Monday, 18 August 2008

The Disappointment

Just after the American swimmer Ryan Lochte had won gold in the 200 metres backstroke, he was asked about his eating habits. He mentioned pizzas and products from an American fast food chain. I thought McLochte was alone. Far from it.

Just after destroying the field to set a new world record in the 100 metres on Saturday night, Usain Bolt was asked what kind of day he’d had.

“I never had breakfast,” he said. “Actually I woke up at 11am, sat around watched some TV..then I had lunch....some nuggets…and then I pretty much went back to my room.....slept again for three more hours and then, went back and got some more nuggets and then I came to the track.”

On such a regime McBolt registered a time of 9.69 seconds to become the first Jamaican winner of the title.

These kind of statements should come with the kind of warnings that used to precede TV episodes of Batman: “Don’t try this at home, kids.”

Bolt qualifed for the second round of the 200 metres today just before China went into national mourning over the non-qualification of the golden boy Liu Xiang.

The 25 year old Olympic and world champion in the 110 metres high hurdles pulled up with a gammy ankle during heat six. This is bad news as he was the big hope for a Chinese gold medal at the stadium.

He’s a good looking boy and his face has been plastered everywhere. There was a hastily convened press conference to discuss why the king had left the building.

I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an emergency cabinet meeting. I’d personally impose martial law.

But then I am known to overreact.

I’ve been looking at some of the news agency wires and they’re quoting fans of the man saying the Olympics are over for me.

I personally have seen few signs of self-immolation.

Only yesterday I was musing on how the exploits of Bolt and the American swimmer Michael Phelps had helped the Olympics to emerge from the negative cloud surrounding the prelude to the games.

In essence Liu’s departure won’t diminish it from a sporting point of view as gargantuan feats have already been achieved.

Liu was only mentioned in the same breath as the world record holder Dayron Robles because the so called “Shanghai Express” was the defending champion. Injuries have kept Liu out of action for much of the season.

The saying goes that class is permanent while form is temporary but we all know that excellence nevertheless needs to muscle its way to the top. Eventually it will out.
Since huge marketing campaigns have been launched around Liu, there must be a squadron of executives now flying by the seat of their pants.

He, along with the basketball player Yao Ming, was one of the human product placements of these Olympics.

Liu’s main coach, Sun Haiping, twice broke down in tears during the press conference. While I don’t think he’s going to be taken away and consigned to the salt mines, the outburst underlines the immense pressure that both had been living with.

There was a sense in the press conference that the true extent of the injury had been hidden from the Chinese people. If that’s the case, then that’s just stupid. Injuries are as inevitable to athletes as defeats and victories.

Terrence Trammell, the American contender for the 110 metres high hurdles, pulled up in heat five. Even though he was wearing sunglasses, you could see the pain in his eyes as he beat his fist.

It’s bad luck. It happens and you just have to recover and conquer anew.

We’re on the cusp of a perception here. If the crowds now don’t turn up to the events because their one true hero is defunct, then the Shangri-la promoted since the opening ceremony nine days ago will be exposed as a sustained deception.

Chinese athletes have so far garnered 35 golds – already three more than at Athens four years ago. With seven days of competition still left they’re on target to head the medals table

But if they collect all the golds, silvers and bronzes available from this point and the masses still consider the event not to be a success because their champion has gone, then the International Olympic Committee executives who decided to place the Olympic product here will be shown up to be as lame as Liu.

To cite a phrase from an Australian swimmer, we’re in a moment.