Racing in the alps always good for devouring the juice of the fountain of youth post-comp
It’s a great moment when the 18 stone (114kg) Gallic, belligerent, stout, long-haired, leather jacket clad, Gerard Depardieu lookalike with two finger ends missing comes to sit next to you, in the middle seat, on your flight home from Geneva. Clammy flanks press on your elbow, body odour pushes it’s acrid way in to your nasal passage and samba music inexplicably blasts from his mobile phone speaker.
It’s even better when he’s asked to move by the on board crew because the seat belt won’t fit around his considerable waist.
Absolutely thrilled to have my article detailing my experience of doping in athletics published in The Times! Kind of been a lifetime goal to one day have written something published in a national newspaper, even if it’s just the once.
Anyone who wishes to read the piece, who doesn’t wish to pay Rupert Murdoch, can read it on my friend Ollie William’s blog here, where it originally appeared before The Times gobbled it up.
I just arrived in Perth…
For some reason the main flight from Singapore to Perth arrives at 4:30 am. On approach in the dead of night, the view out of the window lets you know just how remote Perth is. At the edge of the city, the web of orange street lights stop dead. And from that, there’s nothing, in any direction. But when you say there’s nothing, there really is no thing, not a single thing. Just black. At least 1600 miles of either bush or the indian ocean are your only options if you fancy leaving. Perth is an outpost, the most remote kind. A city made rich off the very red earth which isolates it. A frontier town where the border’s not a political one, rather one between man, and hot, uninhabitable nature.
The taxi from the airport in the hour before dawn makes you feel like you’re the only human alive. The street lights barely seem to receive enough power to do their job, as though the effort of getting that electricity across this great continent has sapped the lights themselves of the strength to do their job. So you struggle your cases in to your apartment, the one with a single anaemic bulb in the middle of the room and you promise yourself you’ll just sleep two hours, like that pilot you met in Hong Kong last year told you you should, but when the alarm goes off at 10 it sounds like an army of murderers stampeding through your frontal lobe, so you dive back in to your circadian trough.
When once you do emerge, it feels like a new day, but it’s the same day as before. It should be morning but its mid-afternoon and the rest of the world’s going on about its business without a care for your body clock. So you stumble out into the polar opposite of what you thought of the place at 5am. The sea breeze is rolling in, its cutting through the blazing sun and you sweat and you squint and ask of your body what it just can’t quite do - adjust to crossing 10 time zones in less than 24 hours.
Meanwhile there’s people drinking coffee and laughing and speaking in code words about the surf and they’ve got tanned skin and blond hair and tattoos and the cafe owner is playing obscure blues and serving single estate Ethiopian yirgachaffe and you realise every negative observation you made about this place in the dark, eyes bleary from transcontinental travel, was wrong, for the moment at least.
Looking at the bestseller’s charts in Waterstone’s today, so many autobiographies from sportspeople. What is it about victory in sport that people adore so much? I suppose it’s the modern day equivalent of fireside tales of brave kings in battle. Bradley Wiggins is this years Richard the Lion-heart - successful battles fought and won both on home soil and in France, a medieval king’s and a professional cyclists most prized land.
Well that was all pretty good wasn’t it?
Nice one LOCOG.
Here’s a photo I took from a British Airways flight on approach to Heathrow during the games.
Unless you’re a very particular type of superhero, whose singular weird superpower is to remain completely oblivious to propaganda, you may have noticed there are a lot of people, corporations, and Boris Johnsons demanding that you whip yourself into an uncontrollable frenzy of excitement over the oh-so-close London Olympic games.
There’s global companies, official games sponsors, demanding we get so excited that we frantically purchase Olympic portions of dental floss, triple-stack-foodburgers and expensive watches. Even those that didn’t pay twenty thousand zillion pounds to be allowed to use any words starting with the letter “O,” or rhyme with “No Limpets,” hope you’ll be so generally excited that you buy their products anyway, and the government want you to get excited so that you forget how bad your life is while they austerity your face off.
But if that seems like a disparaging start to an article about the Olympic games, let me make clear that it’s not; I’m entirely in agreement with that lot. You should get excited, just not for their reasons. In fact I think you should be so beside yourself with excitement that you Plotz (It’s a good word, Google it). Rather, my call to hysterical arms is much simpler, it’s because getting to the Olympic games as an athlete, is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT!
The following picture demonstrates what the struggle can do to a face… (my face)
I know this first hand, because I’ve spent the past four years trying harder than anything to get to this one, and failed. I did however make it once, in a distant galaxy called Beijing 2008, and while I was there I learnt a lot about what it takes to be part of this colossal event, why every demographic on earth see the games as a worthwhile way to sacrifice normality for a single moment occurring once every four years.
As a spectator, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these sinewy creatures performing their phenomenal sport dance on your telly, be it on horseback, in a load of water, or round in circles on a track are just born special. It’s easy to tell yourself that Darwinism chose them to give the rest of us a glimpse at Human 2.0. I used to think this way too, until I was one of those people on TV doing Olympic stuff. Granted, I didn’t threaten new standards of human performance, but I put up a decent performance. As part of Team GB in Beijing, I reached the semi-final of the individual 400 metres, and was 0.6 of a second away from becoming an Olympic medallist in the 4x400 relay, finishing a crushing 4th place.