Blog Archives

Olympic Memories : A Top 10?

I thought I might try and confine myself, somewhat, there are so many…

From Andy Murray evicting a whole family of monkeys off his back at Wimbledon, to the exuberance and joy of the Jamaican sprinters; from watching Mo Farah in ‘none shall pass mode’ in the 5000m to the set of David Rudisha’s race face before breaking his own 800m world record – limiting it to just ten might be tricky.

Who would be interested in my memories anyway? People will have their own. Yet our memories will, in part, be collective: sharing the same remembered moments with unmet others around the world. How often does that happen? That of itself is probably worth a mention in anyone’s top ten.

The Olympics: a critic’s viewpoint

I read this interview with Wilf Self on and I have pulled out this extract where Self labels the Olympics as horseshit. Some of his points? Well it’s hard to not agree in parts, particularly about the role of corporate sponsorship, but what intrigued me most was his assertion, that I have put in bold type, where he states that winning and losing are essentially functionless human endeavours.

Philosophically, I might end up agreeing, but I would need a long time to think about it. However, biologically and evolutionally speaking (is that a word, or did it just evolve?), winning and trying not to lose have been physically and mentally hard-wired for our survival.

In the world of Will Self, would we then become, ideally, brains in boxes, or, is there still something to be said for celebrating the possibilities of whole humans: body, mind and soul?

Not sure, just asking.

    From street games to the Games, will you give us a cynic’s word on the Olympics?

I’ve been a constistently outspoken critic of the whole thing. I object to my tax money being wasted on it, and I object to performance sport in general. I think it’s horseshit. Why don’t you just go run in a field, with sheep? It’s meaningless that some guy on a bicycle gets given 20 million quid. And the way the Olympics exist in a grotesque linkage or synergy with the international finance capital is so obvious. Both are arenas that exalt an essentially functionless and useless human performance of winning and losing, and use that as the tail that wags the dog. That’s why the Olympics feed so enormously into the collective psyche.

    When it comes to London’s financial sporting performance, at least, we’ve seen recently that we all cheat and dope.

Exactly. The anology continues. HSBC has its doping scandal, as athletics has its own. The two of them are mirror images. No one should be shocked that there is corruption in the Olympics – that tickets are sold through foreign agents, that athletes are taking drugs and have huge financial contracts, that sponsors refuse to let people wear T-shirts with other corporate logos on them, that Macdonald’s makes you fat, that the infrastructure built in Stratford is useless to anybody, and that the Olympic legacy will not be fulfilled.

Schadenfreude is an unpleasant attribute, but if I were prone to it I could tell you that in a month or two’s time, the cost will come home big time, and people will start getting pissed off. The government couldn’t raise the money for the Olympics through the private sector, so the taxpayer had to put the money up for it – was forced to do so, undemocratically. And we will have nothing to show for it.

Katherine Grainger & Anna Watkins earlier today

And then I must just give a quick shout out to the grammarians who are raging about like rampant bulls, thoroughly hufflepuffed by approved Olympic nouns transmogrifying into new, and non-groovy Olympic verbs like medalling, to podium and skyrocketing. They aren’t the most elegant sounding, I’ll admit, but, ’twas ever thus linguistically I’m afraid, ’twas ever thus. Google it if you don’t believe me…

“You & Yours”

I used to listen to this Radio 4 programme about three times a week when I worked in photographic prop shop (textiles only). For some reason (and I was in my twenties) I preferred this station to any other. I like music, but not all day long, and I can’t stand the public ranting across the airwaves with their opinions.

You and Yours was hardly the highlight of the day. I think I thought it was some kind of consumer show, which I still believe it is, but it is somehow very serious and worthy and a little bit dull. The World at One with Nick Clarke (now sadly deceased) was like an auditory trip in comparison.

Yesterday I caught a bit in the car. In the same reverential tones as always, they reported on leisure activities for the disabled and I was suddenly transported. They talked to someone from Riding for the Disabled and I was reminded strongly of the transformational qualities that horses can play in our lives. I once helped out at a Riding for the Disabled club at Lee Valley in East London and I have never forgotten sharing in the enjoyment the riders so clearly felt on horseback.

The programme talked to an instructor with 35 years experience and the reporter asked her how the profoundly disabled cope with no strength in their limbs. The instructor had an answer that blew the question out of the water. She replied that she had, last June, taken on a new 5 year old pupil who had lost her legs and arms to meningitis. This young girl was now walking, trotting and steering independently. The instructor said that the dynamics of riding are more subtle than we imagine. It does not necessarily require extravagant flapping and kicking, instead we can do so much with our seat and core muscles and that the horses (not all but many) seem to understand and respond positively to a rider with disabilities. In fact, some tricky equine customers are equally transformed by their disabled riders.

I am not saying that the playing field is level in terms of competition; dressage for instance is graded by disability of the riders from 1-5 so those with a milder disability, say 2, will only compete against other riders deemed 2. I am certain though that those riders who come to riding with a disability are as rewarded, if not more so really, than those of us whose interest and relationship with horses is more mundane.