Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Rains

It had to happen. The rain that was predicted for Friday night’s opening ceremony extravaganza came to us on Sunday. And so rather than being grey and hot it is wet and grey.

I’m not yet sure which I prefer. But since it was damp I thought why not go and watch the swimming.

I would have probably done this even it had been the usual clammy humidity outside.

Off I squelched to the National Aquatics Centre which is also known as the Water Cube. This is one of the big buildings of these games. Designed by the Chinese State Construction International Company, Australia PTW Architects and ARUP Australia, it houses some 17,000 people.

And there was indeed a cacophony as the American Michael Phelps broke his own world record to take the 4x100m individual medley. It was the first of what he hopes will be a trawl of eight golds.

There was more screaming as Park Tae-Hwan won South Korea’s first Olympic swimming gold in the 400m freestyle.

And you can imagine the frenzy as the Chinese duo Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia retained their Olympic title in the synchronised three metre springboard diving.

A few days into the competitions and the hosts are racking up the gold medals. And who’d begrudge them that after laying on such a tremendous show.

What are also mounting are the clichés. Before we get anywhere near the track and field, there have been indignities uttered to the point where I've been forced to establish a measure.

So as the thermometer of competition rises, a “squirmometer” will monitor any post event triteness.

It’s not that the comments are untrue or offensive, they just make you wriggle in your set and raise your eyebrow a bit.

Perhaps it’s because the statements emerge in the hinterland of victory.

The Australian Stephanie Rice who took the gold medal in the 4x100 individual medley in a world record time seemed quite deft as she deflected questions about her relationship with the Australian swimmer Eamon Sullivan.

But then she talked about being “in the moment” in the pool.

OK. But Ugh.

The American swimmer Dara Torres anchored her team to silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay. She is 41 and many of the swimmers in Sunday’s race weren’t even born when she was competing in her first Olympics back in Los Angeles in 1984.

But her aquatic longevity – this is her fifth Olympics - hasn’t salvaged her from the ravages of the cliché. “Age is only a number,” she intoned.

True, she’s won 10 Olympic medals. But ugh.

“When we are in the water, it doesn’t matter because the water doesn’t really know how old you are when you hit the water.”

Eau dear.