Monday 20 November 2017

Faint-hearted Hickey's neck is intact as always

In a week when our athletes taught us about dignity, no one was too bothered about bare-assed Pat Hickey's lack of it

Controversey: Pat Hickey is escorted by police in a wheelchair at the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Controversey: Pat Hickey is escorted by police in a wheelchair at the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Sport is only an excuse to have the Olympics. The Olympics is not, of course, really about sport at all. It's about people who have never watched a rowing race, or hurdling, or gymnastics, or indeed beach volleyball, in their lives becoming consumed with it. It is about people who might actively avoid watching two women box the head off each other, stopping everything to become deeply passionate about such a spectacle, if only for 10 minutes.

More so than most sporting events, the Olympics is about the humanity, about the extremes of human emotions and human endeavour. It is a time when people who are not sports fans dip into the agony and the ecstasy, to see what all the fuss is about. And these young athletes are shamanic. They go to these places to which none of us reasonable people would go, to extremes of dedication and sacrifice. And they do it for four years, mostly only to see their dreams shattered in minutes, seconds even, with the occasional one of them fulfilling their lifetime ambition. And we get to drop in for the fun bit, the last few minutes at the end of the journey, to vicariously share the feeling. And most of them make little or no money for their efforts.

When people stop talking on TV or on radio, time passes very slowly. Any pause in the action can seem to stretch for hours. So it is hard to say how long it was before Katie Taylor could speak after she lost her fight on Tuesday. It could have been only 10 seconds, or 20, or 30. But it felt like a lifetime. It gave us time to ponder what was going on in her head, whether the cameras should leave her alone, whether they should come back when she had composed herself. But they didn't. Because, in some way, this was the sporting money shot. This was the agony, the passion. And the hurt and the confusion and the frustration in her face, her flawless face with those bright shining eyes, was possibly one of the rawest things we will see on TV this year.

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