In this final stabbing of the rabbit from Beijing, Gateway to Hong Kong, I wonder if that well known sports nut of yesteryear George Orwell got it right, when he declared sport is war minus the bullets. The battle for medal glory continues unabated with 22 campaigns for gold being waged across China today.
Then it will be time to pack the bag and book a cab. That time has well and truly arrived you awake to be greeted by a couple of TV talking heads raving about the elation of super sweet bronze. The jig is up. Book the appointment with the therapist and waddle back to the drawing board and begin again.
Yesterday was a day of golden drama. The women’s 20km walk was very quick and very wet. It is hard to see the long waddle talking to kids. The simple idea of putting one step in front of the other needs a complete make over. The field should be set tasks as they stroll along like bursting through Seven Walls of Death. These Walls could be created from sheets of flaming cardboard placed at strategic points along the course and would be supplemented by twelve elephant traps. The location of covered holes in ground would be revealed to commentators as they jump.
Elsewhere as the Olympic curtain was drawn on softball Australia recorded the final bronze. Still with the brown-out we picked up another in the water polo after a penalty shoot out. In two unrelated events horses have been getting on the gear at the Sha Tin jumping venue and been busted while the BMX was postponed due to concerns for safety of the riders. The last one makes no sense.
Today Aussie Steve Hooker is in the comp with the big pole. Jarrod Bannister is throwing the big spear. The disappointed Kookas will have a lash for bronze.
The Opal Killers are going round this time in the big one against the USA. There is sure to be another final tinkle of precious metal.
But there is a lurking vibe of closure engulfing Beijing. The thin attractive girl is warming up the lips and getting ready to mime again. Set your clocks because when she wanders on to do a Nicki Webster it will be all over. The central committee has run the eye over The Closing Ceremony line up and given the whole wheeze thumbs up. Including the English contribution which will nod towards London in four years time.
On Sunday night, the IOC farewells China and says hullo to Great Britain. Rumours sweeping Beijing suggest the English bid is already broke. In a desperate bid to cut costs Sunday night’s London tribute will have a budget-saving retro feel involving The Spice Girls and Sir Cliff Richard.
Cliff will perform a Wimbeldon style sing-a-long. One hundred thousand Chinese will help him out with the choruses of “Congratulations”, “Living Doll” and “Wired for Sound”. There will be a special appearance by Hale and Pace and Herman’s Hermits to get the five-ringed shebang pointed towards the Thames in exactly the right spirit.
That is still two days away but as you read this IOC supremo, Jacques Rogge will be wrestling with a form of words to sum up these incredible games. It is hard to go past “the best games ever”. It is elegant simple and nothing will be lost in translation. It has been used before and goes over very well with hard-working hosts.
Everything has gone so well for China. An avalanche of gold was dug up as soon as the gun went bang. The big issues faded. Everyone got used to breathing air with lumps in it. The protests were corralled in dedicated areas but every protest needed a permit. None were given, so no troublemakers did their thing.
In a breathtaking wheeze for free speech, the IOC following the hosts lead shut down the media briefings so as no blow ins could ask to awkward questions or complain about the lack of protests. It has been widely noted by all visiting dignitaries that Australia has so much to learn about running a large, modern society from the Chinese.
But as the ute backs up to the Birds Nest and the world packs away the school sports carnival and international freak show, issues are emerging. For instance, how should Australia welcome home our green and gold heroes? Everyone will want to see and touch the returning superstars who have produced such brilliance during the past fortnight.
Parades through city streets don’t cut it any more. Appearances at shopping malls by our medal winners for the next two years could satisfy the pent up demand as a grateful nation says thanks for all the joy given during this magic fortnight.
While that simple gesture will be appreciated by everyone across Australia, there are two worrying signs to disturb the trip home. Sporting organisations have to un-couple the ludicrous idea that success at the Olympics encourages fat, unfit Australians to do anything at all, let alone something that might involve movement.
If anything, 18 hours of Olympic television coverage reinforces the idea that sitting on the lounge doing bugger all while stuffing your face with take away food is in fact good for you. Once we un-couple the need for national fitness from Olympic effort, Australia can move on and spend the big lolly necessary to field a team without feeling guilty about leaving the bludgers behind.
Even more disturbing is the sporting brain drain that is packing its bags and leaving hourly. Our top coaches are being lured overseas by the big bucks. Our hard won secrets are sold to any one with a fat wallet and idea about winning. It is intolerable that this great sporting nation and all it has done for sport over the decades is sliding down the top 10 of world nations beaten by the Britain and Russian with the Germans nipping at our heels.
We need to go into that room of mirrors and have a good hard look at ourselves and get serious about a golden sporting future. The Minister of Sport, Kate Ellis, believes we have become too complacent and smug.
The proposed Federal Government Jump Start Programme to be launched next month will identify new talent in all sports. A model for this prime time programme is “Hey Shot Putt, Dudes!”. This weekly programme will unearth a new generation of star throwers. The networks are gagging for it. This locally developed reality vehicle is ideal for Australian conditions and it packs a real sting. A million dollars is up for grabs each week with shot putting the only topic on the agenda.
Do the sums: Jump Start offers 50 million a year. But think of the rapid progress Australian heavy throwers would make. By London 2012 the green and gold could bag all three medals for the investment of 200 million. The weekly prize money would be divided between coaches, nutritionists, mentors and the sports science crew. It would be made clear to the winner that entering this contest they would committing themselves to London 2012.
Could there be a better use of federal government funds? If there is let’s hear it! It will cost a packet but a Jump Start Lottery run by James Packer with a top up from The Future Fund could fund all sports.
As we look to the future the cost of staging the five ringed box and dice is so expensive and that it is virtually impossible to imagine the Games ever being held in Port Moresby, Auckland or Swan Hill. Jacques Rogge and the IOC has to look at this with urgency.
On the up side Brisbane looks a shoo in for 2016 and we may be able to add sports like Australian Rules and V8 Supercars where we have a distinct edge. We should swerve past 20/20 cricket because we struggle with the concept.
By Monday the Olympics will all seem like a wonderful dream. A golden dream that filled the chilly back end of August. But with final eights still to be decided in rugby league and the AFL plus the sanity of the spring racing carnival around the corner the burning issues of funding and London in 2012 will disappear as that one day in September looms.