The Rio games is moments away. What should you mark in your calendar and what should you absolutely avoid?
Gymnastics – Love this stuff. The consecutive backward somersaults, the girls with the ribbons and balls throwing them about to music, all the dextrous and cool manoeuvres performed by squat, finely-muscled little people with superb balance and strength, and a look in their eyes like they’ve been kept in a dungeon for many years and fed protein shakes through a straw in a hole in the door.
It’s a haunted look, one that says, Someone save me please. They picked me as a child, trained me each day, I know nothing else than this life. I can’t do this anymore. I’d rather be a pastry chef or a mechanic, or maybe one of those website designer guys who work from home and design apps, and subscribe to RedTube. Anything but this. Anything but this…
Weightlifting – If you like huge red-faced goggle-eyed jowly people lifting very heavy things and straining so much it seems their intestines could shoot out their nostrils, then weightlifting is the Olympic sport for you.
Track and field – All the running, the hurling, the leaping, this is the red meat of your Olympic Games. Plenty of the rest, the shooting and canoeing and jumping about on the back of a bloody horse, they’re the gluten-free vegetarian choices at the best steak house in town.
Rugby Sevens – Super-fast and high-skilled fit people bashing into each at high speed to advance an egg-shaped hunk of synthetic pigskin across a giant green field, this is the future, people. Sevens is coming.
Cycling – The road race is a chance to check out the streets of Rio. The mountain bike course features natural rock, imported logs and what looks significant danger. The BMX people throw their bikes around the track like rag dolls and pump their piston legs like … pistons.
And cyclists at the velodrome ride so fast they stick to the walls, a miracle of gravity and centrifugal force, like that ride at Luna Park that spins around and sticks you to the wall.
Fencing – Nimble, agile French women dressed as Stormtroopers with modified bee-keepers’ masks, saying en garde! and squealing in victory. Lot to like.
Golf – Yes! I know! The world’s best players have brushed it. I know! The four-round tournament format is a missed chance to show-case match-play or foursomes or modified Irish Stableford, or whatever. And I know! Golf shouldn’t be at the Olympics. But I also know that if a mosquito bites Patrick Reed on his fat little face I would find it humorous. (Yes, of course, I wouldn’t want him to catch the Zika virus. But the odds are good. He’s 500,000-to-1.)
Basketball – Yes, the US men’s team is the latest iteration of the fabled Dreamers of ’92. And it’ll be interesting to see how all the superstars go playing with one another.
It’ll be like all the stars from the All Stars match actually having a crack. But the US is $1.05 with bookmakers which means you’ll need to be bet $20 to win $1. The US women are $1.10. The Harlem Globetrotters would get more competition from the Washington Generals.
Beach volleyball – Don’t give a stuff about the sport; will quite enjoy watching hard bodies leaping and whacking and plotting – don’t forget the plotting – on the sands of Cococabana Beach.
Boxing – With maximum three rounds, all the headgear, a focus on point-scoring, and a fine amateur ethos, Olympic boxing is better than the professional game – much less the cock-fighting of that MMA malarkey – because there isn’t the opportunity nor imperative to punch a man’s – or woman’s – fucking head in.
Handball – A huge sport in Europe and just about nowhere else, it features much throwing and leaping and shouting in Swedish.
Modern pentathlon – Sword play, shooting, swimming, running and jumping on horseback, it’s more a CV for a European prince than a sport.
Triathlon – Swimming, cycling and running for a long distance. Win this puppy and you’re a fit human. Perhaps the fittest in all our humankind. And you can hang a hat on that.
Archery – Geena Davis. Robin Hood. Cupid. That’s all I know about archery. Actually an Aussie won gold in Sydney in 2000, Simon Fairweather, and he was a celebrity for a few months until everyone went back to not giving a stuff about archery again, and then he was not.
Canoe / kayak – River guides go for gold. Ripper.
Diving – Nimble thin hard-bodies rip off intricate airborne expression sessions, and do their best to pin-drop into the pool headfirst. I’m impressed by their skill and dexterity; the sport bores me like Bernie Fraser reading a bible.
Equestrian – Horses. Doing stuff. Pass those beer nuts.
Hockey – Almost forgot to put hockey in. Wouldn’t have affected this piece either way.
Judo – Pals of mine competed for Australia in this event, in the Olympics, and they are good fun people. And if you ever go drinking with them they’ll throw you about for fun. Doesn’t make you want to watch judo, however.
Swimming – Many people in the country of Australia love the swimming because Australians are very good at it given we all live on the coast of the world’s biggest island.
Swimming is how we survive much less win gold medallions from corrupt global sports bodies. But, and it’s somewhat heretic in these parts to admit this, I’m just not into it.
Consider those pool-side, post-race interviews. Interviewer: “How was that swim?” “Yeah, it was good. I dived in, swam, tumble-turned, swam again, and did that until the end.” And that’s it.
What’s the appeal of that? Know what? Swimming sucks. That’s right, Australia. It sucks.
Table tennis – Ping. Pong. Repeat.
Volleyball – Giant long giraffe people, leaping and whacking. Spiking. Entirely too much hand-slapping. They do it every point, every play – low fives, high fives, all this well done gibber-jabber. Doesn’t matter if they’re losing 20-nil, everyone’s congratulatory and enthusiastic.
They’re like evangelical happy-clappers. They’re not like that. But they should stop it at once.
Water polo – Not much on swimming. Not much on (Olympic) soccer. This is soccer-swimming. Soccer in the pool. It ticks no boxes.
Wrestling – Yes, I know it’s been around since ancient times, but I think it’s shit.
What is this doing at the Olympics?
Tennis – What is it doing here? Who put this here? Are we at Wimbledon? Is this Flushing Meadows? Are these the fine brown granular sands of Roland Garros in which Rafa Nadal might make a clay angel?
No. This, rather, is tennis at the Olympics which is a dud place to have tennis. It’s not like there isn’t a lot of bloody tennis played. Every week they’re at the Madrid Masters or Beijing Open or some other Rolex-sponsored bit of cat-gut whack action.
No – tennis should not be at the Olympics. And nor should…
Badminton – Which is tennis with fly-swatters whacking at a weighted dead spatchcock.
Soccer – Is soccer. There are many more preferable avenues for soccer. Olympic soccer is not the best soccer there is, which should be a fairly important gauge whether a sport should be in the Olympics.
Sailing – The most boring spectator sport in the world bar none ever.
Shooting – Shooting! Oh yes, shooting should be an Olympic sport because … because … it demands great steadiness. And stillness. And the ability to point a gun at a target and squeeze a trigger while remaining extremely still. An Olympic sport for snipers.
Synchronised swimming – Ziegfeld Follies underwater. The skill is impressive. Watching it is less fun than water-boarding.