Riot for gold

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The Independent Online

One of the joys of modern Olympic Games is the discovery that yet another unlikely activity – impossible to judge objectively, uninteresting to watch or mechanised to the point of absurdity – is in fact an official medal-entitling sport. To synchronised swimming and ice-dancing we now add the freestyle mêlée for teenagers in search of a drink, the rubber-bullet shooting at moving targets, and, of course, competitive pharmacology, in which participants try to establish if given substances are covered by the ban on EPO.

One of the joys of modern Olympic Games is the discovery that yet another unlikely activity – impossible to judge objectively, uninteresting to watch or mechanised to the point of absurdity – is in fact an official medal-entitling sport. To synchronised swimming and ice-dancing we now add the freestyle mêlée for teenagers in search of a drink, the rubber-bullet shooting at moving targets, and, of course, competitive pharmacology, in which participants try to establish if given substances are covered by the ban on EPO.

Little wonder the television audience – in this country in any case – has been so attracted to the snooker-like qualities of the peaceful, wholesome sport of brushing ice backwards with a broom. No drugs or violence there, but it is a little disillusioning to discover that the Scottish gold medallists who captured hearts and headlines were helped in their sweeping and stone-sliding technique by computer analysis at the Centre for Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.

It seems the tradition of sporting amateurism is safer, after all, in the hands of the youngsters trying to storm the Budweiser tent before it closed at midnight on Saturday.

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