Tag Archives: Olympics

‘Beauty contests’ at the Olympics?

Another post in Olympic mode in a moment of respite between highlights and live coverage. This one is prompted by wondering how panels of judges manage to evaluate those, to my mind, lesser events where an assessment of ‘ artistic impression’ is involved.

For me, the real events are those where success is measured in absolute terms of ‘Citius, Altius, Fortis’. They include track, swimming, weightlifting and rowing. They do not include events, however compelling,  where a panel of judges makes a subjective, ‘Pulchrior’,  judgement on beauty and artistic impression.

I don’t particularly like it that pitches are often referred to as ‘beauty contests’, an expression more readily associated wih 80’s’ Miss World’ television programmes, high heels, bathing suits and ever-so polite interviews.  However, the description does reflect the fact that, like the gymnasts, no matter how good our content, our technical merit score will be marked down if we ignore the artistic impression.

The champion Olympic gymnasts really work on this. The positive body language, the radiant smile, (even mid somersault), a sense of attack and confidence personified.  When you think about it, the characteristics, apart from the somersaults, that separate the great from the average pitch.

1908, the defining Olympic pitch?

The last post looked at Opening ceremonies.  Since then Beijing’s has been somewhat tarnished.  We now know the the beautiful little girl, who captivated with her singing, was miming to the voice of a less beautiful little girl.  The magical firework footsteps were digital. (A clue here for London, save money, go digital!)

No matter, the spirit of astonishing competition is now centre stage.

So back to 1908. The BBC, with 450 0f their people occupied in Beijing,  still found time to air a fascinating documentary on the real forerunner of today’s games. They were held in London, in the presence of the King and Queen, with some 2,000 competitors, 40 of whom were women.

Two major precedents were set, one good and one bad.  Both as alive today as then.

The bad, the environment of controversy.  Politics and sport did mix, with the Irish issue;  cheating took place, in the tug of war; boycotts as  Americans refused to re-run the 400 metres;  feuding between superpowers, imperial  Britain, rising USA.  Doping was confined to ‘restoratives’, cognac during the marathon! 

The good, as de Courbatin well understood, lay in the compelling nature and spirit of sporting competition. In 1908 one event in particular dramatised this.  It was that marathon.  The one where Dorando Pietri led all the way only to collapse 30 yards out.  Concerned officials carried him across the line, to disqualification, to an award from Queen Mary and to hero status.

 All business at heart is competitive.  However, as a one time Olympic competitor, it is this ‘spirit of competition’ that I look for in any pitch team.  In attitude, it should be what’s on our screens right now.