shades of mediocrity (ruby_chalice) wrote in ontd_political,
shades of mediocrity

The Olympics: Better Than They Looked On The Tin ...

Charlie Brooker Casts His Eye Over The London 2012 Olympics ...

I think he speaks for many of us on this one. Few Brits seemed enthusiastic about the games in the 7 year build up. We appear to have risen to the occasion.

Thanks, Olympics, for confounding my inner cynic. In the run up to the Games, I was expecting the whole thing to be little more than a festival of trademarks. The papers were full of stories about jackbooted brand police waterboarding 80-year-old women who had knitted unofficial "London 2012" bobble hats for their grandkids. Locog stormtroopers prowled the streets, machine-gunning anyone who so much as dared to picture the Olympic rings in their mind's eye without paying £25bn in advance for the inner-life sponsorship rights. Then they announced plans to ban non-Olympic vehicles from every single road in the capital apart from Horn Lane in Acton, which meant people were going to be forced to drive their cars through buildings and rivers and way up into the sky just to get to work.

Everything was terrible. And then the Games began and suddenly everything sort of wasn't. The opening ceremony helped, with its mix of spectacle and eccentricity. I was in America, watching NBC's widely mocked time-shifted coverage, which dropped the Abide With Me section in favour of Ryan Seacrest interviewing Michael Phelps. Seacrest is America's answer to Ant and Dec, but less so. Imagine someone used a computer to combine Ant and Dec into one body, then accidentally leant on the keyboard and deleted their imaginations.

Presumably the glimpse of Phelps was deemed necessary because he was missing from the opening parade, resting his gills on the eve of his first swim. The parade of nations goes on a bit, although NBC gave it some additional bite thanks to commentator Bob Costas, who sat in his box pissing on every country passing beneath him. From him, I learned that Bangladesh is the most heavily populated country to have never won a medal, that Madagascar's achievements pale into insignificance compared to its indirect association with Madagascar the CGI cartoon, and that Kiribati has no regularly scheduled flights to Honolulu. He greeted Pakistan and Iran like suspected paedophiles arriving at a barbecue, and as the Egyptian team strode into the stadium, waving and smiling, he dissed the Arab spring. "From military dictatorship to Jeffersonian democracy? Not exactly."

Yet despite this layer of bullshit (which seems to have irritated US viewers as much as it did me), enough of the ceremony leaked through to make me feel a tad sniffly and homesick. I flew home the following day. The mood when I landed was markedly different from when I left. Was the nation pleased to see me? No. It was indoors, watching sport. And soon, I was joining them.

I have no idea why some things qualify as Olympic sports and others don't, though there's an obvious and heavy class bias in favour of things you can imagine royals doing in a tapestry, such as archery or dressage. Falconry would surely be included if Ken Loach hadn't depicted a commoner doing it in the film Kes. You need your own castle grounds to practise half these sports. No wonder a disproportionate number of our victors thus far seem notably posh, apart from Bradley Wiggins, the first member of Oasis to attend a London comprehensive school and win four gold medals.

Not to do traditional blueblood sports down, but surely becoming a world-class Battlefield 3 multiplayer competitor involves as much skill and dedication as teaching a horse to mince like a 1970s sitcom homosexual in the anachronistic "dressage". And Battlefield 3 has a far lower financial bar-to-entry, as does darts. Or hide-and-seek. Crazy golf is a huge missed opportunity too. Imagine an Olympic-scale crazy golf course designed by the nation's weirdest art students. You'd watch the shit out of that.

Still, despite my confusion over the more pageant-like events, I'm finding the Olympics hypnotically watchable, partly because the BBC's coverage is so crisp and comprehensive and informative and useable, and isn't jammed full of brand names and commercials. And it's partly because … well … look, I don't know.

I don't know. Understand this: for 100% of my life so far, I found watching sport – any sport – marginally less interesting than watching cardboard exist. Now my eyeballs are eating it up, even while my brain fails to make sense of it. Take the swimming. I have no idea why there are so many different flavours: 50m, 200m, 400m, 800m, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle, relay, marathons, medleys … there's everything bar an event called Swimming While Thinking About Fleetwood Mac. At the 1900 Paris Olympics there was a 200m obstacle course, in which swimmers "had to climb over a pole, then climb over a row of boats, and then swim under another row of boats". That was virtually the only thing missing from these Games. I've seen endless hours of swimming. By choice. You could leave it on in the background. It was like having a fish tank full of mysterious water people in the corner of the room. Made me feel like a god tinkering in his shed, glancing at his pets now and then. Oddly comforting. And everything in the velodrome looks great too. It's Battle of the Planets on wheels, and could only be improved with laser turrets or full compulsory nudity, or both.

At the time of writing, the running-and-jumping stuff has begun in earnest; the sheer physical agony of which I can personally relate to thanks to hours spent playing Track and Field in the 80s. No reason to believe this won't become another time sponge. So yes, thanks, Olympics, for confounding my inner cynic, and not being awful. And for, I suppose, on balance, I admit, I confess, in a whisper – actually being quite good.

Tags: journalism, nbc, olympics, uk

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