Unless you’ve been living under a massive wonton, you’ll know that the Olympics start today in Beijing. I’m no Jimmy McGee, but I manage to keep up with what’s going on sport-wise, mainly thanks to reading the odd newspaper and Google. Like lots of things that a) everyone is talking about and b) are on TV I’ll probably get sucked in and find myself watching four hours of wrestling before I know it. The Olympics are a chance for obscure sports we don’t really get to see to shine (sadly no tiddly winks or truck-pulling though), but I’ll also be watching the Athletics – go Derval O’Rourke! RTE are covering a shed load of it, so you probably won’t be able to avoid it. Here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on:
When I was eight, I had a minor fantasy about being a gymnast and would practise my “beam” moves on a three foot wall on our road. Mostly I just wanted my own leotard, which I could double up with legwarmers during my Fame phase, as well as the chance to lep around on a mat with one of those twirly ribbons. And let’s face it, at age eight, I was slightly geriatric in terms of starting out in the sport. And who knew the poor little tykes were training as much as weighlifters on crack?
There is something almost religious about diving – all that grace, timing, symmetry and perfection. Oh and hot men too. It’s slightly addictive, but easy to pick up the terminology. Give yourself 10 minutes of viewing and you’ll know your forward triple tuck from your reverse armstand pike. Sadists will of course be tuning in in case of another Greg Louganis-style head-whacking incident.Or worse – this poor gal hits her face.
Obligatory clip: Greg Louganis hits his head at 1988 Seoul Olympics
Often laughed out of the pool and given as much sporting credence as tiddly winks and darts, I have a huge soft spot for this Esther Williams meets Duncan Goodhew sport. It’s slightly silly to watch, a bit like water cheer-leading, but you have be fit as all hell to do it. Maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by the garish waterproof make-up or the perma-rictus smiles plastered on the swimmers faces – who knows?
Obligatory clip: The Russian team, who won Gold at the last Olympics, show us how it’s done.
Easily the most watched part of t’Olympics, there are a whole heap of Irish women competing in various categories here: Fionnuala Britton in the 3000m Steeplechase, Olive Loughnane in the 20k Walk, Róisín McGettigan in the 3,000m Steeplechase, Eileen O’Keeffe in the Hammer, Emma Davis in the Triathlon, Michelle Carey in the 400 metres Hurdles, Joanne Cuddihy in the 400 metres, Pauline Curley in the Marathon and the hugely talented Derval O’Rourke in the 100m Hurdles.
Now I’m usually not a fan of men bashing the crap out of each other, at least not since the days of ronnie-sporting Barry McGuigan, but I’m making an exception here for Darren Sutherland. A friend dragged me to see a documentary at the IFI last year called Saviours about a Dublin boxing club, and Sutherland was one of the boxers featured. He seemed like a thoroughly nice fella and was juggling training and college at the time of the documentary. Apparently he’s damn good as boxers go, so he might even bag us a medal.
Obligatory clip: Another “montaaaaage” featuring Irish boxer Michael Carruth, who won a Gold medal at 1992 Olympics.