Friday, August 26, 2016

The Death Of The Olympic Dream

Another Olympic Games has drawn to a close and didn’t the Brits do well ( not a penny of the 40 million quid spent developing that bike was wasted!).

Once again we were a United Kingdom cheering on our cyclists, our gymnasts and our athletes. Interesting to see that today the newspapers are full of headlines about the death of the Scottish Independence debate due to the 15 billion hole in the Scottish economy that has just been announced. But that is for another day.

Andy Murray was Scottish, Jade Jones was Welsh, Mo  Farah was a Somalian now a Brit and Mark Cavendish is from the Isle of Man (A Manx man- if you want to amuse yourself look up any interview that Mark gives--- that is one weird, weird accent).

What the Olympic Games are now about seems to be a bit of a movable feast. First, the freak show argument. Whether you like it or not, to be that good at some things you have to be on the very extreme of a normal human physique and physiology. Mo Farah has very long tibia and radial bones. Michael Phelps has a very long back and short legs for his height, as well as huge feet. Simone Biles is extremely short with an underdeveloped pelvis for a woman of that age – see later hormone arguments. 
                                                     Talented but you don't see guys like that in Walmart.

After the Bejing Olympics the British Sports Association put out a call for anybody that was too tall to 'feel normal'. It was  a jokey way of getting hold of those women over 6 feet tall and those men over 6 feet 4 inches. They then sat them in a boat and asked them to row quite quickly and the rest is pure gold.


So if that tweak of DNA and freakishness is applauded in gymnastics where it is not seen to be an unfair advantage to tumble quicker and more accurately than anybody else why is that acceptance not universal.  (I have a Russian patient who was a gymnast in the same Soviet training camp as Olga Corbet and she waxed lyrical on how precise a female like Simone can tumble and somersault due to her power/ weight ratio and short limbs. She also knew Ludmila Tourischeva  and although she was a fine gymnast her physique- female with curves and in /out bits - would be incapable of doing what Biles does now with such ease – the physics just doesn’t work out).  


Why do we not accept that it's only a tweak of nature that makes hyperandrogonous women so good at running the 800 metres. The woman standing next to Caster Seminar in the 800 metres must have the same feeling as the man standing next to Usain Bolt in the 100 metres. The best you are going to get is silver. 

So why is one accepted and the other one up for all kinds of debate?

The state of hyper androginism (where the levels of testosterone in a female are 3 to 4 times what is present in a normal female) lends itself to the 800 metre distance. Caster has a 3% time advantage as she starts on the line and the investigations are now being called for into the testosterone levels of Niyonsaba and Wambui who were second and third in the race. There is no easy answer to any of that and the comments of the girls they left in their wake were not helpful. I do have some empathy for the Scot Lyndsay Sharp who ran a personal best in the Olympic final but could only finish 7th but she DID run a  PB in the Olympic Final and that is  much to be applauded. Shame six others went faster.

                                                Headlines like this are both inaccurate and unhelpful

 Sharp’s always been a tricky customer and her post race interview and the hugging of the other slim/ white females while ignoring the medalists (Semenya, Niyonsoba and Wambui). Somebody took a photography of Caster,  the gold medallist with an arm outstretched to the  three white athletes and from the look of the photograph, they blanked her and that is inexcusable. Caster is not cheating. She didn’t ask to be built that way. She  gets out her bed in the morning and trains just like the rest of them and she was a human being who just won a gold medal.
                                                                 Margaret Wambui, Bronze medallist

I do think sport should transcend all; the black power salute, the  magic of Jessie Owen and his friendship with Luz Long ; 'find my son and tell him the way things should be between men,' wrote Luz in a letter to Owens just before he was killed in WW2.   The fact that a Serb and a Croat can hug each other after being punished over 26 miles in searing heat. There is unification in adversity. And I’m very glad that the Olympic officials hauled Judoka Islam El Shehaby over the coals for refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, Ori Sasson. The rumour is he was on the next plane home.

And on a different note ,  experts say that there is no such thing as the Olympic legacy. Nobody gets inspired to stay fit. Venues fall into disrepair. Everybody thinks about being the new Jason Kenny, buys a bike, sticks it in the hut and goes off to the pub for pie and chips. 

Public Health experts suggest that the money would be better spent on projects such as cycle and walking paths which is the policy of the fittest nation in the world and they only scored a single bronze at Rio (Finland).

So in the true Olympic Spirit I would like to offer some more sports to really entertain the masses;

Synchronized swimming and javelin – the thrower takes a run and sees how many swimmers he can spear.

Taekwondo and trampolining – as they both like bobbing and bouncing up and down for no apparent reason they might as well make it more difficult for themselves.

Pole vaulting and shooting – I think you can see where I’m going with that one.

The high hurdles and the show jumping...

The gymnastic vault  using a real horse to vault from – a horse of the dressage variety

In my youth I have seen my dad and the Scottish cycling fraternity do a training thing which was basically table tennis on a bike. You had to have ridden to the  other side of the table to return the shot. Mark Cavendish eat your heart out.

All the Olympians, I salute you. From my sofa.

Caro Ramsay    26 08 2016 


  1. The Caster debate rages here too of course. The New York Times noted that several top athletes have heightened haemoglobin levels which gives obvious advantages. No one talks about excluding them.

  2. You may not see those bodies in Walmart, but they're all over Mykonos at this time of year...present company excluded of course. I'm more into the trampolining pole vaulting crowd myself.

  3. So Jeff, is that a pole vaulter vaulting over the crowd and using a trampoline for take off ? Then yes, I'd pay money to see that!

  4. Training at altitude is permitted. Training at altitude, taking out a few pints of your own altitude trained blood then putting it back in before a race is allowed (The haemo advantage again), but it's not allowed to take someone else's blood. And all athletes are diagnosed with asthma - to allow them a steroid inhaler. It's ok if everybody does it - sport on the level playing field if you pardon the pun - so why don't they all ride the same bike? ( Not at the same time!!)

  5. Oh, Caro, thank you so much. Now if there an Olympic medal for the person who missed the most typos while proofreading, I would have a genetic neurological advantage. And I bet I can do it on trampoline and win without the use of steroids.

    1. I proofread carefully and seriously the comment above and saw NO mistakes. So there!

    2. Except that there should be a 'were' before 'Olympic medal'and an 'a' before 'trampoline'...
      You see how carefully I read anything you write?

  6. Thanks Caro. Nobody would object if Caster came 7th. I also found the non-Olympic spirit very distressing. Sore losers. Now all we have to do is get a permanent Olympic facility set up in Olympia - help the Greek economy and stop all that wastage elsewhere. And if Trump is president, he'll make the Turks pay for it. And I can just see Jeff thinking up the title of his next book . . .

  7. When I was younger (college or at my first job), we played that ping pong sort of like that. Once you hit the ball, you had to drop your paddle on the table, run (left) around the table, pick up the other paddle, hit the ball back, repeat. It was team-against-the-table-and-ball COOPERATIVE ping pong, but a lot of fun and a hell of a workout!

  8. Great post, Caro, and I think your ideas for mixed sports, if pitched to most 'reality' TV companies, would be taken up in a snap.

    I heard about a wonderful fitness initiative (can't remember where now, but I have a feeling it was in one of the Scandinavian countries) where they wanted to encourage more people to take the stairs rather than the escalator in a shopping centre.

    So, they made each step produce a different musical note when stepped on. It was taken up like crazy. Strikes me as better use of that £40 million you mentioned.

    Speaking of which, if we've all paid for this miraculous bike, when do we all get our turn?

  9. Someone, somewhere must have calculated by county the cost per medal. I suspect they'r expensive!

  10. Stan, I like your idea of making a permanent Olympic site in Olympia in Greece--a sacred spot I have had the privilege of visiting. That would work for the summer games. Winter games could be permanently placed in say Chile--where they would also help the economy. Money spent on training the athletes makes perfect sense to me. But building all that infrastructure only a small portion of which remains useful seems absurd, especially in a place like Brazil where so many live in hovels made our of garbage. By all reports, a light rail and bus system are the only things left over that will be really useful to the Brazilians.

  11. Of all this, the racism that exists whereby white women wouldn't express goodwill to women of color is just sickening after all these years.

    Caster Semenya is a great runner, the best, just as Usain Bolt is unbeatable. That's the way it is.
    And Simone Biles is an amazing gymnast. To watch her is like watching a fantastic dancer.

    I wish everyone would get over themselves and appreciate great athleticism and congratulate the winners. No time for enormous egos or superiority, time for goodwill and appreciation -- like appreciating great composers, musicians, artists, writers, whomever.