Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Who said the Olympics are about sport?

London wins the Olympics and already people are moaning. One of the most prestigious, awesome and downright inspirational spectacles we could ever hope to see, and they complain. Can we make moaning an Olympic sport?

There seem to be two main reasons the killjoys use to argue that London getting the Olympics is a bad thing. The first is that they don't like sport. This is a flawed argument on several fronts. To begin with, lots of people do like sport. I like sport. All the people jumping up and down on the telly seem to like sport.

Somebody told me today, "English people don't like sport." I think what he really meant is "I'm English and I don't like sport. The fella sitting next to me doesn't like sport either. Ergo all English people don't like sport." Any philsopher can tell you this is an invalid argument. I can too, but without the equations. (Apparently, the "Gaelics" do like sport. But we all know there's none of them in Britain...)

Personally, I don't like Harry Potter. I'm a librarian you know, so this must be a trait in all librarians. Only people of less worthy professions (archivists, for example) like wizards. I think I'll go to all the bookshops in Oxford (there are quite a few) and moan at them. Why on earth do they bother selling them to anyone when it's clear no librarians want to read them? It's not like they're inspiring children to read or anything. I think I might tell JK Rowling not to write any more. I know, let's ban Harry Potter!

OK, so no one actually suggested we should ban sport. Not yet anyway...

Besides, anybody who thinks the Olympics are just about sport is sadly misguided and, quite frankly, a little narrow minded. It's like Field of Dreams. Everybody knows that film isn't really about baseball, but about following your... well, dreams. The Olympics are about people as much as they are about sport. We may remember the winners, but we remember those who persevered bravely and lost with dignity even more. Who will ever forget Eric the Eel? And who thinks eel looks silly with a capital E? The Olympics are full of human drama (what is this? Oprah?) and emotion and brilliant people.

The second reason people seem to be negative about the Olympics is money. Yes, we all know it costs a lot of money to host the Olympics. Billions of pounds will be spent on building an Olympic villiage that can be turned into low cost housing afterwards, on constructing a fantastic stadium that will bring sports facilities to local communities, on building a focal point for one of the most deprived areas in Britain. So much money that will do nothing except make life better for a lot of people. What a waste of money.

Yes, we need to make sure that the plans are right, that the money spent does create facilities and buildings that will be put to use in the future. Negativity won't do that. Let's look forward and bring something good to a new generation. There's seven years to get it right.

Of course, the real issue we need to start thinking about is: will Britain compete in the football in 2012? Yes, and the selection of players will become a sporting minefield against the background of FIFA pressure to make it a permanent arrangement. No, and Britain loses its perfect record - hosted twice, competed twice, won twice.

I think we should avoid the controversy by entering a crap team. A random mix of Sunday leaguers from across the home nations, because friendship is more important than goals. Maybe they'll lose twenty nil with bravery and dignity in a blur of human drama, which is of course the same as winning.

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