Sarah Sands: If everyone is sporty, who is left to watch?

Fitness fanatics are spurred on by the Olympics, but spectators have a role too
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The Independent Online

The Olympics, until this weekend, have been a matter for the leader columns on how we must show the correct proportions of disapproval/encouragement towards our hosts, maintaining a diplomatic ambivalence just this side of meaninglessness. I was rather delighted to see the British protesters who beat Chinese security to stage a Tibetan protest.

Otherwise, the stories were about smog, and whether journalists were having a nice enough time.

What interests me about the Chinese Olympics, funnily enough, is the sport. I went to the Athens Olympics, where the stories sprang from cost, smog and whether journalists were in good enough hotels with enough free passes round the city. My two great moments were watching the male gymnasts and the female beach volleyball team.

I bumped into the editor of, Mark Law, who had booked his holiday to follow the British judo team. We basked in our specialist areas of knowledge. What Mark Law loved about the judo was the art of advanced moves. What I loved about gymnastics was the agony of extreme discipline and the distorted physiques, children with Atlas-style upper body strength.

Political sporting evangelists talk of the social good. So far as I can make out, the reason why Britain landed the next Games was that we have fatter hoodies than other countries. The Olympic ideal is not something to which the general population can aspire, but the Games are a dog whistle to obsessives and loners. I do not think that schoolchildren will be take up long-distance running, but the kind of people whose morning press-ups are their reason for being will relish the excuse for further punishment.

I encountered Olympic fever twice last week. Once was at a business lunch, where I was discussing exciting advertising opportunities with a high-powered media buyer whose eyes, it is fair to say, were beginning to glaze. Then it tumbled out that she had torn herself away from triathlon training, a sop after her extreme running through the Himalayas.

This Lara Croft could find no peace of mind in ordinary marathons any more. She was running supermarathons of 45 miles upwards – the beauty of extreme marathons being that there is no limit to distance or unfriendly terrain.

Then, I was in mid-sentence about my plans for the leftovers in the fridge, when my husband slipped out of the door and started cycling towards Somerset. When he refused to meet my eye that evening, I steeled myself and went to check his computer. It confirmed my worst fears. There, unmistakably, were the routes of the Tour de France.

Physical excellence is not a friendly, Scandinavian form of wholesomeness. It is an all consuming madness. We should cheer the Olympic athletes – but not try to emulate them.

Balthazar must choose between his family and sex

One sorrow of a dissolving marriage is that friends of the couple start to take sides. In the case of Balthazar and Rosetta Getty, the whole world is taking up arms. It is more emotive and divisive than oil or global warming. One internet posting warns Sienna and her "bulldozer of a vagina" to clear out. Another protests that it is Balthazar, not Sienna, who is to blame.

Every fragile plot development is felicitously captured by the paparazzi. Lustful scenes between adulterous husband and mistress on a yacht, repentant husband packing his bags to return, tired wife and mother holding infant on doorstep, anguished mistress chain-smoking outside hotel. Are there scriptwriters assigned to this affair?

I am backing Rosetta. We should always be on the side of social order and she has four children. My advice (which I am sure she will appreciate) is not to fall into the trap of trying to prove to her husband that she can be glamorous and carefree too. There is always a moment where wronged wives dress up to the nines and go on the town with their girlfriends. If they or their husbands are public figures the media will encourage this, describing them as " stunning" or " showing X what he is missing".

In fact, the women almost always look thin and distressed under the mask of make-up. What brought Balthazar back was guilt towards his wife and children. It may not keep him at the family home, but if I were Rosetta I would make sure the paparazzi had cameras trained on each pushchair and cot. Let's be clear: Balthazar must choose between sex or his children. The outcome is probably regret and discontent whichever way he jumps. At least we know the cameras will be there to record it.

First aid should be taught in schools

The actress and writer Imogen Stubbs came into the office very shaken last week. She had returned from holiday in Tuscany where her teenage daughter had experienced an anaphylactic shock from an undiagnosed allergy.

Imogen, in a state of utter terror, rushed her daughter to the hospital. Thank God, her daughter got her adrenalin injections in time, but it was a close thing.

Imogen and I fell to discussing our shaky first-aid knowledge. Imogen's stepdaughter, brought up in Australia, was taught first aid at school, but most children in Britain are not, and become helpless adults. Wouldn't it useful for them to learn how to save lives before being taught how to have sex?

The West Country is the new Notting Hill

Falling house prices are a given, but I have noticed a striking exception. Coastal houses, particularly in the West Country, seem to be rising to a new level.

I had an inkling of this when a newspaper editor who had been astonishingly astute about the housing market and lived in an inviolate area of Notting Hill upped and moved to the coast. I thought he had lost his marbles. Then an estate agent told me that houses like this were "literally priceless".

Last week I had coffee with another journalist who talked of her "humble cottage on the Dorset coast". I wasn't going to fall for this lark again. I guess that the Hamptonisation of the British coastline is yet another example of the visionary commercial instinct of Johnnie Boden.

Janet Street-Porter is away