Tim Walker: Olympians do it for the love of sport

Tales From The Water Cooler: How can you get emotionally involved in a story when all you see is the final scene?
  • @timwalker

I've always had the same problem with the Olympics. And it's not the traffic congestion in Central London, nor is it the ghastly amount of corporate sponsorship. It's not the colossal governmental overspend, nor the incompetence of the security operation, nor the surface-to-air missiles on the roofs of residential blocks (Seriously, though: surface-to-air missiles?) though none of the above have exactly contributed to the Spirit of the Games.

No, my problem with the Olympics would be the same were they in Paris or Sao Paolo instead of London. At the FIFA World Cup, for example, you have a month to grow attached to a team or to a player, to witness their rise and fall, to watch a narrative unfold. At the Olympics, on the other hand, all you get is the last 30 seconds or so of an athlete's four-year story: man/woman jumps/runs/throws something; crowd cheers. And how can you get emotionally involved in a story when all you see is the final scene? That's my problem with the Olympics: I find it hard to care.

I was recently having this argument with a Games-loving friend for the third or fourth time. My problem with the Olympics, he said, is precisely what's great about them. But for a few Bradley Wigginses, most of the athletes involved are people you've barely heard of, who (unlike footballers) aren't over-paid, over-exposed, over-indulged. They're taking part purely for the love of their sport, and this is the greatest moment of their careers.

He's right, of course. And I feel bad now. So bad, in fact, that I may even watch some of it, if there's nothing else on. Which there won't be, obviously – because it's the Olympics, duh.