x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The games are just getting started

Will Batchelor believes action from the upcoming English Premier League season will continue to entertain like London 2012 did.

Those missing the exploits of eventual gold medallist Britain's Greg Rutherford in the men's long jump at the London 2012 Olympics ...
Those missing the exploits of eventual gold medallist Britain's Greg Rutherford in the men's long jump at the London 2012 Olympics ...


Don't worry if the end of London 2012 has left you depressed. The English Premier League starts this weekend, so at least you can enjoy the diving.

Ha ha! "Diving", get it? Not diving as in high board but as in simulation to win a penalty ... what do you mean, you've already heard it? Man, bad jokes travel fast these days.

I blame Twitter.

I did think about trying to add a new spin with a Tom Daley/Tony Daley reference, but that would not work as the Aston Villa winger played much of his football before the Premier League was invented and nobody ever cheated.

Nonetheless, the point stands.

Having feasted on the greatest Olympic Games ever, we must now seek our nourishment from the new football season, which also kicks off in Spain this weekend. (Serie A and the Bundesliga start next weekend, while the French Ligue 1 has already begun. Well, the minor leagues often like to steal a march on the big boys.)

This season, goals alone will not be enough to satisfy our Olympics-enhanced palates. Thankfully, I believe that football is up to the challenge. Every wonderful or dramatic high point of the beautiful Games can be matched in some way by the beautiful game.

Take the unlikely triumph of British long jumper Greg Rutherford, who came from nowhere to win gold with a massive leap of 8.31m.

If you want to see a flame-haired chap jumping that sort of distance, just watch Manchester United's veteran midfielder Paul Scholes. Not only can he leap like a stag but he also boasts the accuracy to land his stud's directly on to an opposing player's ankle. He may not win a gold medal for it, but he has picked up several red cards.

Speaking of United, take a look at the teams Sir Alex Ferguson selects for League or FA Cup matches he deems beneath the dignity of his great club. Hey presto, you have just recreated the Corinthian magic of those badminton players who also lost on purpose.

Shin A-lam, the South Korean fencer, provided another of the Games' enduring images via her tearful sit-down protest. It was tragic, really, that she seemed unable to accept the reality of her unfortunate situation. Which reminds me, I'm looking forward to Arsene Wenger's post-match interviews.

Shin was upset that an extra second had been wrongly added to the timer, which enabled her opponent to score a winning hit. If just one extra second upsets her that much, let's hope she never goes to Old Trafford, where "Fergie Time" often runs to around five minutes.

The men's basketball was a big draw at the Games, as the gilded millionaires of Team USA casually trampled over the minnow opposition to inevitable victory. If you like that sort of "competition", I'd recommend you watch Glasgow Rangers for the next few seasons, as they try to work their way back up the Scottish leagues from the bottom tier.

Rangers are also worth watching if you are missing the action from the "Aquatic Centre", which is what we also call Scottish Third Division pitches from November until mid-April.

And if it's dancing horses you like, just wait until they play Celtic in the cup. Remember, it must be even harder to move with such grace when you have a police officer in full riot gear on your back.

All Olympic sports are great but we should probably admit that the greatest moments were forged in the main stadium: it is hard to imagine that magnificent structure will ever again hear the tumultuous, unified roars that greeted the heroics of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis.

Well, at least not until West Ham United move in and start with the "Allardyce (or whoever they have got by then) Out" chants.

And while we will never see the Olympic flame burning there again, we may see some fireworks.

They are bound to play Millwall at some point.

In the meantime, we'll just have to make do with football's equivalent of the 4x400m relay, in which a team tries to offload the baton as quickly as possible. For "baton", read Joey Barton.

I suppose we should admit, however, that there are some Olympic moments which football simply cannot recreate. A personal high point for me was the deadly accuracy of Peter Wilson, who took gold in the double trap.

Obviously, spectacular accuracy with a firearm is a spectacle we are unlikely to see from a footballer.

Well, not until they put live cameras at Chelsea's training ground and paint targets on the work experience kids.


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