Friday, 20 April 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

^That's the Olympic motto by the way^

...not sure if "fastest, highest, strongest" applies to the archery or gymnastics teams, but it did give me a chance to write in Latin.

Proof that I'm not talking
out of my Altius.
Yes, that time is getting nearer isn't it. Am I the only one who does just a little pee when the Olympics get nearer? The fact that this year's Olympics are in London makes my bladder feel that much weaker.

How many Olympic blogs will have urine references? Only a wee number.

I wouldn't be much of a sports geek if I didn't hold a great affection for the Olympics, after all, when else would you get people from all over the world coming to London, taking a chance to see all this city has to offer, while testing the limits of our nation's finest? If you're xenophobic, don't answer that question.

I remember the announcement that London would be hosting the Olympics like it was yesterday. That is a lie because I don't remember it well. I was in France on a school trip at the time and the words "we beat those smug Parisians" didn't exactly go down well with the locals, or with me, as I thought "Parisian" was a type of smelly cheese. Again, if you're xenophobic, don't comment. Of course, the very next day, euphoria was replaced with agony as Britain was hit by the worst terrorist attacks in its history. That two day period served as a reminder that although sport is paramount to so many of us, it is simply a small part of life, life which can be snatched away at any point.

Many saw the disastrous events of 7/7 as an omen that our Olympics would be a poor one, even a dangerous one. However, as time has gone on, as a nation, our natural sense of pessimism has slowly faded and general feelings of hope and anticipation have come to the fore. As a city, as a country, we have the opportunity to showcase what we have to the world. Of course, as there will be British athletes in front of a home crowd, we should expect a hell of a lot of fourth places if Euro 1996 and every Wimbledon since 1997 are anything to go by.

Will Murray perform better than in Beijing?
Can he do any worse?
The state of anticipation hasn't been present throughout this Olympiad though. Being a London-organised event, something was always going to go wrong. Anyone's experiences of The Emirates and Wembley stadiums, as well as The Wimbledon Championships - where people are known to visibly age whilst in "the queue" - mean we should have expected some kind of ticket trouble.

Even prestigious sports journalists like myself have struggled to get decent tickets, I will only be able to see the women's beach volleyball. What a shame.

You've probably read more than enough about the ticket "farce", "fiasco" or another phrase beginning with "f" and ending in "uck up", so I will not comment too much more. However, when one considers how few of the Olympic stadium's 90,000 seats are taken by actual spectators, it makes you wonder why so many average Londoners - many of whom have essentially paid for the event, often against their wishes - have been priced out. It also makes you (me) wonder why so many seats are afforded to the "Olympic family". Mr and Mrs Olympic clearly didn't use contraception did they?

The last Olympics made me feel a couple of things. The first feeling was, oh my God the Olympics is amazing, Beijing did such a good job. The second was, oh crap, how the hell are we going to follow that? Then I took a deep breath and thought "as long as it's better than Atlanta and Athens, it'll be OK". But that got me thinking about the last few Olympic games, and the pattern does not look good:

Seoul 1988: Pretty rubbish. Can't remember much. Probably because I hadn't been born.
Barcelona 1992: Great games, said by many to be the benchmark for most modern Olympics.
Atlanta 1996: Pretty rubbish, WWF wrestling was a sport.
Sydney 2000: Arguably the best games of all time. Enough said.
Athens 2004: Stadiums half-built, faces of the games go missing on the eve of the competition and Great Britain won a sprint gold medal. Tells you everything you need to know.
Beijing 2008: Very good games, records, stories, very little controversy. Better mascots than our ones.
London 2012: ?

Olympic WWF, and reeeeally camp Olympic kit

The 2004 Olympic stadium at time of completion

I'm sure Beijingers or Beijingites, or whatever the collective name for a group of people from Beijing is, had the same worries I do. However, despite feeling a certain apathy towards the games around a week before it started, out of nowhere I got hit. In the country where the SARS virus affected so many, I had caught Olympic fever. For two weeks, I sat glued to a TV set while the world outside did outside world stuff.

Waking up at 3 a.m and sleeping at 9 p.m felt like a great decision at the time, and although I felt an almost hangover-sense of fatigue, lost in the middle of Cornwall, I'd do it all again. The Olympic-induced insomnia that is, not going to Cornwall. If you live in Cornwall, good for you, you don't have to drive seven hours to get to Cornwall, unlike the rest of civilisation.

But what an Olympics! The highlights remain Usain Bolt's incredible 100 and 200 metre wins, the first of which still lives in the memory. The games also represented unprecedented success for Team GB. 19 golds helped us to fourth in medal table, ahead of Australia. Now, I know a country with a quarter of our population, a country which used to be in our empire should not be the subject of our gloating or be seen as our benchmark but it is. Although most of our gold medals were won in "sit-down" sports, they all count.

Who came second in the end?!
My moment of the games came in the 100 metre butterfly final. Michael Phelps, in his quest for eight gold medals, had won six, all in world record times.

So, at around 5 o'clock local time, I woke up in a Devon hotel to watch him try to equal Mark Spitz's seven golds, won in Munich in 1972. In his way was Milorad Cavic. After staring down the American at the start, Serbian swimmer Cavic was meters ahead at the turn, with Phelps out of contention. However, Phelps suddenly started catching Cavic with such menace and speed that I nearly hummed the Jaws theme tune. Despite Phelps turning into a shark, he seemed destined to fall just short, but in the last centimetre, he pipped his rival to beat the Serbian and beat Spitz. Of course, Spitz won his golds with a massive moustache, so that aerodynamic disadvantage must be held as a credit to his legacy.

"You look sexy"
"I know"
So what will 2012 hold? Feared by many to mean the end of the world, it may yet bring a new birth to many, including British sprinter Dwain Chambers. Much to the dismay of the British Olympic Association, there is every chance Chambers will be allowed to run at the Olympics, despite being banned from the games for life after failing a drugs test in 2003. I would be apoplectic about this usually, as drug cheats should be punished in the strongest way, in order to deter potential abusers. However, such is Chambers' and British mediocrity at sprinting, it doesn't really matter. No-one can replace Chambers and even he won't reach the final. So no harm done.

Mmmm, anabolic goodness
With under one hundred days to go, the excitement is building. But this week's awful weather does have me suddenly fearing a grey, dreary games. It is pissing down as I write this, so I hope it does not represent some crazy form of pathetic fallacy. If you're reading this from overseas, thanks for reading and well done for not having our climate. That said, I do think there would be something terribly British about having the beach volleyball played in constant drizzle, and it would also give me an added incentive to watch the event I have tickets for. I hope the girls playing in white win.

But despite the signs and despite the omens, wind, rain or shine, I think we are going to have a great games. It may not have the high-tech wizardry of Beijing, but it will have cleaner air. It may not have the history of Athens, but it will have stadiums with seats. It will be better than Atlanta. And in true British style, just not being the worst would be a decent result.

Citius, Altius, Fortius? We may not be the fastest, highest or strongest, but we're gonna give it a ruddy good go.


  1. What do you guys think? Feel free to comment!

  2. Love it :) Keep going! You make sport fun!