Marcus Berkmann: Must athletes all wear headphones?

Surely it's not beyond participants to emerge from their bubble briefly

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The Independent Online

Successful sportspeople can be a curious breed. Utterly dedicated, and tuned to snapping point, they can probably be forgiven for becoming just a little bit self-absorbed over the years. All that training may help them run faster or jump higher than anyone else, but it doesn't necessarily produce personalities you'd want to introduce to your friends or encounter in a dark alley. One need only see Lord Coe's sharp little crocodile eyes to know the truth of this.

But barely hours into these Olympics, before most of us watching on TV have had the chance to develop bedsores, connoisseurs have witnessed a brand new manifestation of sporting solipsism. Take a look at those swimmers walking out to do their swimming. They're not just wearing damagingly tight costumes. Many of them are also wearing headphones. My first thought was, is someone talking to them? Is there a coach on the line saying, "Stay focused. Concentrate. When you get in the water, remember to swim. When you reach the other end, turn round and come back"? No, it seems not. Instead, we learn, lane 1 is listening to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" while lane 2 is cutting a rug to "Saturday Night Fever". "How Deep Is Your Love" is on next. Always liked that one.

But hold on a second. The world is watching. Specifically, British swimming fans have paid through the nose for restricted-view seats behind bored executives on freebies and phoning their mistresses. Courtesy isn't the first word you associate with these Games, but surely it's not beyond participants to emerge from their bubble more than a few seconds before their event, and take the bloody headphones off? Or is this the namby-pamby talk of people who always come eighth out of eight?

I fear it will get worse when the athletics start. Athletes without headphones will be like policemen without machine guns. Long-jumpers will sit in their chairs, freaking out to dubstep or grime. Marathon runners, as ever, will insist on Duran Duran, disregarding the sprinters' mockery.

One man will stand alone. For Dai Greene, world 400m hurdles champion and TeamGB captain, has had his own piece of music specially composed and recorded, for him (and only him) to listen to just before he runs. This, he hopes, will give him the edge over other runners, who have been compelled by idleness or financial necessity to select their tunes from just 120 years of recorded music. The poor, deluded fools. Behind all the coaches, physiotherapists, nutritionists and loony doctors in the dugout, the latest addition to TeamGB's backroom staff, the DJ, will smile with pride at a job well done.

Tomorrow, the High Five: should it be banned by international law?