Christina Patterson: The joy of the human body, unshackled

I grew up thinking sport was for boys, not girls. Boy, have we girls done well

Share
Related Topics

In the end, I wanted to watch it all. I couldn't, unfortunately, because of things like work, and people, and life. I couldn't get to the Olympic Park, because it never occurred to me to try to get tickets, and when I did, at the same time as two and half million other people, it was too late. But this year, at this Olympics, for the first time in my life, I really wanted to watch it all.

I hadn't watched the Olympics since I was a child. What I liked then, and what got me into a leotard, was gymnastics. The leotard, or at least the wearing of the leotard, didn't last. Neither did the waving of the tennis racquet bought because of Bjorn Borg. And nor, unfortunately, did any interest in any sport. My father and brother watched it all the time, but I grew up thinking sport was for boys, not girls. Boy, has this Olympics not just been for boys. Boy, have we girls done well. There we've been, if those of us who've been stuck on our sofas can dare to say "we", running like the wind, slicing through water and flying like a bird. There we've been, throwing spears and pointing swords, and powering pedals and hitting balls, and gripping wooden sticks, and metal poles, and hurling something that seems to turn into a flying saucer. There we've been, clenching our muscles and setting our jaws, and gathering every last ounce of our last strength to get there, to make it, to win gold.

And we have! We, if British women who didn't actually do it can dare say "we", have won more gold medals than ever before. It has been very, very nice to see all these British women winning gold. But it has also been nice to see British men winning gold, and Chinese men winning gold, and Jamaican men winning gold – and, in particular, one Jamaican man winning gold – and British men, and Russian women, and Kenyan men, and Dutch women, also winning silver and bronze. It has, apart from the people playing badminton who tried to lose, which wasn't much fun for the people who'd paid to see them, been very nice to watch it all. It has been nice for the reason politicians like to say it's nice: to see hard work get its reward. It has been nice to be reminded, or at least for those of us who have forgotten, if we ever knew it, to be reminded that sport can actually be fun. And it has been very, very, very nice to see what a human body looks like when it's performing at its peak.

Most of us know what a male body looks like when it's very fit, and very fast, and very toned. It looks, I think we can all agree, and so would he, like Usain Bolt. But the women who are presented to us every day as examples of what women are meant to look like don't look like Jessica Ennis or Christine Ohuruogu or Nicola Adams. They look, or most of them look, like women who think the muscles in your calves are what you use to stay upright in your heels.

Many of us, particularly those of us who spend our lives hunched over computers, particularly those of us whose idea of a good time is to swap a computer for a book, actually forget that what we live in is a body. We think a body is there for food and drink and sex. We think legs are what get you from wherever you're sitting now to wherever you're sitting next. We think moving the body is a chore.

These special men and women, in these special Olympic Games, at this special time for our country, have reminded us that the human body is as important as the mind. We may not know all that much about the journey that took us from animals hunting for our daily food to creatures that expect to get everything at the click of a mouse. We may wonder when it was that our bodies stopped being a tool for survival and became instead something that just gave pleasure or pain. We may think that, if we've never leapt, with poles, over wooden bars, or done backwards somersaults from a very high board, we're really not likely to now.

But we may also think that to see other people doing these things, and clenching their muscles, and setting their jaws, and gathering every last ounce of their last strength, hasn't just given us some of the best entertainment we've seen. It has made us want to do more with the body we've got.

twitter.com/queenchristina_

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference