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2 Waiheke Weekender
The first word
Some people just look great
on a horse and Mr Darcy and
Mark Todd are in that category.
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I heard some-
one describe the
Olympics as the
best reality televi-
sion you're ever
likely to see, and I
have to agree.
Not that I'm a
fan of the genre,
but having worked
in the industry I
know there is one
The majority of so-called reality programmes
bear very little resemblance to reality and often
resort to manufacturing drama to hike up the
However with the Olympics you know all the
drama and emotion is absolutely authentic; they
couldn't fake that amount of delight and devasta-
tion if they tried.
And in spite of being generally un-sporty,
I always forget how much I like watching this
global event until it rolls around again.
In fact it's just as well it only happens every
four years, otherwise I'd be in serious danger of
succumbing to couch potato syndrome.
And now I have company on the couch in
the form of my six-year-old, for whom many of
these sports are entirely new.
Until about two weeks ago, he thought 'sport'
meant soccer and rugby, with possibly a mild
foray into skating, surfng, scooting and swim-
So the traditional track and feld events in
particular have been a revelation to him.
And the joy of things like pole vaulting and
discus or shot put and high jump is that you don't
have to understand a complicated set of rules to
enjoy watching them.
It's pretty clear what the story is; someone,
usually built like a Sherman tank, has to hurl
something heavy or spiky a greater distance than
Or else the leaner, meaner muscled ones have
to hurl themselves over a high bar, or jump across
a sandy pit or run really, really fast.
And I think it's the apparent simplicity of
these events that is their enduring appeal. There
is fascination in watching what you know has
taken years of training, deprivation and hard
work come down to one perfect throw, just the
right angle of jump or the fastest turn of speed
over 10 seconds.
This admiration for gleaming muscle and
brawn must be programmed into our DNA some-
where, dating back to caveman times.
Even in an age where
IT consultants are prob-
ably paid more than
anyone else, there is a
limit to how interest-
ing it is to watch them
install a hard drive.
In our bones, we still
believe it's the people
who do all this power-
ful physical stuff that
are likely to survive and
thrive in ways the rest of
us just won't. After all,
running fast and chuck-
ing heavy things had to
be an advantage in the
days of mammoth hunt-
ing and sabre tooth tiger
avoidance, and it still
has its uses.
We geeky types who
make a living from
reporting on the action
rather than creating it,
are seriously put in our
place when it comes to the glossy physical prow-
ess on display at the Olympics.
But it's not just physical beauty that makes
the event such an engaging spectacle; it's the
extreme psychological tension palpably zinging
through the air.
Who will turn out to have that extra edge of
mental toughness, the ability to cope with 80,000
screaming fans -- not to mention a vast global
television audience -- and deliver what they are
capable of when it counts?
Whose shoulders will be wide enough to hold
the weight of their country's expectations?
I am not particularly patriotic for three years
and 351 days, but during two weeks every four
years, I am suddenly scouring every television
screen for the sight of a black jersey or a silver
Even better if we are an underdog with a slim
chance of a medal. Then, an effort like young
swimmer Lauren Boyle's -- who pulled out all
the stops to produce the best swim by a New
Zealander at the games, fnishing fourth in the
800 metre freestyle -- is a wonderful thing to
After that extraordinary effort, Lauren -- who
I have to admit I had never laid eyes on before
that moment – was in foods of emotional tears,
saying she was just so happy to come in the
top eight at an Olympic
See, it's all to do with
expectation. World cham-
pion shot putter Valerie
Adams on the other hand,
was widely expected to
bring home gold so her
silver medal, while still
a stunning achievement,
didn't seem to make her
very happy at all.
And I have to admit
to a moment of nostalgia
watching veteran eques-
trian Mark Todd, still
a fne fgure on a horse
at 56. Some people just
look great on a horse and
Mr Darcy and Mark Todd
are in that category.
Even if you're not
addicted to watching all
that human drama play-
ing out, there is the pure
visual eye candy of a
gymnast fipping and swooping in impossibly
elastic ways or a diver executing a ridiculously
diffcult dive before slicing cleanly into the pool
without creating a ripple. Not to mention the
virtually unbelievable precision of the Russian
synchronised swimming pair.
I believe this is what television was invented
for, although being on the spot must be pretty
exciting as well; with the added advantage of not
having to endure the edited highlights package
brought to you by the sneeringly sarcastic team
on Prime's The Crowd Goes Wild.
In fact by the time you read this, all the
excitement will be over and it will be another
four years before it comes back. I'm missing it
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