London Calling

The Olympic spirit is best expressed in the Olympic Creed:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

And so how many athletes will travel to London with this in mind? Not many!!

As they say in the US of A: “If winning wasn’t important, then why bother keeping score?” And, of course, this is all that really matters – winning, not whining.

There was a time, before World War II (see the movie Chariots of Fire) when the Olympic Movement truly was (or so they would have us believe…) about fair competition. This was the era of the Amateur; a time when the love of competing was, genuinely, more important than winning.

Well, now it isn’t; gold is everything whereas silver and bronze are, at times, a national embarrassment. Personally, I would be absolutely thrilled to win a bronze medal in the Rubber Band Paperslug Distance Challenge, which just happens to be one of the newly recognized Olympic sports this year.

That brings us to London 2012. Here we are, four years on from Beijing 2008 and the magnificent Bird’s Nest stadium. It will be interesting to see what London, and Great Britain, can bring to the Olympic Movement… the age-old sport of darts, three-legged races, cricket (which, for Americans, is abhorrent because very often no one wins!), steak-and-kidney pie eating contests, tossing the caber (a Scottish sport, to be honest…), sheep shearing, and let’s not forget the old pastime of death by being “hung, drawn and quartered” where you either win or lose absolutely everything…

But, seriously if I may, the Olympic Movement today is all about the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and really not about the sport or the competitors at all.

“Hey there, I won a silver medal for Boxing.”

“Oh, mmm, well done, but where were you during the fantastic Opening Ceremony?”

“I was training”

“Oh, shame on you…”

There have been times, of course, when the Olympic Games were more about politics than sport:

  • 1964 Tokyo – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) bans South Africa over its apartheid policy on racial segregation.
  • 1968 Mexico City – Black Power salute by US African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
  • 1976 Montreal – 32 African countries boycott the games over the IOC’s refusal to ban New Zealand (All Blacks rugby team touring segregated South Africa).
  • 1980 Moscow – US-led boycott by 65 Western governments over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
  • 1984 Los Angeles – Soviet Union and 13 communist allies refuse to participate in retaliation for US boycott.
  • 1988 Seoul – North Korea refuses to participate due to the failure of its co-hosting bid. Cuba and Ethiopia also stay away in support of North Korea.
  • 1992 Barcelona – Santiago Eneldo causes outrage when, after finishing last in the “hop, skip and jump” (now known as the triple jump), he jogs a lap of honor wearing the Chilean flag upside down…

So, what are we in for this year? Well, I can guarantee a few things:

  • Cycling will get its usual share of doping positives.
  • The men’s 100 meters will not be run in under 9 seconds.
  • Carl Lewis is not competing – or so we are informed.
  • Female synchronized swimmers will remain under water for 5 minutes prompting lifeguards to intervene.
  • Football (Soccer) as an Olympic sport will disappoint to the point of abolition.
  • Gymnasium volleyball (really BORING!) will be replaced by Minefield volleyball (really EXCITING); Beach volleyball will stay because the players’ bodies are admirable…
  • Archery is overrated and involves too much technology; demands for a return to the era of Robin Hood and William Tell will abound.
  • The Steeplechase will also prove too dull and predictable, bringing calls for changes:
    • Flaming hurdles
    • Crocodile-infested “ponds”
    • Barbwire atop all hurdles

Let’s face it; what we all really want is a return to the games of Rome, the Gladiators with their honor, blood and sweat (and not just sweat wrapped in a national flag). The last competitor still standing wins…

The Olympic Movement will find a way through the myriad of potential disasters in London; the games will be a phenomenal success, and records will be broken – but will we remember the true spirit of the Games? Yes, but they are called the Paralympic Games and come after the big show…

I remain, 800 meters behind the rest of the world, but happy just to take part,

Santiago Eneldo

(Doped up and ready to run…. complaints and other sweets – complementary tweets – to