I hate the Olympics – Rio 2016 will be like watching school sports day writ very, very large

The Games are full of protocols and pumped up officials and hypocrisy. I am turned off by the supreme pomposity of it all, and I won't be made to feel inferior to someone who can run a four-minute mile

Sean O'Grady
Friday 05 August 2016 15:47
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Mo Farah (centre) and Usain Bolt are nice, entertaining people, I’ve no doubt – but they’re not superior humans to me
Mo Farah (centre) and Usain Bolt are nice, entertaining people, I’ve no doubt – but they’re not superior humans to me

Running round and throwing things. That, to me, sums up what the Olympics is all about. And, for me, it's as dull as it sounds. It's like watching school sports day writ very, very large.

I am yet to be convinced – feel free to try – why I should care whether someone who is good at running very fast is marginally quicker on a particular day than someone else good at running very fast. Or at chucking stuff. “Track 'n’ field” I think they call it. And, yes, I am aware there are other, more obscure sports that get their chance in the sun every four years – rowing, archery, dressage, that kind of thing. Again, equally yawnsome. And again, you’re welcome to try and persuade me otherwise. If that effort includes a free trip to Brazil, then I am open to the offer of persuasion; I am a journalist, after all.

But I am also turned off by the supreme pomposity of it all, which looks especially misplaced in an era of drug taking and general cheating. The Olympics, even more than international football or rugby, takes itself extremely seriously.

The Games are full of protocols and pumped up officials and hypocrisy. Remember all that stuff at the 2012 London games – an even bigger bore, what with it being on the doorstep – about people not being able to come into the grounds if they were wearing a Pepsi t-shirt in case the sponsor, Coca Cola, got upset. And the most irritating of the lot is Sebastian Coe. I can’t say what it is about Lord Coe, but he’s always irritated, even during the time when he was William Hague’s chief of staff and used to train him in unarmed combat. (I know it’s difficult to believe, but it really did happen – strange but true, like Elvis meeting Nixon.) I couldn’t give a flying trainer if he once won a medal for running.

What about the cheating? Obviously I’m not so bothered about that, because I’m not bothered about the whole thing. I just wonder where cheating ends and “training” begins.

Russian Authorities Covered Up Doping Sochi Olympics - WADA Report

Maybe the best thing would be to level the playing field, if you’ll pardon the expression: let everyone take performance enhancing drugs and see what happens. Not the ones that are poisonous or dangerous, just the stuff that turns up in cough medicines and the like. If we know there’s a random distribution of drugs in the competition, and everyone has an equal chance to try out whatever works for them, then I can’t see the problem. After all, many of them must use those pills and powders you see in the fitness stores that are supposed to build muscles, and no-one minds about that. Some are veggies; others live on red meat. It’s up to them.

If the Russians want to artificially enhance their results, and no-one fancies stopping them, then the only logical thing is to let everyone get their hands on the drugs. Anyway, why do we have to celebrate this quasi-fascistic celebration of physical prowess and perfection? I do not feel inferior to someone who can run a four-minute mile, and I resent being asked to look up to them. Andy Murray, Mo Farah and Usain Bolt are nice, entertaining people, I’ve no doubt, but I don’t think they’re superior humans to me.

While I’m at it, I’d also like to ask what the abiding legacy of the 2012 London Olympics actually was? As far as I can see it amounts to some sort of giant helter skelter, a scandalously cheap new football stadium for West Ham United and, er, that’s about it.

Where is the generation of athletic young people we were supposed to be creating? Where has the transformational national mood gone?

There’s the clip of the Queen doing the James Bond thing, which will, I admit, retain its charm. Even so, whatever we spent on the jamboree plainly wasn’t worth it. I’d have used the money to found the best free grammar school in the country in Brixton, but that’s just me.

I daren’t think how much the Games are costing Rio and Brazil; Montreal has only just finished paying for its 1976 show.

For me, it's all too much to bear. The Olympics totally dominates the media and favourite television programmes are shoved sideways to make way for live coverage of someone trying to jump over a sandpit. I had planned to take some leave over the next three weeks, but now know that I can’t because anywhere I go in the world there’ll be a screen showing someone in trunks on a podium in tears while their national anthem is played, like they’ve saved a family from terrorists or broken a drugs cartel (no irony intended).

Instead, I will stay at work where I'll have scarely more chance of avoiding the entire tedious circus. Wake me up when it’s over, and give me a gold medal in Olympics Avoidance Endurance.

Please don’t say the only reason I think all this is because I’m fat and lazy. I am – but there will be lots of people, devoid of any sense of the unconscious satire being enacted, who will be tucking into a giant bag of Doritos and an eight-pack of Stella while they watch, gripped, by some unbelievably healthy and fit cyclists going round in circles in world record time.

Olympophiles, in other words, can be just as obese and idle as Olympophobes such as me. Which, I think, proves my point rather neatly about the Games’ benefit to public health.

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