… My Olympic Diary: Week 2

You have one new message… Message received today at four twenty six am…  Hi Rick.  It’s Clare.  Clare Balding?  I’m in Tokyo.  We’re really stuck for things to say out here.  Me and Gabby were wondering if you couldn’t knock us up another week of your Olympic Diary for BBC One?  Call me.  Thanks.


In 1972 Mark Spitz won seven Olympic gold medals in a single sport. 

In 2012 Jessica Ennis won one gold medal for seven events.

This needs evening out, so in future there will only be one swimming style – lets call it “swimming” to be controversial.

And in track and field we will have freestyle (running), backstroke (running backwards) and butterfly (running forwards but flapping the elbows like the funky chicken in a pointlessly less efficient way).

It’s just as bad in sailing where we have the same athletes and the same rules just with different sized boats.

Laser:  Little boat, little mast, little sail.

Finn:  Slightly bigger boat, slightly bigger mast, slightly bigger sail.

Windsurfing:  Similar sized mast, similar sized sail but no boat at all.

It’s like having a separate heavyweight division in gymnastics for those of us over sixteen stone with size 12 shoes.  Where I might stand a bit more of a chance.


I love how after watching a fortnight of sport every four years everyone suddenly becomes an expert.  But allow me to share the secret judging technique.

They do it with their eyes shut.

Diving:  Splish! = good.  SPLASH! = rubbish.

Gymnastics:  Doomp! = gold medal.  Du-doomp! = nowhere.

But for some sports an arbitrary split between winning and losing isn’t enough. 

Football is easy.  Most goals wins. 

Likewise athletics:  fastest or furthest.

But when more discretion is needed, the judges need to be more pernickety. 

I rate the gymnasts on a 3-point sliding scale of good, brilliant and “how the heck to they do that?!”  

In the floor gymnastics Jade Carey won gold with a score of 14.366. Accurate to three decimal places!  Maybe I’d have gone 14.367 but perhaps I’m getting a bit soft.

My final recommendation is to offset the advantages of any allegations of systematic substance misuse by the Russian team by insisting all judges watch Rocky IV directly before their event.


– Name?

– Kristian Blummenfelt, Norway.

– Sport?

– Triathlon.

– Excellent.  Here’s your swimming trunks and your bike.

– Is that not skiing and shooting, yes?  I thought it was …

– Move along please.

– But I’m bloody Norwegian!

Meanwhile in the beach volleyball, the team who train in Rio – literally the Girls from Ipanema – prepare to take on their opposition in the hotly contested Brazil versus Switzerland beach volleyball quarter final. 

Good luck, ladies. 

A lot of beaches to practice on around Zurich are there?


The new name for synchronized swimming. 

Finally I realise the error I’ve making. 

Turns out that I’ve been doing artistic rugby, artistic jogging and the artistic 110m sprint hurdles all these years. 

My school PE teacher Mr. McKinney needn’t have wept. 

I wasn’t rubbish.  I was just ahead of my time.


In 2008 I was an unfit provincial GP, listening to “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay and watching Daniel Craig as James Bond.

Sky Brown was busy being born.

In 2021 I was still an unfit provincial GP, listening to “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay and watching Daniel Craig as James Bond.

Sky Brown, now age fourteen, was winning an Olympic medal for skateboarding.

Now don’t get me wrong:  Sky is magnificent.  Watch her event or her interview afterwards.

But is skateboarding a sport?  Would skateboarding’s counter-culture forefathers be turning sweet 720s in their graves to know their discipline was being judged to three decimal places by men in grey suits?

But if a sport is basically defined as “something physical that I can’t do” then we would have Team GB representation in skateboarding, track and field and standing up quickly after tying my shoes.


Obviously football isn’t a proper Olympic sport. The magnificence of true Olympic sports is that they should be ridiculous.

Cricket – out.

Karate against an imaginary opponent – in

Squash – out

Climbing a wall steeper than that of a squash court using only your fingertips – in.

There needs to be an element of the fantastical, or at least the remarkable, to get in.

The pole vault, for example. This is basically a test of who can get up onto a bouncy castle in the most bonkers way.

Me: So you could just walk under the bar?

The Wyle E. Coyote: (produces a very very long, very very thin ACME crate)

Or take the triple jump. No practical purpose obviously. You can’t triple jump over a stream. Unless you’re Roger Moore jumping from crocodile to crocodile in Live and Let Die. Triple jump is in.

For maybe the best example of a made-up event, come with me back to Spanish California of 1821. A masked man slips silently through the upstairs window of the Olympic committee offices and levels a pistol at a corrupt official.

– I’d like an event.

– Y-yes, Senor. What do you do?

– I mainly escape from Captain Ramon’s castillo by swimming the moat, dashing across the courtyard fighting off the guards with a pair of stolen pistols, carve a Z in the seat of Sgt. Pedro’s pants with a rapier before escaping into the night on my black stallion Tornado!

– But that’s not a sport, Senor!

– Make it one!

– Perhaps we could call it the modern pentathlon, Senor Zorro?


When the modern Olympics began in 1896 there were medals for events including watercolour painting, town planning and the swimming obstacle race (clearly an egg and spoon for those who weren’t good enough for proper swimming events). 

Since these have been dropped, I’d like to propose my old school’s model of events for non-sporty kids which would include extra art, school play rehearsals in the Easter term, and sitting-in-the-library-doing-your-homework for asthmatic athletes.

Or in my case, artistic sitting-in-the-library.

See you in four years!

7 thoughts on “… My Olympic Diary: Week 2

    1. Thanks SO much for reading.
      Love the speed walking!
      Love the fact they sent the second choice team so lots of shots of empty streets. Loved the french lad who got lost then stopped for a wee and it was like F1 pit stop to see if he came out ahead of the pack.
      If you’ve any way of looking at my Twitter feed from 5th August and crack up the volume!


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