Summer Sportsblog: Olympics have showcased the best of sports. And the worst.

As we enter the home straight of the London 2012 Olympic games, it’s a good time to stop and take stock of events that have transpired in the capital during the past fortnight.

My opinion is rather like everyone else’s – generally very impressed, pretty darn proud to be British, and engaged with a whole range of sports that I previously couldn’t give two hoots about, or else barely knew existed.

Other than the obvious excitement generated by watching Usain Bolt become a legend, David Rudisha become a superstar, and basking in the days of cycling, rowing and ‘Super Saturday’ in the athletics when Britannia, however briefly, ruled the waves once again, the Olympics has provided a platform for various obscure forms of entertainment.

In a previous blog, I raved on the virtues of handball. This week, as the world’s biggest festival draws to a close, I must talk of my admiration for archery.

That gold bullseye was the size of an iPhone, yet these skilled marksmen could strike it with metronomic regularity from a full 15 metres away.

Martial arts have also had their day in the sun, with first judo then taekwondo truly living up the Olympic motto of ‘swifter, faster, stronger’, helped by seeing unparalleled levels of British success in their ranks. Jade Jones’ bulldozing run to gold on Thursday was mesmerizing to watch.

Then there is BMX. Eight hoodies riding bikes over the surface of the moon, with every other race consisting of a mass crash, two broken legs and a busted spleen. This is an Olympic sport. Sweet.

However, for all the wonderful sports on offer, there are two I cannot abide. Dressage and Beach Volleyball.

Britain might have won two golds in dressage, but I don’t see the appeal. All thirty or more competitors have to perform the exact same routine, which is a collection of pretty average circus tricks set to music.

A horse transferring from one style of trot to a slightly different style of trot and back again is not entertaining. It’s like watching a chess master at play – you can admire the skill, but that doesn’t make it a good spectator sport.

But whilst I can muster some respect for dressage, I can’t be doing with the nonsense watched by thousands of fools at Horse Guards Parade. Since its introduction in 1996, Beach Volleyball has been the joke sport of the Summer Olympics.

Whenever called to comment, most sports writers tell of how they ‘enjoy’ the competitors, usually with a lecherous grin on their face or work. Clearly these people have never heard of the internet.

If you watch regular volleyball and its sandy cousin side by side, the difference is stark. Volleyball has many riveting rallies and shows of genuine athleticism. Beach volleyball rallies rarely last longer than three or four hits, and are competed by people who look asif they were plucked from the sunbeds simply for their looks.

The most important problem however is that of competitiveness. Often the biggest nations have two competing sides, something banned by most sports where a single country is dominating, such as Britain in Track Cycling.

This leads to ridiculous finals competed by only one nation – this year’s women’s final was USA v USA. This at least should be changed.

Still, I’d rather have it at the Olympics than Golf.


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