Corrupt, from the starting blocks to the finishing line
Allow me to introduce myself: I am apparently the only person in the entire world who has some sympathy for the Chinese as they lay on the Olympic Games in a few weeks' time.
They can host the games, but they cannot win them. No host wins the Olympic Games. Hosting the Olympics is rather like an ambitious angler hooking a great white shark, but one with rabies, and when he tries to cut his line, his knife is blunt as a baby's finger. This is what London will understand in four years time: if, that is, there is an Olympics in 2012. I hope not: oh, I passionately, profoundly and futilely hope not.
The last time that an Olympics Game still embodied the Corinthian spirit was when Ronnie Delany took the gold for Ireland shortly after Brian Boru slew the Danes. Indeed, if it hadn't been for that, Brian might have won the gold in broadsword. That was an epoch in which Irish show-jumpers would relieve the milkman of his nag, and by the time the milkman had realised the round was proving rather heavy-going, Ireland would have got bronze, behind a brace of Schockemoellers.
This was when white European sprinters might also manage to win a final: which also suggests that this was where the rot began -- not in the decadent halls of capitalism, but in the laboratories of communism.
These were the days of something called "East Germany", or the German Democratic Republic: which is rather like referring to the Papal State of Somalia. That strange and now extinct Germany was certainly East; but it was, equally, not Democratic. It was however very, very strange, as it produced a race of ubermensch and possibly even uberfrau (you'll have to forgive my ropy German) of whom the meister-Aryan, Goering himself might have been proud.
This was in the days before drugs-testing, and people were too polite to enquire into the sturdy contents of the jockstrap of the women's shot-putter, even though her physical resemblance to a Kodiak bear did raise eyebrows, if nothing else. Furthermore, there were all those fleet-footed GDR sprinters, gliding on thin, invisible legs as if on a rocket-sled, leaving honest Africans floundering in their wake.
So much for the cold war. Today, we know the winner of the gold medals in all track events below 400 metres: it is the West African gene-pool, reaching from Dahomey to Ghana. Much the same for everything above 1500 metres will go to the equivalent gene pool for East Africa. The field -- namely throwing heavy things far -- seems to be an area where the Nordic countries still do well, suggesting traditions of domestic violence, about which those outwardly peaceful Swedes and Finns have kept rather quiet. And proudly flapping overhead, the interlinked circles of the IOC fly alongside the coats of arms of the modern Olympian cheat: the crossed hypodermics, above switched urine-samples couchant. (As a matter of interest: when did a truly honest athlete last win the 100 metres?)
And after track and field, there are the Silly Olympics Games, easily the greatest part of the quadrennial orgy, which absolutely no-one around the world has the least idea about -- save the countries finally represented by the medallists.
Now I have heard of Steve Redgrave, and so, probably have you. This is largely because of our proximity to Britain, where he became impossibly, incredibly, astoundingly famous for winning a gold at rowing a boat backwards, along with a couple of mates, for Olympian year after Olympian year, quite swiftly, and never hitting anything.
But no-one else in the world has ever heard of him -- because everyone else was watching their own national hero triumphing in some otherwise utterly unwatched, unseen,
After every Olympics, the hosts resemble Belgium 1918: broken, beaten, shattered - their economies ruined, their cities devastated
unregistered sport: the four-by-four synchronised carpentry, or the 200-metre ladies' excuse-me, or the downhill heavyweight oyster-opening. Followed by hysterical dancing in the streets of the capital concerned, that their Redgravovic had won world glory in the men's light heavy-weight pedicure, or that their Redgravillo had snatched gold in the 800-metre French-polishing medley, (elm, double-ply), or that their von Rotgraff was first in the Left Handed Linen-Ironing, or that their gallant Graverouge got gold in the uphill wine-trampling (twin-bore, skis).
After every Olympics, the hosts resemble Belgium 1918: broken, beaten, shattered -- their economies ruined, their cities devastated, their sons slain on this Olympian field. The voices rise, querulously declaring, never again: NEVER AGAIN! But it doesn't work like that. The Olympics, rather like Earth's orbit and the polar magnetic fields, seem to be some inescapable part our global destiny.
Which brings us, of course, to Tibet: from which we will pass on, because it is irrelevant. What is not is the corruption in the primary part of the games, in track and field. One sometimes gets the impression that bribery of officials is perhaps the only form of corruption which is not a fundamental part of the main games. But maybe that's because bribery initially decided where the games should be held. In other words, bribery is the first and foremost Olympian contest of them all. Not the Gold Gong. The Bold Bung.