Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Olympic Trial

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Olympic Trial

Article excerpt

A.W. Purdue, who is no fan of sport, despairs at the thought of a summer given over to Games madness.

It is bad enough at the best of times for those like me who have little interest in sport but are assumed at work or in the pub to be passionately concerned about the fortunes of Chelsea, Newcastle or whichever is the most popular football team in the vicinity. Our female counterparts are slightly better off, for few automatically assume their enthusiasm for sport - except perhaps when Wimbledon is on. We all, however, have to put up with the media's obsession, especially on Saturdays, when news programmes find the fate of the euro of minor interest compared with sporting events. Now, along comes the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games: for many this event promises hours of excitement, but for those of us who couldn't care less, boredom on a mega scale.

It is not as though the majority of Olympic events are popular spectator sports. At least with football and cricket, journalists and commentators can point to the large crowds at Premier League or Test matches to justify the coverage they give them. Although athletic events may draw decent audiences, the numbers pale in comparison with attendances at Celtic v Rangers or Chelsea v Tottenham games. The achievements and dedication of the competitors may be as great as or greater than that of, say, footballers, but a local athletics club doesn't draw upon the same tribal loyalties: even less energetic sports such as darts and snooker have proved more compelling to television viewers than running and swimming. Why, then, is it assumed that relentless coverage of the Olympics will delight the nation?

Many hearts must have sank when the ersatz ceremonials began in late May with the lighting of the Olympic torch by Greek maidens in a Hollywood version of classical dress. Many of the ceremonials are due to Pierre de Coubertin, the Frenchman responsible for the first modern Olympics in 1896, although the Olympic torch relay was one of the Third Reich's additions to de Coubertin's invented or refurbished traditions for the 1936 Games (brilliantly portrayed by Hitler's film-maker, Leni Riefenstahl). The arrival of the torch amid much jubilation brought home to us heretics that we were in for it: for days the media would report the journeys of the torch around the UK; then would come the real thing, with massive TV coverage of people jumping over hurdles, vaulting with long poles or leaping into sandpits. …

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