Sunday, 16 August 2009

How do I love the World Athletics Championships?

Let me count the ways.

I love a quiet weekend with nothing to do except colonise the sofa and regress to school summer holidays where I lived for each round of every event, the tiny victories of beaten British athletes scoring season's bests. And then sometimes, like today, a proper reason to edge forward on the seat and scrunch up the loose material of the cushions in my fists, and get Really Properly Excited.

I love how the male 100m athletes – who used to stand silent and immobile before the race, staring down the straight like lizards on a rock, eyes dead with concentration – now babble incessantly to themselves in self-motivational tongues, like bus passengers you would always try to avoid, or flirt with the panning camera, trying to be a little bit more like Usain Bolt, the coolest kid in 100m school – charming, insouciant, maddeningly gifted.

I love Hazel Irvine wittering misguidedly on about Jessica Ennis and Denise Lewis's six-packs, and then trying to make it OK by wittering on about Colin Jackson's too.

I love the blindly optimistic way the commentary team anticipate Jessica Ennis being on the newspaper front pages tomorrow, and spearheading the Sports Personality Of The Year shortlist come December, neatly forgetting about the speed and heat of Formula 1, and the cinematic potential of the Flintoff Finale, and how little people care about athletics any more. When I was young, summer television was studded with weekly primetime meetings, grand prix from glamorous European cities, fantasies under floodlights. Now, anything that's not a major championships is scheduled like an obscure Open University broadcast.

I love Louise Hazel boasting that she'd predicted the Great British Heptathlon Success via social networking. "I said on Facebook we'd come back stronger." I like to imagine Daley Thompson and Jurgen Hingsen psyching each other out with how many Twitter followers they had.

I love the rounded, balding paps sprinting red-faced, flat-out, just to catch up with Usain Bolt easing down to a jog.

I love the snowy-haired, agitated track official ineffectually attempting to martial the victorious Bolt and the group of photographers swarming around him, flapping his arms like he's shooing a stubborn gang of geese off his front lawn.

I love the BBC playing back the studio's reactions to the 100m as it happened. I'm an idiot for this kind of thing and always have been. I have loved seeing Ian Wright and John Barnes jumping up and down on their studio chairs like over-excited children on the last day of school, just because England made football things happen; I loved Michael Johnson's face today, the perfect expression of Man Witnessing A Miracle.


Anonymous said...

Aha. Ahahahaha. That sums up my reaction perfectly! How I wish I had written this blog. That's exactly how I felt watching the affletics yesterday. I would have written it too, given time and a lot more talent, but you did it first, saving me the bother, and making it even more amusing because I can't laugh at my own stuff the same way I laugh at others. This is such a great blog. Well done MJ.

Miss Jones said...

Thank you, Anon. And I'm glad I wasn't the only person watching.