Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

The ancient Greeks had no word for sport. Their word for the Olympic games "agones" led directly to our word ( agony. Suffering, struggle, pain.

All in abundance during the recent saga at the FA, but without any of the heroic endeavours attributed to the Greek interpretation of athletics that considered those qualities essential.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the world of sport at the moment has more tarnish than a battered tin cup trophy at an amateur golf tournament.

This week the Olympics returns to its home in Greece.

In some ways the contrast couldn't be starker. Rather than the original battle hardened warriors competing naked but for a dusting of powder, the Olympic stadium will be filled with athletes and delegations dressed in shiny one-piece body suits and silly hats.

If it was originally all about the competition, it is now all about the show. An explosion of white light, a stadium flooded with water and giant paper boats.

A flame leaping across the roof while hundreds of drummers simulate a heartbeat. Today's games are a costume spectacular, taking place in a modern day setting which has been hastily built behind the scenes by illegal workers kept in cramped inhumane conditions.

Those acting out the drama on the track face the rumours that doping and cheating make the show a faiade that extends way beyond the opening ceremony.

All the while, the most aggressive competition we'll see for two weeks will be the battle between the global brands whose logos have been so carefully sewn on to running shorts in third world sweatshops.

Will it be entertaining? Very. Is it tainted? Absolutely.

Unlike Ancient Greece and Rome where "sport" was literally a matter of life and death, we English can never make up our minds whether to take it seriously.

On the one hand we make life utterly miserable for top class athletes and tennis players like Tim Henman ( really, it's not his fault, he's just not good enough to win ( and some of our middle distance runners would rather starve themselves into a state of anorexia in the mistaken belief that this will shave a few seconds off their time and avoid the tabloid hell of failure. …

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