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The Real Olympics

Guest post by Jonathan Eyers

There are only so many guest posts you can write for a sports blog before you have to finally confess you’re just not that into the whole thing. It’s not that I’m apathetic about sport. In fact, since Euro 96, when my disinterest was punished with dead arms, I have actively loathed everything to do with it. The nadir of Gareth Southgate’s career was the zenith of my interest in sport. I imagine I enjoyed that penalty as much as the Germans did.

I could start ranting about how sport brings out the imperialistic tendencies of otherwise sensible people, but it’s not just the desire to avoid sounding like a tuft-bearded lentil-eating nineteen-year-old economics student from West London that stays my typing hand. Because the truth is, I’ve been just as enthusiastic about the Olympics as anyone. And all the naysayers and doom merchants just made me more so (except when they castigated the logo; they were right about that).

The only big national events we tend to do in this country are royal weddings, royal funerals and royal jubilees. Celebrating anything else is just a bit too American for us. Perhaps that’s why the Olympic opening ceremony has ensured Danny Boyle will be Sir Danny by January. We could all get behind this barnstorming vision of Britain and pretend the show was just for the rest of the world’s benefit. Because, of course, the rest of the world understands the shipping forecast…

Yes, the spirit of national unity and bonhomie didn’t last long, with partisan oiks from the Daily Mail to the Guardian claiming the next day that the ceremony represented only their worldview, and that it must have infuriated their political enemies, and that this was a good thing. But for the rest of us, the ceremony set the tone for not just a national event but an international one, and one which transcended sport.

I applied for about £1,000 worth of tickets, which was apparently pretty typical (though perhaps not for someone with my professed level of interest in sport). All I got was the fencing (men’s sabre final), which I ultimately enjoyed, but it was at ExCeL, out in the Docklands. I was disappointed not to get anything at the Olympic Stadium. It somehow didn’t feel like I was going to the real Olympics when I got off at Stratford and then went in the opposite direction to the Stadium.

So when I heard in early August that there were still tens of thousands of tickets for the Paralympics left, I made a beeline to get online, and looked only for events at the Stadium. I was in luck. Not only were there still tickets for athletics left, but some of them were in the £10 category too. (I do work in publishing, after all.)

One of the benefits of not being particularly interested in sport before the Olympics is that I was immune to any ideas of sporting celebrity. Most of the sportsmen I could name I had only heard of for their extracurricular activities (with or without their wives and girlfriends). The only Olympians I was really aware of before the end of July were Usain Bolt and Tom Daley. Even when I was seeing famous British competitors, I had no idea who they were. It didn’t really matter to me.

As soon as I started expressing enthusiasm for having got tickets to Stadium events at the Paralympics I picked up on this sense from some people that the Paralympics weren’t the real Olympics, and not in the same way that events at ExCeL hadn’t felt like the real Olympics to me. I definitely got the impression there was more to it, that the Paralympics are considered inferior because most Paralympians (Oscar Pistorius notwithstanding) are less famous (and for reasons few would openly admit, I’m sure).

Of course that wasn’t an impression borne out by the reaction of the crowd in the packed Stadium when 80,000 of us watched Mickey Bushell win his heat in the 100m. Decibels reached unsafe levels, I’m sure. (I can only imagine the sound level when he won the gold medal in the following day’s final.) It certainly all felt real at that moment, and any distinction between Olympic and Paralympic less so.

I could end with a slightly sourpuss suggestion that Mo Farah, Ellie Simmonds or Bradley Wiggins would be better role models than our much-idolised footballers, but instead I’ll finish in the same way my Paralympic experience ended, with tens of thousands of people singing our national anthem following David Weir’s gold medal ceremony. Listen carefully and you might even hear the American next to me swept up by the nation’s mood and joining in.

A Question of Sport

You’d have to have been living under a stone not to be aware of the incredible Summer of Sport almost upon us.  So, in order to whet your appetite, we’ve hand-picked a dozen tricky questions that will bring out your competitive instinct.  Test your knowledge on some of the events sure to hog the back pages over the next few months.  Enjoy!

On your marks … set … go!

Some nice easy ones to begin with:

Below are three well-known England cricketers who’ve got themselves into a right old muddle running between the wickets.  Hopefully you’ll be able to help them out before the first Test Series of the summer gets underway this week:

1)      WAS UNDER STARS

2)      SPORTY MANE AN

3)      NEW MANAGERS

The curtains have just come down on yet another highly entertaining domestic football season, yet with Chelsea’s upcoming Champions League Final appearance on the horizon, we thought we’d test both your British and European club-team knowledge of the beautiful game:

4)      Who, in 1980, achieved what Sunderland did in 1979 and Villa did in 1981?

5)      Which current Premier League manager became the first British player to lift the Champions League trophy?

Away from the domestic football scene, of course, looms Euro 2012.  So, never one to shirk an easy link, here’s a question about it:

6)      Spain was the last country to win the tournament in 2008, but which country, in 1960, was the first?

Now to one of Britain’s most feted competitions which, unfortunately, is likely to sit in the shade whilst the world watches London 2012That’s not to say the quality of tennis should be any less enthralling though, so, to get you in the mood, here are a couple of questions that focus on great Wimbledon moments:  

7)      Pete Sampras and Martina Navratilova hold the record for the most Wimbledon Singles’ titles won.  If you multiply their titles together, what number do you get?

8)      This year marks the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but which Brit was the last player to be crowned Wimbledon Singles’ champion when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee? 

And finally to London 2012, the cherry on top of the icing on the cake of a phenomenal summer of sport:

9)      If Marathon is worth 13 points and Decathlon is worth 15 points, how many points would High Jump be worth?

10)   In 1992, Britain’s Linford Christie won gold in the 100m, but what was his time?
a)      9.97                b) 9.94                  c) 9.96                   d) 9.99

11)   Which three Olympic Games were cancelled due to World War I and World War II?

 

The tie-breaker

All square after eleven questions?  Rather than settle a dead heat, this final question is designed to sort out the medal positions once and for all – let the first person to call out the answer be crowned Bloomsbury Sports Quiz Champion!

On your marks … set … go!  

12)   This sport might be a popular pastime with sportsmen and women across Britain when rain stops play.  However, which number comes next in the sequence:

20           1              18           4              13           ?                

NB: Remember to check back here in a week’s time for the answers.

Contributed by James Rennoldson, Sports Quizmaster Extraordinaire

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