If you don’t mind, I’d like to start this post with a sweeping statement that’s completely uncalled for: the Olympics (and all sport in general, pretty much) is a total waste of time. Fact.
(Well, technically that’s not a fact at all, obviously, but this is my blog and I can say what I want. Fact.)
To honour this Couldn’t-Care-Less approach of mine, I have been making a point of not watching, reading about or discussing anything remotely connected with London 2012. But that’s difficult. You see, over here in Britain everyone has gone loopy for the ‘lympics – there are precisely twelve zillion TV channels showing nothing but sweaty humans in lycra; every newspaper and magazine has some sort of athlete on the front page, and every single branded item in the country’s supermarkets has been repackaged with the slogan ‘The Official Washing-Up Liquid of The London Olympics’ (or the equivalent, for whatever product).
I can’t help thinking, ‘What, for the love of god, is the point of all this nonsense?’
It’s not just this year’s Olympics that I’m avoiding, I must add. At the start of the last ones, in Beijing, I was renting a house in Croatia with three American blokes called Alan, Nick and Dave. I’d met them on a bus in Bosnia (of all places), and because I’d not been organised enough to book a hostel in advance, I had no idea where I was going to sleep once the bus reached its destination. It turned out that these three Americans had been equally disorganised, and so when we stepped off the bus we agreed that the quickest and easiest way to find a bed for the night would be to talk to an old Croatian woman at the bus station, negotiate a reasonable renting price for the spare rooms in her house, and go there immediately in the back of her ancient Volkswagen beetle.
It was a good decision – the house was quaint and crumbly, five minutes walk from the beach and two minutes walk from a bakery (we lived off burek for four days), and in the living room there was a gigantic flatscreen television.
That night the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was on, and the Americans insisted on watching it. To be fair, this was the only part of the famous sports event that I was vaguely interested in. Mainly because there isn’t usually much actual sport involved. And it was impressive, I remember, but after about twenty minutes the novelty wore off and, bored, I finally managed to convince Alan to go out exploring with me.
And we were so glad we did, because it turned out that that night was not only the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony but also, and much more importantly, it was the Annual Croatian Fish Barbecue Crazy Musical Street Party (not its official name, unfortunately). Alan and I stayed up half the night drinking local beer, eating grilled fish off paper plates and dancing to accordion music with old ladies in traditional costumes. I was drunk and I was happy, and there was nothing Olympian involved.
Four years later and another Olympics opening ceremony was about to start, and this time on home turf. The hype built up about this was nothing short of ridiculous, and, as usual, I had decided in advance that I wasn’t going to give two hoots. So on Friday night I went to the pub with my students.
(Students?! Oh yeah, I haven’t really mentioned this yet. I’ve been teaching English in Edinburgh for a few weeks and it’s been amazingly good fun, and since some of my favourite students were leaving last weekend, we decided to go out together for a farewell pint. Or two.)
Or, erm, six. Before I knew it we’d left the pub and arrived in El Barrio – Edinburgh’s exceedingly un-classy, faux-Latin ‘club’ – and there was a TV screen on one of the walls which was showing something Olympic-y (I couldn’t be too specific due to the volume of Stella Artois in my bloodstream), and the time of half past one in the morning.
‘Hurrah!’ I thought, as I knocked back a bottle of Sol. ‘Yet another Olympics opening ceremony I’ve managed to avoid!’ And then I continued to dance, carefree, to some music which may or may not have been by Shakira. Again, it was a fantastic, happiness-filled, alcohol-fuelled night of hilarity that had nothing whatsoever to do with an overrated sporting event.
Of course I fully intend on being drunk and ignorant four more years from now as well.