Saturday, March 24, 2007

Flights of fancy - Postern

Despite ballooning costs, sport-wise, the London Olympics will not be the biggest Games ever. 2012 is scheduled to feature just 26 sports, a sizable slump from the 35 currently on the IOC roster, and five less Sydney managed on 20% of the budget.

Baseball or softball will be axed, say London, and none of the five replacement options offered by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) are to be taken on.

With the list of IOC-approved sports growing (Sumo, Life Saving and, er, Korfball, anyone?), future Olympic hosts are having to draw the line: the number of sports staged is finite. With two Synchronised Swimming, 17 Shooting and six Equestrian events remaining on the slate, some suggest London could do even more to fight the flab.

The challenge for the IOC marketing team is to produce a Games that balances the Blue Riband (Athletics, Swimming, Gymnastics) with the unsung. Part of the Olympics' appeal is turning your average football/ cricket nut into two-week fan of Rhona Martin, Sean Kerly or Gail Emms. It is these side dishes that make the meal. Cut too much and you'll still have the world's costliest indigestion.

Last April ASOIF suggested host cities be allowed to choose their sports. The IOC has yet to approve, but it may sanction an expansion of the guest-sports programme where host cities can add a sport of their choice. As this has traditionally been used as a sop to let the host win extra golds - Tokyo 1964: a three gold-sweep for Japan in the Judo - it does little to serve the Olympic ideal. But it should still be pursued.

If so, what can London add? I would suggest a sport that will cost next to nothing to stage, is inclusive (how was powerboating ever an Olympic sport?) and showcases a piece of local character?

It has to be darts.

Granted, Britain would be favourites, but it would be no shock if Holland, America or Australia took gold. And, with five years' lead time, surely it wouldn't take much for the British Olympic committee (and our best sports marketing agencies) to enthuse fellow Olympic members.

The costs are manageable: £27 will pay for a sleeve of Tripe B Ray Barneveld 22g Ghost Grips, £30 for a Winmau Pro Board. Have five sets of each delivered to every IOC member, bring back Bully to accompany Seb Coe on a promotional tour and we might just have a new grass-roots event on our hands. The beauty is anyone might make the Portugal, Thai or Mexican Olympic Dart team. 'Be an Olympian', easy.

Invite teams of three, 501, best of nine legs. Stage the group games in pubs and social clubs around London (Co Stompe in De Hems, John Part in the Maple Leaf, etc); move to Lakeside for the Quarter Finals onwards.

If it's not there in 2016, who cares? London might just have managed to stage a more humble Games. Better still, we might be treated to Phil 'The Power' throwing a bull to light the Olympic flame.

33 comments:

MocneJim said...

I like it.

Maybe drinking competitions or pub golf an all.

As a minimum "British" contribution there ought to be golf, snooker, fishing and blogging; you know, all those wife avoiding "sports" us Brits get up to on a wet Sunday in June.

andrewm said...

Is Sumo in? Really?

I can feel my childhood love for the Olympics returning.

Bring Chiyonofuji out of retirement and Japan will walk it.

andrewm said...

Oh, re-reading it I think you're saying Sumo isn't in.

Forget it then.

Tony Ellis said...

very nice piece, postern. A good idea like this might easily have been overdone, but I think you've resisted the temptation. Hope you'll post more soon.

MotM said...

On the serious side, the extent and tedium of the Olympics is a problem as is the preposterous posturing of the IOC. Whilst I support the Games and I'm happyish with the cost (it's not like the money is thrown away - we do get something), I'm not sure I'd open the curtains if they were playing in the garden. Dead-eyed automata executing skills and drug-tainted sports cover the vast majority of what's served up.

Darts, on the other hand, has already provided sensational sport (yes sport) delivered by extremely talented, ultra-competitive and impeccably behaved darters. The atmosphere in the auditorium is electric and the presentation live and on TV unimproveable.

Were darts in the Olympics in 2012, it's the only ticket I'd pay for.

bluedaddy said...

Postern, I hope you know Synchronised Swimming is an officially approved Pseuds Corner sport. I think it was Honolulu who blogged on here with a literally breathless post about how difficult synchro swimming was. Now I'm not saying I'm about to start checking Eurosport for the SS championships, but I did acquire a bit more respect for the rictus-riddled aquanasts.

Darts is a must for 2012 and any extra exposure for Sid Waddell is ok by me: "Cliff Lazarenko’s idea of exercise is a firm press on a soda siphon"

bluedaddy said...

By the way, the London Olympics - we're going to fuck it up aren't we?

hannibalbrooks said...

Darts and the culture that surrounds it already embodies the true Olympic ethos of peace and good will to all mankind and it would be extremely appropriate in this respect if it was introduced as an Olympic sport.

Darts is a fantastic sport, and it is a sport. At the highest level it's not just about almost superhuman skill and accuracy but also an amazing psychological battle not only between opponents and but between the darts player and himself (or herself) as he fights to remain calm and focused under pressure. It's about 'bottle' or 'cajones' and who has got them.

The level of good manners and sportsmanship in darts, as Mouth says, is absolutely impeccable and
it's a well know part of pub culture that darts players, despite their vast consumption of alcohol, never fight and hardly ever even argue with each other, it's completely unheard of even in the local leagues etc.

Competative darts has been the making of a gentleman from many a rough arsed scally. What more could you ask from an Olympic sport?

There is a darts match in my local every Monday and Friday night. Non-participants and casual drinkers, like myself (although there is nothing casual about drinking, since it is a serious business) maintain a respectful silence during matches. This silence is regularly shattered by the cry of 'DARTS!!' from all interested parties when a good shot is made.

Darts must also be the only sport where the name of the sport itself is invoked in acknowledgement of a fine piece of competative skill.

Wouldn't it be great if every Olympic darts match was prefaced by the world chanting in unison via global satalite link-ups ... 'LETS - PLAY - DARTS!!!'.

.

MotM said...

I wish to add one point to Hannibal's fine tribute to darts.

When my brothers and I were at that awkward age when you're too young for the pub, but too old to play in the street (for you could in those days), darts served us well. With a board in our "middle room" we would play, but so would our parents, our mates and their parents, male and female. Of course, abilities differed, but in a game of 501 down or killer, everyone had a chance.

A fine game - sport.

Bluedaddy - the only thing that gives me faith in the 2012 Games is the fact that we didn't screw up the bid.

mimi said...

Mouth: sorry to butt in here with off-topic, but hoping you'll check back here soon. I am having a nightmare of a time with email this afternoon, usual server down, so can't even get anyone's address.
Think I've just set up a google account for emergencies and address should be
mimitig@googlemail.com
Could you send a mail to that address so I can see if it works? Cheers, sorry

tony said...

Oh HB, you were doing so well until you introduced the game-show chant at the end.
Many years ago my Thursday nights were given meaning by the Duke of Ellesmere's darts team. I also watched a very young Eric Bristow in Leytonstone...

hannibalbrooks said...

In my enthusiasm for the noble sport of 'daaarts' as they say where I live, I forgot to congratulate Postern of a fine piece. Good work than man ... or woman.

But coming back gives me the chance to suggest that;-

If darts were to be accepted as a 'guest' sports in 2012, I recommend that we dispose of the usual cheesy music that all darts players seem to choose for their introductions and their walk to the ockey, an essential part of the ceremony and the culture of professional darts, and replace it with music chosen by professional people in this field, like myself.

I've DJed at fashion shows and non-dance events before but would love to whip a darts crowd into a frenzy with some well selected cuts specially chosen for the occasion. For example, I would be an instant fan of any darts player, no matter his level of skill, if he came on stage to anything by Sly & The Family Stone, like this for example ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnKmhOu0Gio

MotM said...

HB - Robin Hood Overture?

mimi - trial e-mail sent.

mimi said...

Mouth: thanks. I received your test and I have replied, so hope new account now working.
Very grateful.

honolulu said...

I really like your style, Postern, and nearly commented on the sci-fi element of this piece as well. Then I realized, upon reading the comments, that you might not be joking nor imagining a near apocalyptic, bladerunneresque future.

Darts might be cheap enough, too, to host Darts events and still other events that will sell many more tickets... or does darts sell a lot of tickets? I don't know. Is it like chess, where 50,000 people will buy tickets to silently watch the action on a big screen?

MotM said...

Honolulu - I hope you are jesting with your comparison of chess to darts. A more diametrically opposite set of fans would be impossible to conceive. Youtube Barneveld vs Taylor and see for yourself!

offside said...

What are you all going on about? The 2012 Olympics will be held in Paris. Tout le monde knows that.

honolulu,

did you watch Virginie Dedieu come out of retirement to win the solo world championship? (Can you call it synchronised swimming if it's solo?) Are you writing yet?

honolulu said...

I did youtube, but didn't find much evidence of the fanbase... although the people who compile darts footage do seem to like "Eye of the Tiger." A lot. But, I'll take your word on it.

I didn't see that about Mlle. (Mdme.?) Dedieu, but bravo on her!
My swim instructor's wife won a gold medal with the US team and she had to retire at thirty with severe arthritis. So knowing how hard it is first hand and knowing this woman's story, I can appreciate how badass Dedieu is for coming out of retirement to do it.

I don't know very much about the sport aside from actually doing it is by far the hardest thing I've ever done (but now I'm working on this:
http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/863_1.cfm

Which runs a close second. Also because the hardest part is holding that position while taking deep breaths and making it look easy.

I wrote something ages ago, but it failed in BB. sigh.

It's a gorgeous day, offside, with decent swells- I'm not as envious of you today. I will still give you guys an account of drowning, but maybe it will be about bodysurfing instead. It's getting to be that season again, Woohoo!

offside said...

lulu,

lovely day here too but probably not much of a swell as I can't hear the swoooooshgrumblegrumblegrumble of the reef.

postern said...

hello all, thanks for the comments. i'd love it if London could put on a Games that wasn't so up itself, but i doubt darts would be something Seb would want to touch.
HB, Motm, i fully agree. darts is a special game. as a kid i held John 'Elbow' Lowe to as big a sportsman as any cricketer or footballer. i remember the shock when Dellor came from nowhere to win the world championship. it now seems as though darts players are viewed as slightly comedic characters. has Phil Taylor ever been shortlisted as Sports Personality of the Year?

Zephirine said...

Postern, enjoyed your article and I feel the residents of the Lower Lea Valley where the 2012 Games will be held would enjoy the darts very much. Not that most of them will be able to afford tickets to the Olympics.

Just pointing out here for lack of anywhere else - that 30-minute posting ban on GU is an empty threat, ignore it. There doesn't seem to be anything physically or software-ically stopping you from posting more often - I was yakking away with one of the Ausssies on a cricket thread last night and we must have each posted 4 or 5 times inside 30 mins.
Though posts are definitely slow to appear, which can make rapid-fire dialogue difficult!

BlueinBetis said...

Hannibal,

The darts player with the biggest drawers wins? Now that explains why all the good ones are more than adequately proportioned. Otherwise their drawers would fall down, what a horrible thought. Jockey Wilson with no drawers.

bluedaddy said...

BiB, not sure which is scarier Jocky in his underkeks or Jocky as a jockey. I pity the poor nag that has to tote oor Jocky over the jumps.

Sid Waddell, on the surprisingly young darter, Keith Dellor: "Keith Deller is not just an underdog - he’s an underpuppy"

marcela said...

this reminds me of the time i visited the falklands (or malvinas). upon hearing i was mostly a sportswriter some of the friendlier folk became chattier. i asked what sports they played there. 'darts' came the answer.

until reading this here i never believed it was a sport.
the case has been well put. now i am prepared to consider the possibility.

pipita said...

Postern

In Argentina people rather fancy the social-opposite sport to darts to re-enter the olympics: polo, we are still numero uno in that one

postern said...

Pipita - okay, polo, but on simpler, British terms: swap the polo ponies for the donkeys from Blackpool beach. you may need shorter hitting sticks

mimi said...

Pipita, postern: I think you'll find that Scotland is the World Champion at Elephant Polo. Not a sport I expect to see at the 2012 Olympics, though nothing could be more splendid that the sight of those magnificent beasts rampaging around Horseguard's Parade! And that's only the Scotsmen. Honk!

pipita said...

postern, mimi

Polo on elephants and Blackpool donkeys??? your definetly not on, I mean we want to recover some olympic prestige and get hold of the gold medals...plus, the Windsor family would also prefer it played on horses

nestaquin said...

A word of warning to all those who would like to see darts as an Olympic sport. I know your thinking it's a certain British gold medal.

It is well known in the pubs of St. Kilda that Warnie is an even better darts player than he is a cricketer.

It's obviously a game tailor made for him but alas it's an amateur pursuit in his homeland so he turned his attention to his second love, cricket.

If included for the Games I'm sure Shane would come out of retirement, represent and lead the team to victory.

As noted, darts is a game played between the ears and as we all know too well Shane excels at mental disintegration and doubt is as alien to him as fidelity.

If archery is in, then so should darts but the gold medal would be no certainty for Great Britain.

I have no idea where the next Commonwealth Games are being held but I'd like to see Twenty/20 cricket, darts, snooker and skolling pints contested.

bluedaddy said...

welcome nestaquin. surely shane has inflicted enough pain on the English? I bet he could drink Fordham under the table too.

postern said...

sledging comes to darts. there's an idea

nesta said...

Whilst we are on the subject of Olympics, how does the United Kingdom field a football team in the tournament?

It is well known, even on the other side of the planet, that there is no love lost between the 3 main nations of Great Britain. I presume at the Olympics you continue the pretence that you are united. Haven't heard too much angst from the Scots or the Welsh after England's latest footballing display in Tel Aviv. (the jounalist (sic) at the Guardian wrote that Tel Aviv is the Israeli capital. How did he get such a plumb job?) And this left me wondering, how can you expect to win a medal when each state/nation (how is it described?) has a different youth setup?

mimi said...

Nesta: I may be completely wrong here, but I have a feeling that the players fielded for the UK football in the Olympics are not drawn from the top professional ranks, and so maybe different cultures apply.
And that sets me up for correction from all of you who know far better!

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