OK, it’s about the Olympics, but I’m not going to wax lyrical or anything. Nor am I going to moan. I’m enjoying all of it, whoever wins, and the only thing that detracts from it all are medal winners who talk and act as if silver and bronze are badges of shame. One of our oarsmen wrote a whole article about how gutted he was to ‘only’ get silver. Really, these people need to get a sense of perspective – and probably some counselling.
Anyway, as I’ve been watching this orgy of sport, I’ve been doing the usual idle speculation about how it could be even better. Statistics, training routines, sports psychologists and the like are making too many results predictable. In order to sustain the value of the Olympics as spectacle, we need to subvert this tendency and add even more value. How we do so will depend on which events interest you but I can simply list a few ideas which occurred as I was watching some of them.
Players seem to opt for very untidy gear. They start with the jacket folded over and the belt secure but very quickly, they look dishevelled. And dishevelled is not a good look. I think it would be much more entertaining if the men wore lounge suits, with a tie and waistcoat and brogues on their feet. For women it should be straight skirts, smart jackets, stilettos and a chiffon scarf in their national colours.
Athletics (sub-title for USA readers: Track and Field).
There seems to be a fashion (in many sports, not just this one), for athletes’ children and families to join them after the event to parade round the arena as if they, too, were participants. I see no reason, therefore, why the relevant parent shouldn’t carry his/her child/children during the race. An appropriate handicap system would cater for the difference between individuals who create serial siblings and their infertile or celibate opponents.
As for the longer races, we need to introduce something to counteract the mid-race monotony (apart from withdrawing Brendan Foster’s licence to broadcast). Maybe if the runners had to stop after every kilometre, do a mime and only continue when the judges had guessed what it was. Or, in the case of the steeplechase, install a heater below the water jump (fed, of course, by a pipe leading from the Olympic flame), and bring the water up to boiling point as the race progresses.
On the other hand, the marathon is so enthralling with all the suffering it involves already that it should be extended – two or three heats, quarter and semi-finals, final.
The team pursuit is highly technical and difficult to cover adequately on TV. My proposal is that each race should continue until one team actually catches the other. What they then do with them will depend on their national culture and their government’s policy towards aliens, but marks will be awarded for creativity.
And that rather strange race, the Keirin, where the riders have to follow a motorised bike around for the first few laps, would be much more exciting if they followed a Harley Davidson.
The possibilities are endless – make dressage horses move to different dance beats, get rid of the gloves in the boxing, bring an equestrian element into the water polo, fill the volleyball court with the sort of things you find on normal beaches.
And, for the swimming, a new event which I’d never have thought of. It comes courtesy of Charlie Brooker in his column in yesterday’s Guardian. He advocated ‘swimming while thinking about Fleetwood Mac’. Genius..