August 10th, 2008

Going For Gold

 We had the telly on yesterday morning. We saw some swimming and some badminton. Then we saw a middle-aged horseman in a top hat riding round in circles with his head bobbing up and down like one of those noddy dogs people have in the back windows of their cars. The name of this particular "sport" is dressage.

Swimming, badminton, horseback riding while dressed like a time traveller from the 1890s- these are all minority interests. Normally they wouldn't get on TV at all. But because it's the Olympics we're supposed to have developed an overnight passion for them. Well, I haven't. 

The same goes for the sailing. My parents had a sailboat once and my mother still remembers how I nearly ran it into an enormous, rusty, old buoy. I hated sailing. It's a sport- like many of the Olympic sports- only open to people with bags and bags of money. Because we're the nation of Drake, Nelson and Fisher we Brits are quite good at it- and it's one of the few sports in which we stand a reasonable chance of winning gold.  So suddenly this chap I'd never heard of and whose name I continue not to know is a national hero. There was footage of him on the news, sitting in his little cockboat- becalmed- while the other competitors raced past him. And then I remembered that we are also the nation of Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Mr Bean.

All the build-up, all the hype, all the vast expenditure- and what's it for? It's for a bunch of activities which- in the grand scheme of things- are about as significant as growing prize tomatoes or building models of the House of Commons out of matchsticks. The Olympics is really just the village fete gone global- a multi-billion dollar celebration of hobbyism.

Image:John Arbuthnot Fisher, 1904.JPG

Jackie Fisher- quite a good sailor.