Saturday 23 September 2017

Sit back and savour the variety

Eamonn Sweeney

Well, here we go. One of the great things about the Olympics is that it cuts to the chase pretty sharpish. All that meaningless water-treading you have to endure in the early stages of a soccer or rugby World Cup is conspicuous by its absence because the games gets its business transacted pronto. After all the build-up, by this day fortnight London 2012 will be all over.

So we might as well get the most out of the Olympics while they last. And one way of doing so is to remember that, exciting as the big-ticket items like athletics and swimming are, they're not the be all and end all.

The Olympics can be a treasure trove for the open-minded fan. Think of the millions who suddenly found themselves enraptured by gymnastics when they saw Korbut, Kim and Comaneci do their thing in Munich and Montreal. Or of how rewarding it was to discover your inner canoeist as Ian Wiley and Eoin Rheinisch tried to extricate a medal from the white water rapids. You didn't need to know much about rowing to marvel at Steve Redgrave or be a diving expert to admire the courage and grace of Greg Louganis.

St Augustine once said, "the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page," and you can easily adapt that quote to the world of sport. The great strength of the Olympics lies in its variety, the chance it gives us to glimpse handball or weightlifting, volleyball or fencing and marvel at the skills peculiar to a game we'd never really thought of before.

There are, after all, few things more enjoyable than watching talented and hard-working people do something they've spent years trying to master. And London 2012 promises to be an exceptionally congenial experience for the Irish viewer. For one thing its proximity to us means that the big events will be on at reasonable hours from our point of view and for another the advent of Sky Plus and interactive red button coverage means most of us will be able to see what we want when we want to.

So forget the carping words of those who'd surely be on the podium if begrudgery was an Olympic sport and enjoy. Just enjoy.

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