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Which New Olympic Sport Would You Choose?

USA olympic team 1900 olympic games
The USA Team for the 1900 Olympics. The whole team. Ah, they were simpler days.

Is it an urban myth, or does the host nation really get to nominate a new sport to be added to the Olympic agenda?

If it’s true, it would explain how, over the years, the Modern Olympic Games have evolved from a handful of events (just nine in 1896)  into an extensive array requiring vast purpose-built facilities and a budget capable of crushing a national economy.

Arvid Spångberg winning the bronze medal.
Arvid Spångberg winning the bronze medal at the 1908 Olympics for levitation.

It must be tempting for the host country to designate a sport at which it, but preferably no other, excels. Next time the USA plays host, surely their choice must be baseball, whose so-called World Series extends no further afield than Canada. But they should take heed:  if the need arises, Team GB could send in a crack squad, trained on its school playing fields in the primary school summer favourite game of rounders. After all, what is rounders, except baseball without the fancy dress, annoying hats and hot dogs?

English: A fencer. Illustration from the repor...
“I say, which of those foreign blighters bent my sword?”

The unsuccessful Paris 2012 bid team must have mourned their missed opportunity to nominate boules. But if they had, we could have sent in, white-suited, the elderly of England, fresh from the bowling greens on which they while away a pleasurable retirement in between tea and cucumber sandwiches. A force to be reckoned with, indeed. Just remember Sir Francis Drake: called away from playing bowls at Plymouth Hoe, he dashed straight off to defeat the Spanish Armada.

Should the Olympics sojourn on Caribbean shores, we might all have to limber up for limbo. But what could be more British than bending over backwards, accommodating whatever life throws at us, without really wanting to make a fuss?

On tenterhooks, I’m waiting to see which sport Britain will add. I’m hoping for a tea-drinking marathon. With the amount of daily training that I put in, I think I could carry off the gold.

If, like me, you don’t want the London 2012 Olympics to end, you can relive some of the fun that they’ve brought us by reading my other Olympics-inspired blog posts:

In A Lather Over My Olympic Shampoo

The Olympic Spirit Meets Britannia

Sharing The Olympic Glory – or How I Learned to Love The London2012 Logo

What Makes An Activity An Olympic Sport?

Posted in Uncategorized

What Makes An Activity An Olympic Sport?

The opening ceremony for the London 1908 Olympic Games
“Let’s get this party started” – stepping out for the opening ceremony for the London 1908 Olympic Games

Towards the end of last term, my nine-year-old daughter Laura’s class topic culminated in a five-week long homework  to write a comprehensive guide to the sport of each child’s choosing. This imaginative assignment encouraged every child to step outside of the normal school sports curriculum and take ownership of one discipline with which they felt a particular affinity. Their chosen sport didn’t even have to be an Olympic one.

“Seb thinks he might do car rallying,” Laura reports. “That’s no surprise.”

Pre-parenthood, Seb’s parents were seasoned and accomplished ralliers who have now segued, interestingly, into running a taxi firm. (I guess there’s no need to worry about missing your flight when they’re booked to take you to the airport.)

“Alexis thinks she might do air hockey.”

I try not to look askance, but Laura spots my raised eyebrows.

“Miss Hawker says it counts as a sport.”

What Miss Hawker says, goes. (Unlike Mummy.)

English: Commemorative stamp of Greece, The Fi...
Commemorating the original Olympic spirit with a Greek stamp for the Athens 1896 games

I reign in my cynicism when I remember my own predilection for a similar game at which I am pretty damn good: table football. Though more likely to be found in a bar-room than an Olympic stadium, this sport can work in perfect tandem with the Olympic spirit of uniting nations through athletic endeavour. I once enjoyed an excellent impromptu international tournament in an Amsterdam bar. My husband and I took on a crowd of youths of indeterminate nationality, who at first glance I had judged to be a bunch of louts. I can’t remember who won, but we ended the last match with smiles, handshakes and a new sense of international fellowship, despite not sharing a common language.

Laura sticks with a more traditional sport for her homework and in no time at all is an authority on the javelin. But my dubious attitude has rubbed off on her.

“Why is THAT a sport?” she queries scathingly as we catch a few minutes of an Olympic shooting competition on the television.

I try to subdue my abhorrence of guns to make a convincing case.

“Why is horseriding a sport?” she asks next. “Surely it’s the horse that’s doing all the work? The person just sits there. And what about sailing? Why do they let sailing into the Olympics?”

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the mode...
If in doubt, ask: “What would Baron Pierre de Coubertin do?”

Horses are beyond the realm of my experience, but with sailing I’m on safer ground, remembering the aching arm muscles, bruised thighs and blistered hands of our pre-baby sailing holidays.

Laura’s questioning prompts me to ponder what exactly turns an activity into a sport, as does the popular joke already wearing thin that the British are best at sports that involve sitting down. (Thanks, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, for putting the cynics in their place.) I come up with some defining British activities in which success could easily be interpreted as an athletic achievement:

  • Running for a bus – with handicap points given in inverse proportion to the number of shopping bags that you are carrying
  • Queuing – a subtle endurance sport, for example at the supermarket, strategically timed tannoy announcements can be enough to make the strongest competitor crumple
  • Irony – surely the mental strain of Ironyman and Ironywoman contests would earn Team GB accolades from around the world: we don’t need gold medals to prove the British are undisputed masters of irony

For the first time in my life, I think I could be an Olympic contender.

(Photo credits: Wikipedia)

Here are my other posts inspired by our fabulous London2012 Olympics:

In A Lather Over My Olympic Shampoo    

The Olympic Spirit Meets Britannia    

Sharing the Olympic Glory – or How I Learned to Love the London2012 Logo