James Delingpole

Rio, Rio

20 August 2016

9:00 AM

20 August 2016

9:00 AM

Stuff I have learnt after two solid weeks watching the Olympics on TV.

1. Tennis and golf shouldn’t be Olympic sports. Yes, I know we won both and Rose’s final chip on to the 18th green was great to watch. But you can see this sort of thing done with a tougher range of competitors at any number of majors all the time. Olympic medals should be there to reward the Corinthian spirit not just an opportunity for millionaires to add something a bit different to their mantelpiece.

2. I still don’t understand the judging system for the diving but had arse quality been included in the women’s events — as I believe it should — the Italian girl would have done much better.

3. Definitely, definitely don’t say stuff like 2 (above) when watching with a teenage daughter. The language!

4. The lack of diversity in the men’s rowing events is shocking. I think one year they ought to include a person who isn’t blond, privately educated and Oxbridge just to mix it up a bit. They could always chuck the token oik into the water, afterwards, if he caught a crab. Mind you, in the toxic seas of Brazil that might have resulted in a manslaughter rap.

5. The men’s badminton doubles between Team GB and Japan was more exciting than such an event has any right to be. I particularly liked one of the British pair breathlessly explaining after they’d won (against a pair seeded third in the world) that he wasn’t actually that a good player but had just tried hard.

6. Just because the Oriental teams look utterly unflappable, excessively well-trained and hopelessly indomitable (see 5) doesn’t mean they are. Bill Slim once wrote a book about this called Defeat into Victory.

7. The Ukraine v. Russia match in women’s fencing was quite fraught because, for obviously geopolitical reasons, the duellists would clearly rather have been playing with real weapons and no protection. Even so, though fencing ought to be the most interesting Olympic sport, it is in fact the dullest.

8. Olympic table tennis — which ought to be screened in slow motion because it’s that quick — is so unlike the game you play at home it might as well be called Graeco-Roman wrestling. Like when they serve those cheeky, chippy little serves with their eyes at table level. What’s that all about?

9. The reason we didn’t do as well as we should have done in the equestrian events was because the Brazilians cheated by painting all the jumps in horrid, day-glo tropical colours and exposing our horses to evil, vicious, biting disease-bearing insects such as you’d never encounter in more civilised climes where foxes are hunted. Seriously, even a rider as accomplished as I am would have had difficulty getting round that cross-country course which looked like a favela on acid designed by Homer Simpson.

10. That judo match where the huge Egyptian with the Islamist beard refused to shake hands with the Israeli who’d just beaten him. I’m thinking once he gets out of prison Max Clifford could have quite a bright future helping the ummah deal with its PR problem.

11. One of the depressing things, as you get older, is realising which Olympic sports you can no longer conceivably be a champion in. Even my youngest child is already almost too old for women’s gymnastics (where you peak at about 16). All that are left to me now, I think, are trap shooting and show-jumping (where I’ve got another decade, I think, the oldest competitor being 62) but I wouldn’t put any money on either happening at this stage.

12. Clare Balding: it’s almost as if she was genetically engineered, like in some sinister Kazuo Ishiguro novel, purely in order to be the perfect BBC Olympics TV presenter.

13. Max Whitlock seems a nice boy but I do wish one of his gymnastics golds had gone to Louis Smith because Smith’s four years older and now he’ll probably never win one. When Smith cried at the podium I felt his pain.

14. Weird, isn’t it, how emotionally involved you get in the lives of people you’d probably never even heard of till you pressed the red button on your BBC Olympics event selector and found yourself sucked into the event they’ve been training at for years and which they’re capable of triumphing in or throwing away in a matter of a few cruel moments. The women’s trampolining, say, when Bryony Page — who’d quite obviously never expected to trouble the medal table — gave her absolute best and won silver.

15. Apart from the Olympics, the only other TV I’ve even considered glancing at in the last weeks has been Pointless, University Challenge and Eggheads. Quiz shows and the Olympics: if I were banned from watching anything else on TV ever again, I wouldn’t feel the loss too greatly. Heartache, tension, competition, human drama, underdogs triumphing, favourites tanking: it’s all the bread and circuses you need.

16. The South Koreans are so good at archery you can see why they didn’t need to invent gunpowder.

17. Poor John Inverdale. I don’t think he deserved his prissy correction from the tiresomely right-on Andy Murray that the Williams sisters had won more Olympic golds nor his humiliation by Steve Redgrave who obviously loathes him. Olympians should be forever gracious towards mere mortals. If they want to strut like arrogant cocks they should be stripped of their medals.

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