Tag Archives: Olympics

Tuesday TV Testimonials #15…

100m Final – Seoul Olympics, 1988

There’s something special about those five interlinked rings. I can sit down in front of the TV when the Olympics is on and be entertained by any sport… all right, maybe not the synchronised swimming, but most everything else.

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The Seoul Olympics in 1988 was the first time that I was old enough to watch live and understand what the hell was going on. The 100m final was the blue riband event and was always billed as Lewis the Olympic hero versus Johnson the world record holder – the other six guys could have stayed in the blocks for all the attention they were getting. I was a club-level runner back then and Carl Lewis was my favourite athlete, and I was ready to watch him retain the gold he had won four years earlier in Los Angeles.

And that’s just what he did. Well, kinda. Eventually.

As it played out, Canada’s Ben Johnson won in 9.79 seconds. That’s not blisteringly fast by today’s standards, but then it was a world record run, and my mate Carl trailed what felt like miles behind in 9.92 seconds.

I remember my disappointment as I was watching it, but – revisionist history of a bitter twelve year old fan or not – I also remember thinking something wasn’t quite right. As the race began Johnson was the only man to run the distance in under 9.9 seconds, and now here he was breaking 9.8 seconds. He flew down that track, and seemed to be picking up speed as he crossed the line.

Three days later, Johnson had his gold medal stripped and his record quashed after the most infamous drug scandal in the sport’s history, but even during that brief window between glory and castigation, it was becoming increasingly evident that Johnson had a devil sitting on his shoulder.

In some respects, the stigma of that race remains to this day, and track and field has never fully recovered; because for every Usain Bolt there’s a Justin Gatlin to remind everyone of the sport’s dark past.

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Anyone For… Greco-Roman Wrestling?

Well, the Olympics have started, and I’ll be honest – I love it. The opening ceremony was a bit of a drag, and when they wheeled out Muhammad Ali, I did squirm just a bit. Shame. The guy is a sporting hero, but his appearance in London didn’t feel – or look – quite right. When he lit the torch in Atlanta in 1996, that was fine, because that had significance, with the civil rights connotations and all that jazz, but this just felt contrived. Still, the guy did add a touch of class to a typically British spectacle…

I’m a bit of an Olympic geek, it must be said. You can often find me sitting down and watching sports I only ever really take an interest in every four years. I mean, who knew archery could be exciting? Or handball? Or beach volleyball? No, wait… we always knew that was a keeper. But no matter how much I get into these sports, my interest in them won’t spike again until Rio in 2016… and what do you know, we’re back at beach volleyball again.

Right now I’m watching floor gymnastics. I can appreciate the skill, even though it’s still a little funny to watch well-built guys running around in skin-tight leotards. Later, it’s boxing… with women! It’s an Olympic first. Fair enough, there is no mud or jelly or pillows involved (I don’t think), but if you can’t get excited about two chicks beating each other up for medals, you should check your pulse.

And these days, with digital television, it’s even better. Beijing 2008 was never like this (fine, I was late to the high def revolution, okay?). Press the red button, and if the sport is happening right now, you can watch it. How cool is that? You don’t have to wait for the BBC anymore: you’re in control. It’s amazing.

Right, what now…

A Quick Rant…

I have been a tennis fan for many years, so it annoys me when people who aren’t interested in tennis – who don’t actually care about sport at all – jump on the Andy Murray wagon just because he is Scottish (or British, if you want to play that card). Then these same people get annoyed when I have a go at them for not knowing what they are talking about. And if I even have the audacity to suggest that Federer will probably take him down in four sets today, well, somehow I’m being anti-British and not supporting the home-grown talent. It’s strange. It couldn’t possibly be that I actually think Roger is the better player…

I have no beef with people who follow tennis and want Murray to win for reason beyond the fact that he was born in Dunblane – it’s the ones who couldn’t pick him out of a line-up that I take issue with. I just don’t understand them.

It’s the kind of blind patriotism that is more than likely a pre-cursor to what we will see when the Olympics roll into town in a couple of weeks – when people who haven’t watched sport since they were knee high to the proverbial will suddenly become far too interested in archery and synchronised swimming, just because Britain has some guy or girl competing for last place – but if this country of sixty million gets more than eighteen gold medals, I’ll sew my lips together.

So yeah, I’m sure Murray will put in a commendable effort at SW19, but… better luck next time.