Introducing a better Olympic experience

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..


    1. Thanks Diane. (I had to look up Bob Costas, though. But then, I guess the name Brendan Foster meant nothing to you either.)

  1. I like your ideas. I agree with you on the medals. So many talented, hard working athletes compete, yet only 3 walk away with medals – what an honor for those three.

    1. Thanks, Donna. Surely most normal people would agree with us about the medals. I always feel that their need to be first smacks of desperation. They must be compensating for something.

  2. Cher Guillaume,
    you are sans dout, my favourite grumpy old writer, and you’re funny too. Such a bonus. Agree re Brendan Foster and what about the reporters who skewered
    defeated athletes until they burst into tears and apologised to the world for not winning an Olympic medal!!
    But Bill, leave the horses alone!

    1. Nice to see you here, Eileen. As for horses – I have 2 granddaughters who are crazy about them, so I wouldn’t dare mess with them (the granddaughters I mean).

    1. Thanks, Myra. In fact, a friend tagged this on Facebook and got lots of equally ridiculous suggestions, so there are now enough new events to hold an alternative Olympics.

  3. Enjoyed your blog, Bill, and I am sure an alternative Olympics would work very well. Down here in south west Scotland we already have a highly successful ‘Alternative’ Highland Games at which people compete for the world championship in Gird n Cleek, tossing the wheatsheaf or the wellie and bet on snail racing.

    1. Brilliant, Mary. That must be what they mean when they speak of ‘The Scottish Enlightenment’. Gird n Cleek definitely deserves a wider public.

  4. Ooh, Bill, you are wicked! But I love your suggestions. A whole blog, or even web site, on Alternative Olympics, would be fantastic. Just, please, do not do one on ‘Scolympics’.

    1. Thanks, Jenny. Yes, I came across that man’s ugly coinage, too, but in the form of ‘Scolympian’. Ugh!

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