After a night of sport that none of us in Britain has ever seen before, the euphoria continues. People greet each other with phrases like “We’re third in the medal table!” as if they have some personal involvement. Yes, this is indeed the most staggering Olympics as far as British athletes are concerned and congratulations to one and all of them as well as their coaches, physios and entire support teams. Well done you committed and concerned people.
As for the rest of us, we really do need to wake up and smell the coffee of reality! For the majority of Britain the Olympics and the athletic legacy is much more of a pipe dream. Can you imagine just how many overweight and slightly drunken men and women have been shouting to runners, rowers, swimmers and cyclists to “Put on a spurt now” as if they have any idea at all of just what that might involve.
I acknowledge quite happily that my own sporting days are in the past, and so am just happy to give the odd piece of coaching advice to my boys and girls on the TV. Yes, you did hear me right, I said MY boys and girls; after all we are on big happy Team Great Britain aren’t we? That’s what all the ads and sponsors have been telling us as they push us to have another big mac with a coke, or perhaps dash out and spend a small fortune on a camera that we must have to capture those fleeting sporting moments!
There’s no doubt that hundreds and thousands of young people will be inspired by these games. But there is a massive imbalance between the athletes who have had a private education and those in the state sector. Whilst just 1 in 14 goes to a private school, they account for half the medals won so far. And the main reason is the sheer amount of time given over to sports in the private sector.
Out of that come a couple of deciding factors. One, the sheer amount of time spent running jumping and generally getting used to pushing your body to the limits and two, the real competitive nature of those taking part. It is that latter aspect that is perhaps the more telling. Whereas in the state system non competitive attitudes are encouraged, in the real world as in the private schools you soon learn that being the best helps you get on.
There are downsides of course, ruthlessly competitive people are certainly not the nicest people to be around and let’s face it we all like a certain amount of compassion and humanity in those closest to us. But if you want winners then you have to put up with that single-minded selfishness that goes with the territory.
There have been some marvellously silly bits in the Olympics as well. The tap dancing horses (Olympic Dressage to give it its proper name) made me giggle when I stumbled across it in channel surfing mode. The most amazing thing about it was watching the crowds of spectators who came from a different world to mine.
Clearly they had money, I mean those damned horses start out at a million dollars apiece if Mrs Romney’s horse is anything to go by. And all they can do is walk sideways like a crab or back up like a learner driver. Do they run particularly quickly? No! Can they jump huge fences? Of course not! But they can curtsey on demand and swap legs in mid stride.
Now I’m not sure about your viewpoint on this but somehow I fail to work out just why this is worthy of an Olympic medal. If I want a champion sideways scuttle then I’ll just breed some outsize crabs and then I will walk away with the medals. Well OK scuttle away with them!
As I said the real interest for me was in watching the spectators rather than the prancing and preening horses. There was a remarkable lack of chins to be seen. It was as if the inbreeding marshals had gathered together all the “ever so highly bred Euro nobs” and brought them together to demonstrate the dangers of too shallow a gene pool. Clearly the horses outshone the watchers in the IQ stakes, and by quite a margin.
No doubt there will be more to amuse and entertain in the days ahead. I haven’t even managed to watch the beach volleyball or those weird eastern martial arts contests yet, where they grapple and grunt and after several minutes of trying to pull each other’s pyjamas off suddenly whack someone down on the floor.