…My Olympic Diary: Week 1

I love the Olympics.  But because of broadcasting rights this year there has been reduced TV coverage of the Tokyo games.  Fortunately, as a serious and internationally respected sports pundit, I got a call from Clare Balding asking me if I’d be happy with the BBC using my Olympic Diary as the focus of their broadcast this year.  I’ve got a sneak preview for you now.


Yes it’s fun but it’s not a proper sport – it’s the version you play when you’re mucking about in the park and there aren’t enough of you for a proper game. 

I thought the same when they brought in beach volleyball a few years ago. Or water polo (the current version was brought in because of all the drowned horses in the 1920’s). 

If they continue at this rate they’ll have swingball instead of tennis, or get rid of football in favour of the 2-man version I played in the garden with my brother called “tackley-shooty-in”, where the players win points for scoring but lose pocket money if the ball ends up too often in the flower bed.


For the last time, it’s not “women’s football”, it’s FOOTBALL! 

Even in sports where the rules for men and women are slightly different, they still just call it “gymnastics” or “tennis” or whatever.  It’s football, and women happen to be playing it.

It’s like coming downstairs in the morning and seeing Mrs Brown eating cereal. 

“Ah! Women’s breakfast!” I observe, before helping myself to the exact same thing.

“No.  Just “breakfast”” she replies, hiding her tears.


One of the reasons why the Olympics is great is the spotlight on minority sports.  Not because they deserve or need the attention more than football (although they do:  the hundredth best footballer in the UK is a millionaire.  The hundredth best weightlifter is called Kate and she’s a dental receptionist in Smethwick.)  But also because you see a genuine joy and honesty in seeing interviews with people who have absolutely zero media training. 

Bradley Sindon wins Taekwondo silver for Team GB.  Our national sports broadcaster BBC Radio 5Live cut to “we speak to his Auntie Carol!” 

And she was ace.


As with any sport you get more enjoyment if you have reasons to support one player. It’s basic tribalism. I struggle to care who wins the badminton doubles once the British players are out. 

So, you need to find however tenuous reasons to support people.  I stayed up until stupid o’clock in the morning to watch the women’s coxless pairs rowing because Helen Glover was competing, who is in turn married to wildlife presenter Steve Backshall, and my son is massively keen on his show “Deadly 60” on children’s BBC.  Which, through only four degrees of separation, basically makes me a die-hard coxless pairs groupie.


Following on from both Helen Glover and the men’s doubles badminton (see day 4).

In an interview, Helen Glover suggested a lot of her success was down to her incredible focus.

Now, I have literally never played a game of badminton without at least once turning my racquet round and pretending to play the banjo.

Similarly (I went to a posh school) we were banned in the Lower 6th from playing croquet for pretending to be Thor the Mighty with our hammers (mallets?) between turns.

It’s this level of focus that separate the Olympians from the rest of us.


After Charlotte Dujardin’s bronze in the individual dressage, the British Equestrian Association explained how Gio was a young and inexperienced horse and a great prospect for the future.

I saw Gio giving a separate, very different interview to a horse-based broadcaster.

Gio:  Did you see me out there?  There I was on the dancefloor throwing some sweeeet shapes, and all she does is bloody sit there!

It put me in mind of the early rounds of Strictly when the professional dancer spins across the floor in a blur of hair, teeth and glitter to distract us from the fact that her middle-aged retired-sportsman celebrity partner is just standing still smiling awkwardly.


In the “snatch” the weight is lifted from the ground to above the head in a single fluid movement.  In the “clean and jerk” the barbell is lifted to the shoulders, then after a pause to regain balance and composure, the weight is pressed above the head with a second movement. 

I feel this second discipline is like running the hundred metres but stopping for a rest after the first sixty metres. 

Ironically this is precisely how I run the 100m.

I’ve never really got into Olympic weightlifting as a spectator sport which is odd because I love the annual brawn and idiocy fest that is the World’s Strongest Man.

I’ve proposed to the IOC that we should combine these disciplines by replacing the barbells with anvils, engine blocks or enormous cheeses, representative of the host nation. Let’s see how that takes off.


4 thoughts on “…My Olympic Diary: Week 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: