Back in 1996 the Olympics were held in Barcelona. In the run up to those Games, Stewart McRobert, the Sentinel’s sports reporter at the time, wrote a piece giving his trenchant views on what the Olympics were all about. Characterising it as “that modern substitute for international warfare”, he highlighted money as the key difference between the 1990s and earlier days. In particular, the big money to be made by the top competitors – that, and “the chance to be a team captain on A Question of Sport”.
For Stewart, lots of money and enormous egos seemed to go together: “it’s the ones who probably make the most money that get all petulant and po-faced”. He went on:
“For example, the two British athletes likely to be the biggest money spinners at the moment are Linford Christie and Liz McColgan. And yet they are also two people who you are likely to see on TV telling the world how wonderful they are and dismissing in a completely serious way the chances of anyone else beating them to a gold medal”.
Yup, Stewart was not at all enamoured by the egos then on display. The thing to do, he counselled, was to forget that side of things, try to avoid the hype generated by the Games and concentrate on just watching and enjoying the events themselves.
Will London 2012 be any different? It certainly feels like far and away the most hyped Games ever. It’ll be interesting to see how the current crop of superstars in their pre- and post competition interviews compare in the humility stakes – and who ends up on A Question of Sport.
P.S. Did you know that… in the early 1900s one of the “events” you could compete in and win a gold medal was Town Planning?