is no excuse for the papers being late.

Ivan D said...

I am seriously hoping for more flag incidents. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer country. Whilst I agree with most of your observations in this wonderfully written piece, I have to ultimately side with Jonathan. I love watching sport including all the running, jumping etc. and, despite myself, every four years I find myself watching obscure events at weird times of day and actually enjoying them. I am not sure that for me, anything in the games will top Bradley Wiggins unnecessarily hitting the front of The Tour De France going flat out 1km from the finish but I am sure that there will be moments that help me overcome the excessive hype and political correctness.

I watch most sports including football but oddly enough the Premiership bores the crap out of me.

Mag said...

It is not inconceivable that I might find myself watching a bit of ping pong or weight-lifting if I really have nothing better to do.

You’re a little too easily pleased, Chris. I on the other hand would be prepared to watch some “cross-pollinated” sport like the weightlifters playing ping-pong – Heavyweight Ping-Pong®. It would add degrees of difficulty and adversity watching the heavyweight lifters even trying to properly hold the paddles. Or adding an element of danger as the opponents attempt to avoid decapitation from paddles flying from the opposite end due to poor hand grip. Or the odd ping-pong table or two being crushed as a heavyweight loses his footing and lands girth first on the to-be-destroyed table as the paddle simultaneously exits his hand grip making its way towards the opponents head region. Now, that’s sport! :)

On the last day there will be a firework display because fireworks mysteriously impress grown human beings.

And there won’t be one complaint about smokedrift. I’ve seen some stadiums temporarily blanketed in a cloud of smoke following a fireworks spectacular. Yet if there was a person in the stadium game enough to light a cigarette at the same time, they would be immediately located and manhandled into the belly of the stadium, possibly not to see daylight for some time: “Danger” averted.

JJ said...

Those that don't enjoy the Olympics are the types who have never done sporting activities of any kind in their lives, and so can't understand why anyone else would enjoy such folly.

Typical killljoys.

Snowdon said...

JJ,

Balls. I play and watch sport all the time. Athletics and swimming are not sports. No one really likes them which is why no one watches them in 3 years and 11 months out of 4.

CJS

JJ said...

Athletics and swimming aren't sports...you want to get out more, and quite frankly you don't strike me as a sporting person.

What about boxing...want to go a few rounds with me, or isn't that a sport either?

Must have hit a nerve - it didn't take you long to respond, which is more than you did when I asked you a question about the 27 times more toxic than a smoky bar - I'm still waiting for an answer. Where did you get the figure of 27 from.

dearieme said...

Athletics, rowing and so forth are for people who can't catch a ball.

Anonymous said...

Exactly how are they 'Sport' Its so easy on these forums to make statements without any supporting evidence. Just because they are part of a sporting event does not make them a sport in themselves!
Did you know a sardine can skin faster than the fastest human self propelled swimmer swimmer? exactly what achievement are we glorifying here?!?

Anonymous said...

Hey JJ, is wanking a sport. I think you have qualified if it is hope you get the gold your comments sure are deserving of a medal anyway! :-),

Twenty_Rothmans said...

JJ said...Those that don't enjoy the Olympics are the types who have never done sporting activities of any kind in their lives, and so can't understand why anyone else would enjoy such folly.

What a fatuous load of codswallop. Moreover, it's not just the Olympics, it's that they are being done at our expense.

JJ said...

Anonymous: You're a bigger wuss than Snowdon, and Snowdon a bug wuss!
You sound like a big wanker too!

Anonymous said...

I watched the first hour or so of the opening ceremony.
Welcome to North Korea!

Anonymous said...

Hey JJ,
I’m sorry to be the one to inform you that bull****ing – such as you’re engaging in – isn’t a sport either.

Snowdon said...

JJ,
I did reply. If you go back to whatever ancient post you asked the question on you'll see it. You could have got the answer from the post itself and saved me the trouble - it's clearly linked from it.

Anonymous said...

We should be thankful that our government spent 9 billion on this rather than on brainwashing our kids or further legislation that affects our lifestyles. Having said that, I would pay to see Steve Redgrave explain with extreme prejudice to dearime exactly why rowing is a sport. But that’s just because I hate cynical c***s. My problem I suppose

Wiel said...

Bread and circuses....
Keep the people dumb and meanwhile follow your own agenda...

Curmudgeon said...

Absolutely - excellent post, couldn't agree more. And the following one too...

nisakiman said...

As Wiel said - bread and circuses. Keep 'em distracted and chip away another few little freedoms.

Anonymous said...

"and take place in front of rows of empty seats is a testament to the warranted apathy with which such alleged sports are treated by the vast bulk of humanity."


Hahahhaah "warranted apathy" is the funniest line in the whole piece. Very funny. Very satisfying. Thank you.