The Olympics and language are incompatible. Utterance fails when attempting to deal with life-defining achievement or disappointment. Competitors labour amidst heavy breathing and adrenalin overdose to convey half-remembered platitudes from their media training whilst commentators, anchormen and pundits literally run out of superlatives, a phrase which, with a neat irony, has itself become cliché.
The only appropriate responses are wordless: a speech act has nothing on dry-heaving over your oars, weeping on the podium or genuflecting through devotion or exhaustion. At times during the Games I have wanted to write, to document my experience of the speactacle, but again and again, text has seemed insufficient.
Betting, also, sits uncomfortably with Olympic sport, as if to punt is to trivialize the effort of the athletes who, in most Olympic sports, enjoy the briefest but brightest moment in the limelight of public consciousness. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from having a go. Sporting Index valiantly priced up every scrap of Games action (quite an astonishing feat) and here’s my podium of London 2012 bets:
Bronze: Rebecca Adlington, Women’s 800m freestyle, Medal index (50/25/10), SELL at 38, Closing Price: 10.
I’m sorry Becky. The nation loves you, but this was a classic example of the fervour of a home Games inflating the price of a GB athlete. With bronze in the 400 metre free a warning that a repeat of the gold of Beijing was unlikely, and a teenage prodigy from the US making 800 metres look like a width of Tooting Lido, Adlington’s price was always one to go short on. Although her claiming the bronze cost me 10 points, I couldn’t begrudge the pride of Mansfield her place on the podium.
Silver: ‘Team GB Triathlon Trinity’, H. Jenkins, A. Brownlee, J. Brownlee (50 pts per gold, 25 per silver, 10 per bronze), SELL at 90, Closing price: 60
It’s an indication of just how ambitious some of Sporting’s prices were for GB medal hopes that despite the Brownlee brothers pulling off a remarkable 1-3 in the men’s triathlon, Helen Jenkins narrowly missing out on the medals in the women’s event meant that this bet was still a solid winner (with the added bonus of being able to celebrate GB success). In mass field, one-off endurance events in which tactics play a significant role (I’m thinking of the cycling road race and the 10k open water swim as well as the triathlon), fancied hopes appear more likely to be overturned – there was money to be made, if friends to be lost, in going against certain GB hopes in such disciplines.
Gold: Victoria Pendleton, Women’s Keirin, Medal index (50/25/10), BUY at 34, Closing price: 50.
Not monetarily my biggest win, but certainly a bet that gave me great pleasure. Step forward Queen Victoria.
After a marginal disqualification in the Team Sprint (an event that GB looked nailed on for), I felt that Pendleton would be looking to set the record straight in the Keirin: a strange spectacle in which skin-suited superwomen pursue a pizza delivery bloke. Seeing Pendleton’s power in the heats I was keen to get with her and the fact the final included genuine threats Anna Meares (who did defeat Pendleton in the Individual Sprint) and Guo of China, meant that the buy price was low enough to offer some value.
There’s always Rio: Netherlands vs GB (Men’s hockey semi final), Goal Supremacy, SELL Neth at 0.15, Closing Price: NETH +7.
Punting car-crash (or, judging by the brutality I’ve seen over the last couple of days, BMX pile up) of the Games came in the men’s hockey semi-final.
I’d followed the GB side through an unbeaten group stage and although they had periods of awfulness (the first half against Australia) and periods of brilliance (the second half against Australia), generally, the guys looked like they had the skill and belief to reach the final. Although the price against the Dutch should have been a little more favourable to the ‘Oranje’ I still fancied the GB chaps.
Unfortunately what followed was an Orange Crush – a defeat of record-breaking proportion. The Dutch might lay claim to total football, but this was total hockey: every orange wave of attack seemed to result in the thud of ball against backboard and another nail in this bet’s coffin. With the Dutch leading 9-1, Rob Moore’s late consolation goal for GB was greeted with ironic chants of “you’re not singing any more” from the good-humoured faithful in the Riverbank Arena.
However, all is not lost as the GB men now have Saturday’s bronze medal play-off against the Aussies to look forward to. I fully intend to get with them again – I know that the side’s drive and desire will see us finish the London 2012 tournament on a high.