Olympics Legacy

“The past is a pebble in my shoe.”

Edgar Allan Poe

Well, today is the Last Day of the London Olympics 2012. And, I hate to say it, but secretly I’m a little glad. I want the Olympics to go away so I can watch some proper telly. 17 solid days of sport is just a little too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we had it. I’m glad that Mo Farah got double gold and that we won the rowing and that Usain Bolt broke 100 world records. Again.

And I’m tentatively optimistic about the Olympic Legacy that David Cameron, our Beloved Leader, was wittering about on BBC1 this morning. Making team sports compulsory in schools is a Good Thing. I think this for several reasons:

  1. Team sports encourage cooperation. (Unless you are the unsporty kid who never gets to touch the ball because your sporty teammates know you’ll just drop it.)
  2. It will stop schools running those weedy non-competitive sports programmes that have no bearing on real life, ever. Children need to know that occasionally they will lose, and that they just have to get on with it, whatever “it” may happen to be.
  3. Team sports tend to be more fun than just running around in a circle or jumping on the spot or whatever.
  4. Team sports are educational because you have to think about tactics.

Our Beloved Leader, however, did not seem to think it worrying that the Olympic Park has, as yet, no permanent tenant to use it after tomorrow. Apparently several football teams are “vying” to get it. Why is there no contract yet then? The Aquatic Centre has already gone. Music Friend, who is Polish, was telling me that the stadium in Warsaw that was used for the Euro 2012 football tournament isn’t being used because it’s too expensive to rent or something. I hope to God that doesn’t happen here.

The newsreader was, in the manner of newsreaders, trying to catch Beloved Leader out on the whole Inspire a Generation thing. “21 school playing fields have been sold in the last year,” she said. 21? You’re worrying about 21 playing fields? How many schools are there in the whole country? Thousands. 21 playing fields, in the great scheme of things, is not a significant statistic. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because Beloved Leader could account for them all. “14 were sold because the schools were closing, 4 because of mergers. So that’s only 3. And they were trying to raise money for more sports facilities.” What? What? Let me get this straight. 3 schools sold their playing fields to get money for sport? Where are they planning to play this sport, in the canteen?

Never mind.

A last nugget from Beloved Leader:

“We didn’t just make the Legacy up this week, you know.”

Could Do Better

“I love the Olympics, because they enable people from all over the world to come together and – regardless of their political or cultural differences – accuse each other of cheating.”

Dave Barry

How true. Already in these Olympics – and it’s only day six, remember – we’ve had at least two serious accusations of cheating. The first was that Chinese swimmer whose name I forget, who was accused of taking drugs, a charge that she roundly denied.

And then we had that badminton business on Tuesday.

Eight players from China, South Korea and Indonesia (who are to badminton what Jamaicans are to running) were disqualified from the tournament for, essentially, not trying hard enough. None of them wanted to win their games because losing would allow them to play a weaker team in the finals, thus giving them an easier route to gold. So, as far as I can tell, in one game the players took turns serving into the net, which is frankly unbelievable given that even I can hit the shuttle eight out of ten times over the net, and in another game the teams simply kept hitting the shuttle off court. Again, for the same reason, unbelievable.

Now, I think there are two sides to the debate. Of course, such playing is against the Olympic spirit and disgraceful and just awful, as previous Olympic badminton champion Gail Emms keeps popping up on BBC1 to tell us. And this is what Yu Yang, one of the disqualified Chinese players, has to say about it:

“This is my last competition. Goodbye Badminton World Federation (BWF), goodbye my beloved badminton. We … only chose to use the rules to abandon the match. This was only so as to be able to compete better in the second round of the knockout (stage). This is the first time the Olympics has changed the (event’s format). Don’t they understand the harm this has caused the athletes?

You have heartlessly shattered our dreams. It’s that simple, not complicated at all. But this is unforgiveable.”

Surely this is a little melodramatic? There are hundreds of badminton players, good ones, who never make it to the Olympics or get knocked out of the early stages. Their dreams are shattered, but they keep going to the next Olympics. And there are plenty of athletes who get disqualified for as little as a false start – just look at Usain Bolt. But he is still running this year. He hasn’t left the sport.

And even if your dreams have been shattered – what about the dreams of all those spectators who crammed into Wembley Arena to watch what they thought would be good badminton? They spent money, good money, to come to the Olympics, to watch what they thought would be the event of a lifetime, and instead they got top-level players playing like six-year-olds. I mean, they could have lost with a little more subtlety. It can’t be that hard, surely, occasionally to drop an easy shot rather than hitting the shuttle obviously in the wrong direction.

On the other hand, however – doesn’t it seem a bit sinister, a bit Big Brother-esque, to disqualify someone for not trying hard enough? Yes, this case is a shameful one, and an obvious one for sanctions. But I think it sets a dangerous precedent. How long before an extreme government somewhere begins prosecuting its athletes for having a bad day? “You didn’t try hard enough.” How long before a host country disqualifies other countries’ athletes for not achieving their personal best? “Well, you won gold last Olympics. This time you only won silver. Obviously you weren’t trying hard enough. Disqualified. Oh look, that means our athlete gets silver instead.”

I think the point of this post is to say that, well, cheating is bad for the sport. It disappoints spectators, and it corrupts sportspeople. By all means, stamp out cheaters – but don’t let it go too far.

You think it’s all over? Yes, it is.

“The thing about football is that it is not just about football.”

Terry Pratchett

As you all probably know, the Olympics are well under way in the great city of London.

So, I decided I would watch some over my breakfast (tea and toast and Marmite, obviously – the superfood trio). So I went to BBC1, where they were twittering. It transpired that nothing was on, or, at least, nothing was being filmed, so the presenters had apparently decided to talk about swimming and rowing rather than showing any sports.

Since I was not interested in watching  reruns of Famous (and probably Not-to-be-Repeated) Victories, I switched to BBC3 instead, where they were showing badminton, which is a good deal more interesting. The British Mixed Doubles team, consisting of Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier, were playing the Germans: Birgit Michel and the unfortunately named Michael Fuchs.

There I was, watching the second set. And as the Germans won point after point, I sat there thinking: we British are really not very good at sport, are we?

Think about it. We’ve just lost the badminton. The last time we won the football World Cup was in 1966, and we’re still going on about it. This year, in the Euro 2012, we at least got to the quarter-finals.

And then we lost. Despite the efforts of the lovely Joe Hart in goal, we did not score once. But then, neither did Italy.

And you know what? For about ninety minutes, I really did think we could win. I dismissed the negativity of Hiking Friend and Hiking Friend’s parents as cynicism, I cheered every saved goal and sat in happy confidence, waiting for one of our people to score. (I should make it clear that I am not a football fan. But the combined efforts of Hiking Friend and Joe Hart appear to have made me one. At least for England games.)

But we did not score. Not one single measly goal. And we lost on penalties. Hiking Friend, sadly, turned out to be right.

So why do we call ourselves the Home of Football when we can’t even score against Italy, who were all over the place and fouling like crazy?

And then there is Tim Henman, who has been trying for years to win Wimbledon and has never managed it.

And Andy Murray, who, my mother assures me, is very inconsistent in his play, and who recently lost badly to Federer.

This is why I do not watch sport. Because we are rubbish at it. So it is just as well that we are so brilliant at pageantry. Because the Opening Ceremony is the only thing we can excel at in these Olympics.