Words Scott Bishop
Like most of us, I watched, enjoyed and sometimes disliked the 2012 London Olympic Games which was on TV 24 hours a day for two weeks straight: a continuous succession of replays, boring presenters and ridiculous questions asked of athletes the moment they stepped off the field, out of the pool or off the mat.
Don’t you think it’s ironic that in a sporting world full of over-analysis, over thinking and overly complicated breakdowns, four women from countries that can’t afford the internet and look like they’re in desperate need of a bowl of rice can smash the world in the 10km running race?
There is no science, no big entourage, just four dedicated athletes who run because that’s what they’ve done all their lives — keep a simple sport simple. And they didn’t just win; they smashed them. I hope the four of them enjoy a dirty big burger at the end of it. Well done, girls.
Let’s compare that to our swimmers. They can’t win because Twitter is distracting them. They can’t win because the molecular makeup of the starting block is upsetting the biorhythms of the NASA-approved Balance band and matching aqua suit. They can’t win because the government has taken millions out of their funding. And if those excuses don’t work, they can’t win because their strategy is unproven at this level.
I say our overexposed swimmers need to take a leaf out of the book of the female runners from Ethiopia. For swimming you need a pool, some budgie smugglers and a lot of desire. Jump in the damn pool and swim. We are the people who invented Speedos, although we did sell them to the Poms at some point. If you swim in anything shorter than a 400-metre race, there is no strategy: swim as fast as you can till someone tells you to stop. You choose the sport; you find a way to make it work. Just don’t tell me Twitter or Facebook caused your average performance.
Anything that involves running, jumping and throwing can be regarded as a sport. Walking isn’t a sport, especially when they’re not even walking. It’s running but trying to look like you’re walking while taking a dump. I say it’s dump walking.
The 100 metres final is always seen as the pinnacle event of the games and rightly so. The 9.7 seconds it takes for these guys to fly down the track is awesome, but it’s the ego-fuelled prance-athon behind the starting blocks that I like.
Eight guys juiced to the eyeballs and wearing shorts that are far too tight for an 80s AFL footballer strut around like a paddock full of show ponies auditioning for a reality TV show. One guy does his hair … he has no hair. Another talks faster than he runs, like he’s trying to sell electricity door to door. A couple of them do a practice start, thinking they’re drag cars and laying down a slab of rubber for better traction in the race.
I like ego in an athlete, especially if they can back it up. If you talk the talk and walk the walk, then sport just gets more interesting. The 100 metres final is always interesting and we never even have a guy in the race.
Now, the Olympics were born of amateur athletes competing in amateur sports. You can’t tell me a Greek dude hanging out in ancient Greece wearing his robes and sandals was making big coin throwing rocks at the first games. The sport might well have become shot put and I don’t see too many shot putters hiring a private plane to fly to the Olympics in 2012.
Roger Federer could buy the Olympic Games. His sport is totally professional, from the prize money paid to the sponsorship arrangements the players have. Tennis is cool but it has no place at the Olympic Games.
Now, table tennis is the complete opposite. The game is so damn hard that, unless you’re from China, Korea or Japan, you can’t play it. Every weekend pub hero who has a bash at the local on a Sunday arvo, or the home pro who takes great pride in handing out ping-pong whippin’s to the youngest member of the family, acknowledges this is one tough sport at the top level.
And what do you reckon a top ping-ponger earns? I reckon the Fed would earn more in one tournament than a table tennis player would earn in a decade. That is amateur sport.
Three badminton teams were excluded from the games for match fixing. All three teams were trying to avoid playing the dominant Chinese team in the lead-up to the finals, so they deliberately tried to manipulate matches. This caused major outrage in the badminton universe and the consequences will be felt around the world.
Well, that might be an overstatement. Do we have a badminton player in Australia? We mustn’t have, as I’m not following any on Twitter. I don’t get any BA (Badminton Australia) press releases and I don’t see the local badminton centre named after our top players. In fact, I don’t even see a badminton centre. I now suspect this was a PR stunt by the badminton hierarchy trying to attract players, much like Swimming Australia does every few years to keep its sport in the public eye.
How can this game succeed without its top athletes taking to Twitter? Even a scandal like cheating at the highest level got about the same media coverage as race six at the Dapto dish-lickers races on a Tuesday night.
Let’s be honest here. Who doesn’t work the ping-pong ball over in home tournaments, adding a hole or dent here and there? Who doesn’t have specific home-court rules that favour the local players? And who doesn’t have a dodgy paddle that is strictly for visitors’ use in the big games?