The Olympics – sit back, do nothing, and enjoy!

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Something rather strange happened last week. As I sat down in the evening with a glass of red wine and plate of lasagna, I flicked around the television channels to see what was on. On one channel there was Olympic football, on another; weightlifting. There decision was instant, and I tucked into a rather fine lasagna while watching the women’s 56kg clean and jerk.

I can honestly say this is the first time in my life I have chosen to watch weightlifting over football. But there I was, willing some stout Kazakh lady to hoik a barbell over her head.  That’s when I knew I’d caught Olympic fever.

And I can imagine that this strange phenomenon is being repeated in households around the world (with or without the lasagna). From Stratford to Shanghai, families are crowing round TVs to watch the women’s keirin, men’s skeet, or other strange and obscure activities that have somehow made it on to the Olympic agenda. I swear that if making a cup of tea became an Olympic sport, millions of people would tune in to watch the Mongolian tea-making team take on Azerbaijan in a dunking reperchage. I know I would.

And this is great, right? All of a sudden minority sports have their place in the sun. The Olympics creates a huge swell of interest in activities that face huge difficulties obtaining funding, sponsorship and, let’s face it, public interest. But for three weeks they rise to the top, overtaking oversubscribed sports such as football and enticing an increasing number of people to try something new.

There is only one small problem with this; we are all so busy watching the Olympics that we’re not out there participating in the sports they promote. I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but I would guess that the main global activities been boosted by the Games are TV-watching and couch-sitting, possibly accompanied by wine-drinking.

But as they say, if the Olympics inspires just one person to take up a new sport, then it’s been a success. Personally I can’t see myself trying my hand at weightlifting, but it’s probably a little late in the day for me to start a sporting career anyway. For now I’m happy to sit back, relax with a glass of red and watch the experts do it. And surely that’s what the Olympic spirit is all about.

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