x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Moot point behind the London Olympics motto

Slogans can be inspiring but are they really necessary and effective is the question.

With 100 days to go for the Olympics, the motto was released last week in London.
With 100 days to go for the Olympics, the motto was released last week in London.

So, the organisers of this summer's London Olympics rejected all of my suggested mottos.

Hopefully Better Than Atlanta was not good enough for Locog, apparently. Nor did they like We Invented Sport So Let Us Win, More Of A Gathering Than A Party, or even Higher Faster Stronger … Then You Might Just Get A Seat On The Tube.

The official motto, unveiled this week to mark the 100-day countdown, is Inspire A Generation.

Fine. Whatever. I did not want them to use my mottos, anyway.

A more bitter person, however, might suggest that the chosen slogan seems rather ageist.

While previous mottos were all-embracing - Beijing had One World, One Dream; Athens Welcome Home and Sydney Share the Spirit - London appears to be singling out young people, either because they are "the future" or, more likely, because they are the demographic daft enough to buy the costly merchandise on which the motto will be emblazoned.

Are the rest of us beyond the point of inspiration? Should those over the age of, say, 21, accept that our time has passed?

Perhaps we should be angry that previous Games did not bother to nurture our potential in the same way. When I was in my malleable prime, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics motto was the simpering Friends Forever. (The power of this message was eroded somewhat by it being written in both Spanish and Catalan, to remind us that the host nation was not even friends with itself.)

For my elder brother it was even worse. Moscow and Los Angeles (1980 and 1984) did not bother with mottos at all, besides the unspoken This Might Postpone Nuclear Armageddon For A Month.

Fortunately, this is a moot point because the notion that elite athletes should "inspire" our children is ludicrous.

Inspire them to what?

At best, to sacrifice a balanced and happy lifestyle in the obsessive, lonely and necessarily selfish pursuit of a fairly pointless goal: to be, for example, the most accurate shooter of a pistol from 10 metres. Then, if they are really lucky, to advertise crisps or present television shows.

At worst, well, where to start?

To cheat, like Boris Onischenko, the Russian who rigged his foil to register non-existent hits.

To take drugs, like Ben Johnson.

To allegedly invent motorcycle crashes to explain missed drugs tests, like the fallen Greek heroes Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou.

To irritate the world with self-congratulation, like the US men's 4x100m relay team of 2000.

And if, say, a young British kid is inspired to sacrifice everything for athletics, how will he or she be inspired by the fact that Team GB's captain is Tiffany Porter, an American ringer who chose to exploit her British heritage only after it became clear she would not be picked by the US?

I am not anti-Olympics. On the contrary, I love the spectacle of the world's best pushing themselves to the limit.

What irritates me is the need to justify the Games beyond that basic premise: to see who is higher, faster, stronger. To seek greater meaning is to load the event with significance it cannot live up to.

The Olympic Games are brilliant: compelling, emotive, dramatic and often hilarious.

But they are not the key to global happiness. They are just Something Good To Watch On Telly In August. (Yes, that one was also rejected)

We must boot out such mind games

The theft of Real Madrid’s kit from the away dressing room at Bayern Munich was an outrage.

Six pair of boots were pilfered before Tuesday night’s Champions League match along with an undisclosed number of shirts.

That must have been incredibly upsetting for Real coach Jose Mourinho, who likes to know enough clothing is available to conceal him inside a laundry basket, should the need arise.

Cristiano Ronaldo alone lost three pairs of his distinctive fluorescent orange boots in the raid.

That is some small comfort. It means that even if the thief is not kept awake at night by a guilty conscience, he is probably kept awake by the nauseating glow of his loot.

Thankfully, the team carried spare kit to play the match. Imagine if the whole lot had been swiped. Real may have had to forfeit.

Or, if Uefa regulations are anything like those concerning forgotten PE kit at my old school, they would have been told to have a rummage through Lost Property.

That would be a de facto forfeit, anyway. The Allianz Arena is an intimidating place at the best of times, never mind when you are wearing only mildewed Speedos, a ladies volleyball top and a pair of Mark van Bommel’s old flip-flops.

It has not been suggested that Bayern, who won the match, were complicit in the theft, but let us hope other teams are not inspired to play this particular mind game.

I would hate to see a time when playing a “sweeper system” means dressing up as cleaners to rifle the oppositions’ locker room or the “diamond formation” relates to swarming a player to snatch his bling. There is simply no place in football for fleecing players.

That, surely, is what fans are for.

sports@thenational.ae

 

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