It's her eyes that really get me – big, gorgeous green pools magnified a thousandfold on the huge screens that hang above the "Bird's Nest" Stadium. It is the very last event of the last evening of track and field, and this is the one I've been waiting for: the women's high jump and I'm in love... big time.
I'm reliably informed by a couple of ex-Olympic athletes I happen to know that the Olympic Village is something of a shagfest. It makes sense, of course. It's an extremely confined living space in which some of the world's fittest men and women are forced to bunk up for two weeks far, far away from home.
Then there's the element of competition after training for four years for something that might not last any longer than 10 seconds – you wouldn't be surprised, win or lose, if an athlete might not look around for either a little "consolation" or even a reward that might last a tiny bit longer.
One of my sources was quite explicit: "The swimmers are the worst. Pretty much all their events happen in the first week and then it's party time. And they've got the best bodies... "
Another informer told me a graphic story of a late-night encounter at the last Olympics with a Scandinavian decathlete on a pole pault landing-mat that was straight out of the pages of Penthouse.
The Times ping-pong correspondent over here, Matthew Sayed, told me that when he was playing table tennis for Great Britain in Barcelona he "got laid more times than in my whole life up until then ..." When questioned further he admitted that the number of "conquests" was two (he was a late developer) but if a ping-pong player is doing well, just imagine what the rest are up to!
With this situation fairly common knowledge it's a matter of some concern to many journalists in Beijing that their passes do not allow them access into the Village of Sin. You can understand why we are kept out, though. Athletes don't want media snoopers staring at them over breakfast or taking secret snaps on drunken evenings. Also, on a more practical point, just looking at the shape that most of the media pack out here are in, they probably just don't want us weakening the gene pool.
As a happily married man these kinds of shenanigans are obviously not my bag anyway. My romantic interests out here have been confined to a pathetically unrequited long-distance crush on a Croatian. Which brings me to the ladies' high jump.
As a much younger and slimmer me I was something of a high jumper myself. It wasn't something that you trained for or did any practice in. It was just something I seemed to be quite good at. Every year I would just turn up and do pretty well at school sports day (1.78 metres, since you ask). I genuinely loved the event – there is little more satisfying in life than the feeling of hitting the mat knowing you have cleared the bar. It's very Zen.
Already an aficionado of the sport, I was even more hooked when I first saw a photo of the current world champion Blanka Vlasic (right) who is hands down the most gorgeous competitor at these Olympics. The "Tall Women Admirers Complete Resource Page" (I kid you not) informed me that she is 6ft 4in, beautiful and a shoe-in for the gold medal. She was even expected to break the current world record of 2.09m. It was going to be a bumper evening for fans of very tall women high jumpers from Croatia ... like me.
It all went very smoothly to start with. Blanka (as I call her) cleared every height effortlessly and I could see (through my high-powered binoculars fixed permanently on her) that she seemed totally relaxed and focused and... pretty... so very pretty.
Then, disaster! She failed her first attempt at 2.05m. There was a sudden flash of vulnerability in those big green eyes and I longed to jump down from the first tier and run to comfort her. Sadly, I'm a former high jumper, not high dropper, and I was quite far up. Also, there was a very muscular Chinese security man just to my left and I was pretty sure he was packing a piece. Poor, beautiful Blanka cleared the height on her second attempt but she was now vulnerable against an unfancied (and unfanciable) bespectacled Belgian, Tia Hellebaut (pictured left), who was on fire.
This upstart librarian had cleared the 2.05m on her first attempt. When Blanka failed to clear 2.07m with any of her following three attempts, it was all over. Hellebaut instantly became the "fifth famous Belgian" of the Games, along with her four compatriots who took silver in the 4x100m relay. Blanka, my lovely Blanka, was in total despair.
I wandered out of the "Bird's Nest" for the last time and trudged back alone to my hotel room on the third floor of the MPC (room number 0535: no pressure... ).
As I slipped into my cold, lonely bed with only the uber-dull CNN for company I looked out of the window and could see the lights burning brightly over in the Olympic Village. I buried my head deep into my pillow and wept like a baby.
It's really time I came home.Reuse content