Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sporting minds

I've been watching the Turin Olympics on French tele, so of course, a lot of coverage of French sportsmen; those that have a chance of medals, at least.

The French are euphoric at their gold medal in the men's downhill and considering the terrifying speed and risks that Antoine Dénériaz was taking, he definitely deserved it. He looks a nice chap too, and his dad was there saying how proud he was, so that showed the support he got from his family. Good stuff. Mind you, the medal looked remarkably like a dvd disk from the front. From the side you could see how thick it is, but it looks like a polo mint with the ribbon looped through the middle. I'm sure it looks very impressive close-up, but from afar, it was a bit surprising.

Saw some of the figure skating last night and was most impressed by Zhang and Zhang. Very zappy outfits and some elegant skating with amazing skill and finesse. It seems the days of Torvill and Dean are long gone. There doesn't seem to be a Brit anywhere near these games so far.

However, a thought did cross my mind as I watched the men's 15k+15 pursuit (race?). They all looked fit, determined and were concentrating hard on their race for themselves and their country. It occured to me that sport is wonderful for channeling energy and clearing the mind of muddle, and that it was a great shame that more nations with mountains and snow, like Iran, Iraq, etc., could not engage their more fanatical elements into taking up winter sports. Lay down your guns, and pick up those skis. But then maybe they don't want to be seen to be participating in 'Western' events too much because that would look like a sell out to Western ways of doing things. Still, before I gave up after Croatia in the team file-past, I did note Azerbeijan and Armenia were taking part, so if they can, I don't see why Iran and co. can't. They could divert serious money into sporting activities and build up some really good teams, just as the Communist countries did, and do, to engage with the West and show how superior they are.

Talking of superiority, Wales thrashed Scotland this afternoon at rugby in a great match full of engaged play, action and skill. There's another game that takes no prisoners. You have to be fit, tough and highly skilled to do well. You also have to accept the referee's decisions with good grace and congratulate your opponents at the end of the game. Truly, a thug's game played by gentlemen. I really hope they never earn too much money. Money corrupts and ruins the en jeu of play. More is at stake, prima donna attitudes abound, and the whole atmosphere of the game changes, for the worse. Take football, and the price of tickets which have rocketed to pay for high salaries and mean that families can no longer afford to go along together; it is a sport for single men - men who go alone. Before, fathers could take their sons and bond in a healthy, competitive spirit of supporting their team. Top team tickets now cost over £100 for a game which is a ridiculous amount.

And do Beckham and co. really deserve to be paid that much just for playing footie?

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