(Ed note I forgot to post this a few weeks ago. Am I losing interest?)
Now that the ParaOlympics are over, I thought I would write a bit. Actually I meant to do it at the end of the Olympics, but what with one thing and another. I won’t write much about the ParaOlympics, as I really didn’t like them that much. I liked the personal side, but I was tired of the spectacle side, and never really understood the sports side. Still I spent a few hours watching, just to see.
I spent way too many hours watching the Olympics. Of course the spectacle hits three weak spots I have, watching TV, curiosity and sports. It comes very close to the World Cup and the Tour in terms of events I try not to miss. My enthusiasm still was not great, as I don’t think I ever missed, cancelled or postponed a real human interaction on account of the Olympics.
Let me mention one aspect I always enjoy. I like very much filling up, nearly weeping, sometimes actually weeping at the results, the struggles, the drama, the disappointment of the various events. The ParaOlympics had that too. I am not saying that the emotional side of it is why I watched. I watched for “the sports”. However, that addition was an important part of the show. For example, I watch lots of footie, but seldom get remotely the same sense of drama and human accomplishment as during the Olympics. I tried very hard to take great pride in how one of my countries was doing. To see one of my cultures in direct combat with some other country. I failed. I would sit next to my wife and say “who do you want to win?” After we covered some British, French or American person, we might go wild and pick a Bulgarian or a Chinese. Overall, I just could not get into it as much as I thought I might. I even got annoyed equally at the French and British TV, for its blatantly nationalistic, overly prideful celebrations. I assume all the national TV shows were the same. Still, plenty of my pals were proud of their country, whichever one it was. Not a part of the emotional side effects I could enjoy.
Much of the time I was enjoying the beauty of the movement of the human body (so pistols and horses and sailboats never really grabbed me. Especially in sports I know about, have actually done or have watched for years, I found the element of striving to “get it right” very uplifting. Like all spectators, we were merely watching, we can’t actually DO stuff the way they do. In gymnastics, if I could execute and survive one somersault, I would be happy. But the bodies in movement are just awesome. You can’t see that in such a concentrated two week dose, for nearly all sports. An attractive offer on TV and one I took up almost addictively.
Once in a while, I sat back and marvelled at the organisational effort that went into the whole thing. Not the cost, which for Greece was a moment when they went too far and ended up where they are now. The cost! But once you accept that the rulers are going to pay with our money, to build and run it was quite a job. All the volunteers, all the emails, meetings, texts, phone calls, building work, testing and so forth. I was really happy when that huge security firm, the biggest on earth, or close, failed to get their part together. And the State stepped in with our boys, and did the job. Capitalism 0 The State 1. Only a moment of joy, but it was there. Stunning work. Think what “they” might do if it were something of great and lasting social or economic importance.
Oh yes, I like looking at new sports and figuring out the rules and the strategies. New sports, like new music and new reading sometimes comes up with a surprising experience. I am looking forward to my first conversation about handball with someone who had never watched before (still has not happened). I know about handball now, but apparently it is still not known in in the USA (they might not even have showed it) and little known in Britain. I had never heard of it before I moved to France and the nearby home of one of the best teams in France, Montpellier. But a new sport is one thing that is always intriguing. Linked to that is the discussions about what sports to eliminate or shrink. OH NO, not more horses! What, is the rowing still going on, which boat is this (skiff, canoe, sculls, kayak), with or without cox, one, two or four, and what exact kind of boat is it. Who cares? Millions of course. And how many swimming events do we really need. And so on in every household as they flicked to another channel to get some other events. By flicking you quickly see that everything is edited, nothing much is live and whole. It makes the nature of TV brutally clear. OK, live athletics in the evening.
One tiny thing. Apparently in Britain, you could watch sports in their entirety, 24 or so at any time. But not in France, although apparently, if you pretend you live in England in some computer identification way, then you can get this “red button” choice TV. I found it quite frustrating to hear about it constantly on British broadcasts and not be able to have it. However I was not frustrated enough to do anything about it, to get my red button to work. But just think, the British and soon all of us (for a small fee) will be able to choose which camera we see the match from. Exciting, eh?
Events that marked my spirit. Sky losing the road race, although I did feel a bit sorry for Cavendish. Laura Trott in the cycling. Wiggins ending a nearly perfect season, totally brilliant, but failing to help Cav win the Gold at the end. Jessica Ennis, whadda gal. The mature female English rower who finally was successful or more even,her spaced out partner. Usain, of course. He must wind up soooo many people. That young French lass who seems to have won the VTT Worlds title as well. She looks so ordinary, and rides away from everyone. The astounding domination of the Brits in cycling, who can explain it? Mo Farah and David Rudisha for being so bloody good and pretty to watch. Never liked Phelps much for some reason. All of the divers for not only diving from that high doing incredible body movements, but that they do it time after time for years in practice. I once jumped feet first off a three metre board, I doubt if would do it again. I liked Boris too, stuck on the rope, wandering about, boogying a bit. He seemed to actually enjoy himself, like a kid. The USA relay team finally erasing the drugged up East German cheats from the record book. Assuming they were not drugged up. I could not possibly pick one moment over all the others.
I won’t go into the implications of the Olympics as a shared global spectacle, I don’t really know much about that. Lots of people watched the same things. Must be significant.
The closing ceremony was so terrible, I turned it off. Empty spectacle. Although the light show built into the stadium was always moderately entertaining. It also meant the end of the spectacle, which always makes me a bit sad, even if it freed up a huge amount of time.
Thoughts on the Tour 2013
So it looks like the Tour will be superb viewing, as a geographical treat and a superb tourist advert. After all, a seriously important purpose of the Tour is to advertise France, still the number one tourist destination on earth. China is apparently creeping up in second place, but France is still number one. Mont St. Michel. Ventoux. Plenty of hills. The Isle of Beauty. Paris at night. Twice up the Alpe, (and an extra bit down a road the Tour has never gone in my memory), plus stuff I don’t even know about. I have never been to Corsica, and I intend to see those helicopter shots for as long as I can.
I gather that one of the stages in Corsica might well results in some time gaps, but who knows. Stage 2 seems to go up and down a bit, although nothing deeply serious. The Team Time Trial in Nice could be really nice to watch. Having a finish in Marseilles could be cool, looks like they go along the coast which is gorgeous. They are crazy in Marseilles. After Marseilles, they ride into Montpellier and start the next day. That is something I refuse to miss, you get nice photo opportunities at the start, not really at the finish. Wandering around the team buses is always a wee treat. After Montpellier they go to Albi, and the most obvious way is right up our valley. Trying to get back from the start, faster than the Tour, when there is only one really good way to drive, hmmm, I can see a problem arising. Do I miss the start just to see them whiz by in my valley? I doubt it. In fact, I must find out the exact route to Albi, as they could actually go a rather bumpy way to Albi, which would make a seriously interesting stage, which I might have to watch on TV. So then they mess about in the Pyrenees where nothing is supposed to happen to ruin the final dramatic climax on Ventoux, and the Alpe. However, there will always be one guy who might get lucky, we hope. I don’t really see how Stage 8, with two climbs at the end could be utterly without repercussions. The next stage climbs up quite a few medium climbs, but then coasts downhill for the last 30k, so maybe a breakaway will take it. Still, nothing important ismeant to happen in the Pyrenees.
After a long air transfer, they seem to do a diagonal upper left to lower right, maybe a kind of tourist look at glorious France. And of course it will be. I haven’t yet figured out if nothing much is meant to happen or if there are some surprises possible. Mostly it looks like some sprint finishes for a few days. I shall read about those stages from Mont St. Michel to Ventoux later when details come out. There is a very long stage that climbs Ventoux at the end of that long diagonal run. If it is hot and the 240k turnout to be hard, followed by Ventoux, maybe something vital might happen. After all everyone cannot climb at the same speed up the Ventoux. Although I do remember a really disappointing climb up Ventoux at the end of the Tour a few years ago. Nothing much happened. We shall see how the boys want to race by then. I suspect a French rider might try somelthing on the Ventoux, as it is 14 July.
Then, exhausted by that hot ride with Ventoux at the end, they rest. Then they face the dramatic climax to the Tour. A time trial up some awful mountain, supposedly the hardest that Pechoux has ever designed. At the top the view is supposed to be holiday stuff, Mont Blanc and Annecy and whatever is over there. Meant to be gorgeous … and pretty hard too. They spend a day climbing twice up Alpe d’Huez, which could be very good theatre. In case anyone wants to try something wild, they climb up a couple of 2,000 metre climbs and then some more bumpy bits, to finish on a downhill. To finish off the Alps, in case there are still no gaps, the riders have to wander around a slightly hilly stage, which ends up what is meant to be a rather tough finish near Annecy, Semnoz. Steep and fairly long, they say. Unless everything is sorted by then, someone will surely do an all or nothing attack. Plenty of places for the young French guys to make a mark, Rolland or Pinot, but others as well.
To finish off, they do Paris at night. Good move, hope it is dry and warm. I am sure they have good lights for the Champs Elysees. I gather they are going around the Arc de Triomphe with the road closed, unlike the usual route, which turns around before the Etoile or whatever it is called now.
So my impression is that it should be a very memorable Tour. Of course I say this every year. And every years there are memories. So. At the very least, watching Wiggo be the faithful team-mate for Froome should be worth the price. Seeing how the Sagan-Cav-Greipel sprinters’ fest goes should provide some interest. This year Cav will be going for Green, and it should be a little more interesting. Must even or eight chances for the explosive guys to win.
As usual, the route is really not too crucial. The Tour Show will have competitive racing if the riders can do some racing. If not, not.