Of Olympic dreams and fantasies

The Olympics do something to you. They pump you with a false sense of self, although the reverse is more likely.

People watching the live telecast of the Rio Olympics at Central Park, in New Delhi on August 19, 2016. The best part of the Games is the telecast. You watch random people do random things in random order before the ads take over.   -  Sushil Kumar Verma

We should have been celebrating the fastest, highest and strongest among us now, but that Olympic dream will have to wait. The dream is for the athletes; the rest of us have fantasies.

Like most people, I fantasise about running in the Olympics, or rowing or fencing. Not swimming, since I have a thing about taking off my shirt in public. Fencing is ideal — it leaves me fully clothed, and perhaps I can outsource the job since the face is covered too.

Maybe I should have listened to my mother when she said to me as a child (I was the child, not she): “Eat your vegetables if you want to run fast and take part in the Olympics.” I was six or seven then. I avoided vegetables with a passion. Did Usain Bolt’s mother insist he eat his vegetables? Or did he develop his speed while running away from vegetables at the dining table?

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I prefer inspiring stories from the Olympics that do not include eating vegetables as a child, listening to your parents, training hard or making sacrifices. I didn’t eat my vegetables, I disobeyed my parents sometimes, I never trained and I couldn’t be bothered to make sacrifices. Doubtless a champion athlete with that exact set of accomplishments will come along soon. And he will become my all-time hero.

Every time I watch the Olympics, I ask myself: which event would I be good at, maybe even win, had I eaten my vegetables? I could have jumped up and down the trampoline (event introduced at the Sydney Olympics), I think. But I might have landed in a judge’s lap — they don’t give you points for missing the trampoline altogether. I can see myself twisting any number of times in the air, straight up, upside down, sideways, diagonal, but then I might finish up in the handbag of the lady sitting in the sixth row.

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The Olympics do something to you. They pump you with a false sense of self, although the reverse is more likely. The perfection in some of the attempts depresses many viewers no end — what is the point of living, they ask, if they can’t do the 400 metres in under 44 seconds?

The best part of the Games is the telecast. You watch random people do random things in random order before the ads take over. Bolt had just over nine seconds to strut his stuff, but someone was already working on squeezing a 15-second ad into that time frame.

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After a period of intense watching, you are confronted with the closing ceremony. Just like the opening ceremony, only worse. For a few days, you chuck the salt at the dinner table or jump over the gate or punch a wall like you saw men and women do on television, except they were using different implements.

The fantasies, however, continue for a while. And are then kept in storage for four years more (or five, currently) when even thinking about running causes a hamstring injury.

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