By normangiller July 30, 2012 9:18:00 PM UTC
Norman Giller trawls through the sports pages for a flavour of how the Olympics are being reported, kicking off with Giles Coren in his usual waspish form in The Times after getting the dream assignment of reporting on the beach volleyball at Horseguards Parade. Imagine it as a saucy postcard from the seaside:
It is a fun holiday game that has slipped into the Olympics by a back door marked “Sex”. There’s no skill to speak of, no variation of pace, no subtlety in the game. You can score only with a smash or a fake-smash dink, or if your opponents fall over in the annoying sand. If the criteria for Olympic inclusion were purely sporting then you would ask, “In that case, why not Frisbee? Why not Swingball? Why not Reading a Book While Floating on a Lilo?”
But the only criterion here is “fun”. This stuff is hilarious, and the organisers know it.
Otherwise they wouldn’t play the Benny Hill “chase me” music when the sand-sweepers come on between sets. They wouldn’t have dancers in bikinis (of an altogether different and less aerodynamic body type from the athletes) running on and rolling around on beach balls between points. They wouldn’t have a Smashy and Nicey type old skool DJ demanding Mexican waves and playing the Macarena. Or dumpy line judges stomping about in shorts and shoes, looking like squares sent by Health and Safety to stop the beach party. Or a commentator announcing, “Russia to serve from the Downing Street end” — which sounds like the spookiest of spy code warnings from the James Bond phase of the Cold War.
There are some good rallies, because these girls are tall and fit and reasonably well-coordinated, but that’s all. Believe me, if they were good enough to play tennis, they’d be playing tennis. And one cannot escape the feeling that you or I could get ourselves up to something like bronze medal standard with a couple of hours to practise, along as the rain held off.
Britain’s sporting traditions were called into question in a rant that was reported from Greenwich Park by Pippa Cuckson in the Daily Telegraph
Veteran New Zealander Andrew Nicholson was enraged when a 10-minute suspension of play was called by Anne-Mette Binder, the head International Equestrian Federation judge, while the first major thunderclap passed and repairs were made to the perspex roof of a judges’ cabin that was flapping in the wind.
Nicholson was an ante-post individual medal favourite but says Nereo went off the boil during the wait; he is in 21st place.
“It was a disgrace, an absolute disgrace,” he fumed. “I thought the British were meant to be sporting people. The weather wasn’t bad enough to warrant that, it’s just a bit of rain isn’t it?”
However Sarah Harris, the New Zealand team’s performance manager, said: “Naturally we are all very disappointed, but its nothing we can undo.” Britain’s Cook, the 2008 bronze medallist, earlier endured the start of the deluge and still returned a score of 42.
“I am used to riding in the rain. I don’t have an indoor school, and I have ridden in some very wet days on the South Downs,” she said. “But it was a worry when noises were coming off the judges’ roof. I am just really pleased that the horse really kept a lid on it and tried his best.”
Reporting from Wembley for the Daily Mail, Neil Ashton had his eyes on the inactive David Beckham as Great Britain lumbered to a 3-1 victory over an extraordinarily ordinary UAE team:
With David Beckham looking on from the stands, at least Stuart Pearce was spared an embarrassing post-match handshake with the pride of Britain.
Left out of the Olympic squad by Pearce, Beckham could have proved handy for Great Britain as UAE threatened to gatecrash this special Wembley evening.
Pearce’s picks, who led through Ryan Giggs’ 16th-minute header, had been pegged back by the world’s 115th best side, according to FIFA, when Rashed Eisa slipped the ball neatly beyond Jack Butland.
At 1-1, in front of a near capacity Wembley crowd, the Union flags that had been waved so enthusiastically were suddenly being discarded on stairwells. The fans had come to see Team GB wipe the floor with UAE and power towards the medal podium at the start of this Olympic adventure .... For all the possession Britain enjoyed, they lack the style of Senegal or the brazen approach of Brazil.
Making the splash in The Sun, Vikki Orvice spotlighted Britain’s first medal in the Olympic pool ar Stratford:
Becky Adlington won bronze in the swimming 400m freestyle and put it all down to ‘Girl Power’. The defending Olympic champ only qualified in EIGHTH place.
She said: “After the heats I didn’t even expect to get a medal. I was just not expecting that at all. I knew Lizzie Armitstead had won silver and got the first medal for Britain. We all said ‘Yeeees. It’s girl power!’ I hope now we’ve got it going, got momentum going so we can win more medals.”
Adlington, who will start the defence of her 800m Olympic title on Thursday, clocked 4min 03.01sec. That was faster than the time she won the 400m with in Beijing four years ago.
Along with most of us, The Independent’s always readable Grace Dent is holding a TV watching brief on the Olympics:
The BBC Olympic red button should come with a warning. Abandon all hope of household chores he or she who presses it. My heart sighs for Britain's infants, breakfasting on Maltesers and non-salted Play-Doh surrounded by wilted spider plants and obese unwalked dogs, while Mummy observes USA swimmer Ryan Lochte adjusting his chlorine-drenched wedgie and Dad sits with his laptop chortling guiltily at "the medal for the heaviest snatch".
Three days into the Games and I shan't feign having understood half the things I've watched and loved but I'm sure it's not that important. In the cycling, no amount of demos with salt 'n' pepper pots or diagrams scrawled on the backs of envelopes will clarify what went wrong for Cavendish and Wiggins. I know no one looked terribly happy in the final stages, a lot like when my emerald green Raleigh Chopper bike used to fold away in transit en route to school in the 1980s, but without the bruised vulva.
In a similar vein, to the untrained eye, the women's beach volleyball (Italy vs Russia) looked like 10 hard-bodied she-warriors in tiny pants, angrily berating some poor chump sat up a wallpapering ladder.
And I love the bloody, spiky no-nonsense of the women's judo, endless hours of ladies publicly battering each other in dressing gowns which keep falling undone (or as we call it in the North "just mams on a Saturday morning"). Presently I'm trying for tickets for the women's wrestling, hoping that some corporate twonks might have guiltily given some back.
Tomorrow: What the Overseas papers are saying about London 2012