Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

The Olympics – a brief summary for the non-sporty types


Don’t really care about sport? Secretly relieved that the Olympics are all over? But still want to appear knowledgeable to your friends? Here’s a brief summary of what happened…

Overall, we won lots of gold medals. More than Russia, who beat us last time and, rather more importantly, a lot more than Australia. OK, so China and the USA did better than us, but they do have a lot more people to choose from.

The British winners were a mixed bag. One guy named Mo won two gold medals, while four guys named Andy, Pete, Tom and Alex won one gold between them. One girl named Jess competed in seven events to get one gold. That seven-event medal was for the heptathlon; all the “athlon”s are multi-sport events. We also won gold in the men’s triathlon (that’s “tri” meaning “three”), but didn’t win the decathlon (“deca” = 10) or pentathlon (“penta” = 5, as in pentangle), although we did get a silver. In case you’re wondering, there are no other athlons in the summer Olympics. The winter version has a biathlon, but there’s no quadrathlon, hexathlon, octathlon or nonathlon.

Our first gold medal was won by women reversing. Our last gold medal was won by a big bloke punching someone. It’s nice to know that stereotypes can be partly overcome.

In between that, the chap with sideburns who won the French cycling race won a gold medal as well. In other bicycle races, we won gold medals in Keirin and Omnium as well as other things. Track cycling has funny names for events to disguise the fact that it’s basically all just going round and round a wooden oval lots of times. Although, as a nation, we do seem to be very good at it. It must be all that practice going through red lights.

You may recall that in the Wimbldeon final, the plucky Brit lost, as usual. But they gave him another go at the Olympics and he won it this time.

We also won golds in horse dancing, messing about in boats, clay pigeon shooting, women fighting and kicking your opponent in the head. All very British.

As far as competitors from other nations are concerned, the only ones you really need to care about are Michael Phelps, who swims very quickly and has lots of medals for it, and Usain Bolt, who – appropriately, for his name – runs very fast indeed. The Chinese did well in lots of tricky, technical sports like jumping into a pool and arty gymnastic stuff (although they were disqualified from the women’s badminton for, bizarrely, not trying hard enough to win) and the Americans did well in events where you simply have to be fast, such as running and swimming. The Russians, possibly a bit stereotypically, did well in events that require strength, like weightlifting and lobbing a heavy stone as far as possible. Australia did very well at coming second; they were the only nation to go home with more than twice as many silver medals as gold.

Aside the from the sport, the other big winners at the Olympics were Danny Boyle, who is widely tipped for a knighthood following the highly acclaimed opening ceremony that featured Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a flock of live sheep and those guys who wrote the song that goes “lager lager lager lager lager lager”; Boris Johnson, who managed to turn getting stuck on a zip wire into a PR triumph; and Eric Idle, who rescued an otherwise rather mediocre closing ceremony by falling out of a cannon. Non-sporting losers include David Cameron, who tried really, really hard to get some of Boris’s cool and failed every time; Kim Gavin, who dealt with the impossible task of living up to Boyle’s opener by seemingly scripting the closing ceremony while under the influence of mind-altering drugs; and the Spice Girls, who managed to be outshone by a display of synchronised taxi driving.

The BBC had a very good Olympics, so good in fact that the Director General told them to stop it and revert to type. In the US, NBC managed a monumental cock-up of the whole thing. The Australian networks pretended that gold medals don’t matter when you’ve got soap operas. And, despite the fact that ambush marketing was outlawed by some of the most pointlessly draconian legislation ever passed in the UK, bookmakers Paddy Power stuck two fingers up to the rules in a delightfully cheeky set of adverts. All in all, a very good two and a bit weeks. And, just to stop being funny for a moment, this picture shows why the Olympics matter, even if you absolutely hate sport: