Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category
I have been invited to audition for a performing role in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games. I am delighted to be considered, if vaguely confused. I haven’t technically “performed” in front of an audience since the age of nine. Perhaps director Danny Boyle is aware of my work in that period, which comprised two seminal turns in the local village college‘s “Day of Dance”, a Terpsichorean jamboree of all children from neighbouring primary schools.
Firstly, a jaunty and enthusiastic interpretation of a gypsy fiddler, undermined only by my colleague David‘s decision to take to the stage wearing socks and thus spent most of the show on his bum, like a slightly disabled gypsy fiddler. I followed this up the next year with an impressively haunting representation of a moon-dwelling extra-terrestrial, transforming myself with a pair of thick brown tights over my head and a brown woollen jumper. It was a portrayal so terrifyingly spot on I nearly got the gig bursting out of John Hurt‘s chest in Ridley Scott‘s Alien.
Given this previous exhibitionism, Boyle has clearly assumed that I won’t balk at the opportunity to slip into a turquoise leotard and pretend to be the River Thames through the medium of prancing about a bit.
Or I’m just on a mailing list having previously expressed my interest at volunteering at the Games. Either way I’ve applied. You should too, just click here.
Rhythmic gymnastics is one of only five Olympic sports that has sold out all its sessions in the first ticket drive for the 2012 Games in London. Far be it from me to question one of the events under the great Olympian umbrella, but really? I like ribbon as much as the next person, but really really? Isn’t it just women dancing with stuff?
Perhaps Britain is home to a covert community of rhythmic gymnastic enthusiasts. People who gather cravenly in underground car parks to throw a ball in the air, do a roly-poly, and then catch the ball again.
See. It’s easy.
I really honestly don’t care about the London Olympic Mascots, but they represent such a rich comedic seam, I’m going to continue to mine it.
The collective outpouring of disgust this morning was predictable. I saw at least a dozen people on the tube reading the back pages with the scrunched-up features of a baby eating a lemon. Rivers of vomit flowed down Oxford Street. Tottenham Court Road was the scene of a thousand minor epileptic attacks.
LOCOG have missed a trick here. The best PR for this kind of thing is no PR at all. They should have removed this project from the clammy hands of that advertising gonk squatting on the table in the middle of his office trying to raise a brainstorm from his colleagues on an “all-nighter”. I can smell the delivery pizza from here.
Commissioning Michael Morpugo to dream up the heartwarming story that Wenlock and Mandeville were created by an old man for his grandsons is one thing, but when it’s later revealed that the mascots contains a casing for covert surveillence then it’s just plain disturbing. Being an instrument of pederasty will win you no fans (I presume).
Lord Coe has been keen to stress the input of child focus groups in the production of the pair, but perhaps he would have been better served by handing to entire process over to the little blighters. Run a contest on Blue Peter or in the Broom Cupboard or wherever it is they hold mascot-drawing competitions these days. You won’t hear anyone moaning at the launch if the mascots are the product of the fevered imagination of a tiny girl with pigtails and polio.
Unless it’s really shit.
Everyone needs a story these days and it’s not just X Factor contestants. It seems that isn’t enough for an Olympic mascot to turn up at the opening ceremony, bumble around a bit and wave to some schoolchildren. The London 2012 mascots were launched today together with the charming tale of their genesis. And it’s not set inside a circle of beanbags and flipcharts in a glass-walled office of some Soho advertising agency.
It seems that they were manufactured from the stolen offcuts of a Bolton steelworks by someone who looks a bit like former Labour minister Charles Clarke. For reasons only known to Charles Clarke, he creates the pair only with one eye each. It’s a fact that takes on sinister possibilities when an eager advertising goon tells Claire Balding on The One Show that the Cyclops feature is designed to house a miniature camera.
The launch is inevitably the cue for widespread wailing that they are not fluffy enough or British enough or anatomically correct enough. And then deluge of unfavourable comparisons: they look like the contents of Robocop’s handkerchief or the stricken victims of an Atlantic oilslick or the iridescent bastard children of a skittle and Gordon Brown.
People shouldn’t get so fed up. It doesn’t really matter what they look like. As Berlino the Bear proved at last summer’s World Athletics Championship, it’s the person inside that counts:
I am now an authority on snowboard cross. Yesterday’s women’s competition was an exercise in not falling over, a discipline which seemed beyond most participants. It came across from Vancouver like an extended sequence from You’ve Been Framed. My favourite entry was the wretched woman whose Olympic dreams evaporated when she failed to leap off with enough momentum to slide up the first incline and ended up hopping off the course seconds after she had started. Because of the binding onto the board, any competitor with the misfortune of slipping over is compelled to jump along with the same deranged motion as a sack race entrant.
One of the more dramatic of these incidents involved Lindsey Jacobellis, who lost her bearings on the way down and succeeded in obliterating one of the control gates. The race organisers take a dim view of this, those gates cost a lot to replace after all, and she was disqualified. Jacobellis was one of the pre-race favourites, but her previous Olympic form may have been a reason to put your pocket money elsewhere:
So Jacobellis fell within metres of the gold medal because she was attempting what is known in the trade as a grab or as I like to call it, showing off. In the immediate aftermath Jacobellis claimed that she performed the manoeuvre in order to gain balance. Which is a little bit like a drunkard explaining that he drove his car home to avoid the dangers of the bus.
Subsequently, Jacobellis revised her opinion and admitted that “snowboarding is fun; I was having fun.” Which would be quite admirable, except I can’t imagine being asked the same question about her erratic showboating ever since is all that fun.
I have to be suspicious of a sport that compels its onlookers to amuse themselves by repeatedly ringing cowbells. Skiing offers the same spectacle as Formula 1: things zooming past very quickly at regular intervals. At least with motor racing there is sometimes overtaking; skiing is just one long qualifying session, a battle against the clock (who isn’t the most charismatic of opponents).
Snowboard cross is a different species of winter sport. It’s mental. Competitors line up at the starting gate in different-coloured bibs like starving greyhounds, leaping down the track with the rabid enthusiasm of shoppers on the first day of the Primark sale. If they weren’t so busy trying to keep balance they’d punching each other and gouging each other’s eyes out. The course is set out in fiendish tiers so it resembles a massive wedding cake.
Last night the men’s event was won by defending champ American Seth Wescott. He’s a typically rad snowboarder, whose special snowpants have been mocked up to look like a particularly gnarly pair of jeans. Wescott left the sport after the last Olympics to set up his own restaurant in the mountains of Maine. I’ve checked out the menu online – it looks pretty gnarly too.
Tonight is the women’s event and there’s an actual British lady with an actual medal chance. Zoe Gilling hails from the Isle of Man. Hope there’s a Primark there.
For the last fortnight I’ve been firing few light-hearted broadsides at the Winter Olympics, poking it playfully in the ribs, getting its head into my armpit and giving it a well-meaning noogie. I suggested that the Games could only sustain interest with the kind of controversy that would continue off the rink or apres the ski.
Well it got some. And someone died. So I’m going to lay off now.
In the spirit of reconciliation I decided to tune into’s the mens downhill competition tonight. But it’s been cancelled due to lack of snow. I’m saying nothing.
Controversy might be all the Winter Games can rely on to sustain the interest of sports fans: some partisan marking at the ice rink, a wasted snowboarder vomiting all over the half-pipe, or Russo-American relations disintegrating in the hockey final.
The Vancouver organisers have made a brave pitch to create some early rumblings by inviting Arnold Schwarzenegger to carry the torch during the opening ceremony on Friday. Arnie’s candid and remorseless tales of steroid-munching in his days as a professional beefcake puts him for many firmly outside the Olympic movement and its ideals.
Unfortunately for the Games, this one isn’t going to rumble: as Arnie pointed out himself, having lots of bulbous muscles in funny places isn’t actually a sport, and therefore pumping yourself up artificially shouldn’t be considered illegal in Olympic terms.
If there is any objection to Schwarzenegger lining up on the starting blocks on Friday it should be for this portrayal as Mr. Freeze in one of those rubbish Batman films of the late nineties. If anything is going to put you off all things related to snow and ice then it’s this:
Here’s the latest in our continuing “the Winter Olympics is sort of a bit shit” series, Steven Bradbury winning gold in the short-track speed skating during the 2002 Games at Salt Lake City:
There’s something pleasingly un-Australian about the way Bradbury glides apologetically over the line for victory. He should feel sheepish: exactly the same thing happened in the semi-final. It’s definitely fun, but in a slapstick Saturday night primetime way. You can’t help feeling that custard and Stuart Hall should be involved somehow, or at least Bobby Davro in a fat suit.
I shouldn’t mock: it would take me about four days to complete the distance. There’s only so much momentum you can build up if you aren’t able to take your hands off the side of the rink.
Back in 1988 I hadn’t quite developed the requisite faculties to distinguish between what was amazing and what was shit. Hence I really liked Gordon the Gopher and Peparamis, but I was immune to the general ridicule thrown at Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards during the Winter Olympics in Calgary. I just thought he had a massive chin and looked a bit like Penfold.
So I went through the archives at Youtube to have a look for myself and make some sort of retrospective judgement:
Yeah, he’s shit.