Tuesday 28 August 2012

Serial killers, day 1: The Moors Murderers

A guide to the numbers

CONFIRMED VICTIMS The widely accepted body count for each killer. This may be the number for which they were tried and convicted but more often it relates to the numbers later confessed to by the killer in question.

POSSIBLE VICTIMS Serial killers are something of a secretive bunch and therefore they will often have a few skeletons in the closet. Literally, in some cases. This is the number of victims that may possibly be attributable to each killer at the top end of the estimate.

KILLING SPREE This is a number in years. Where it was less than a year, this number will be expressed as a decimal.

VICTIMS PER YEAR This is the confirmed victims of each killer divided by the length of their killing spree in years. This will be rounded up to the nearest whole number, as you can't kill fractions of people. Unless you make daytime television programmes.

SERIAL KILLER INDEX This is a number arrived at by a tally of criteria which are significant in the reign of any serial murderer. These are: fear & commotion (their killing spree continued during the glare of social and media panic); killing children; life sentence; death sentence (this counts as two points as it is also technically a life sentence); cannibalism; necrophilia; cruel & unusual (where the killer used excessive brutality before, during or after death); killing relatives; evading capture; escaping from capture & continued killing; a no gun bonus point (serial killing with a gun is so unimaginative); multiple MOs (where the killer will use various modus operandii in order to evade detection or just for their own selfish ends). This gives a total score out of 12. A really top notch psychopath will most likely score on four or more of these criteria.

Friday 24 August 2012

Ah, young love

Over the last few months I will admit that I was starting to wonder if the world might not be such a bad place after all, but then last night I watched a programme called Toddlers & Tiaras and I'm right back on track. We are all doomed.

If you haven't seen it, then first of all you have to see it. It's a programme about those dreadful beauty pageants that they have for children in America. You know the ones: not the bouncing baby parades judged by disinterested vicars at church fetes on the village green, but the dress your child up as a hooker and make her strut to Lady Gaga records ones. The two episodes I watched were both set in southern States, so the possibility that any child not deemed beautiful enough would be fed to the alligators was ever present.

The alligators may have met their match with Laci, mind you. Tia is eight and has three ambitions in life: to be Miss America, to be Miss Universe and to shoot a deer. Shoot a deer right in the fucking face. To that end, she and her father went on a hunting trip. Two hours they spent with Laci cocking a rifle out of a hide window, but to no avail. "I'm disappointed I didn't shoot a deer", said Laci, gleefully ignoring the fact that there had neither been any deer nor had she fired a single shot, both of which are important parts of the deer hunting process. At one stage, Laci goes missing backstage just before her slot in the pageant. Her mother is beside herself with worry, because (I swear this is what she said) if you miss your slot you'll lose marks. Eventually she turned out to be out the back with her grandmother. Taking pot shots at elk.

Heaven is six and lives in Georgia. Her father is called Benny but it is pronounced "Beany". Heaven is something of a trooper, taking it with admirable calm when Beany forgets he's an integral part of her Pinocchio dance routine and leaves her up on stage folded in half for minutes on end. Heaven also has a serious chewing gum habit. Quite how her prospects in the facial beauty round will fare when her jaw muscles develop and make her look like David Coulthard, only time will tell.

But the undeniable star of the show is Alana. Alana is also six. She is sure that she will win beauty pageants left, right and centre because her face will win her da mon-neh. The potential adorability of her gormless catchphrase "Honey Boo-Boo" (which has since made her sufficiently famous to get her her own series) is undermined by the fact that she has a head that looks like a pork pie with a mouth. Luckily, her vile mother is on hand to brainwash her past this notable shortcoming and into doing her bidding. To this end, she helps lubricate the strings with Go-Go Juice. This is her own concoction, although from the effects it has it's fairly easy to guess at the ingredients, presumably Mountain Dew, Lucozade, Red Bull and a bag of sherbert. She was far from the only one filling their child with sugar backstage though. Virtually all the competitors are shovelling sweets and energy drinks down their gaping maws whilst their mother gives them a vajazzle. The elder children were all doing coke in the lavs.

It is difficult to know quite who the villain of this particular piece is when such bewildering acts of supervillany are coming from all directions. In the end I plumped for the organisers, but really I could just have stuck a pin in the screen. However, I don't buy into the complaints of people who say the worst thing about these pageants is that they sexualise children. Their argument seems to be predicated on the thought that everyone in the world is basically a dormant paedophile who just hasn't met the right child yet. Anyone who isn't wanking themselves a blue streak can tell how dazzlingly unpleasant this all is at a single glance. The outfits and the make-up and the dancing just serve to enhance the horror, rather than to lure you in.

Still, in many ways I'd rather have these preposterous melées of bouffant hair and bump 'n' grind dancing for the under-fives, than what is happening on television in a broader sense. Advertisers are particularly to blame for this, peddling the belief that everyone, everywhere must have a boyfriend or a girlfriend regardless of age, background, circumstances or species.

It's possible that I am just a deeply repressed bumpkin from Woodingdean (I am) and that my experience of growing up was atypical, but when I was of primary school age, boys and girls came from different worlds. We didn't have anything to do with one another and we didn't want to. I think it's possible that I didn't talk to a female human being my own age until I was about 9 years old. Nowadays that would get you a one-way trip to the Palookaville Autism Clinic, but at the time I don't think my experience was so rare.

Nowadays, everyone is pairing off. My niece, who is 6 in a fortnight, recently moved to a new town and started a new school. She already has a "new boyfriend". She works fast. I can only hope they use protection.

I don't want to turn into one of those people who spends their life moaning about the venality of the modern world and patiently (but furiously) explain how things were so much better in the olden days to anyone who will even pretend to be listening. But this is going to require some co-operation on the world's part, too. Namely, it has to stop being so shit.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Preview special

Hello. Today, an exclusive sneak peek at a forthcoming project for this very blog. You may remember the animal alphabet. Some of you may even still be colouring yours in. Final date for submissions is October 31st. Just like for your paper tax return. Same address, as well.

Well, the next series is going to be slightly more adult, plus it's already coloured in. And it features people instead of animals. In many ways it is completely different, in fact. Hopefully you will enjoy it. Many of you will get the raging horn in your very pants. This is normal.

Long story short, it's serial killers. Here's Fred and Rose West to titillate you before clubbing you to death and burying you under the patio.

Love is...

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Film problems

I like films. You probably know this already. However, I have recently discovered a shop which sells second-hand DVDs for the price of a rental and it has significantly increased my intake. Herein lies a problem, because what I am discovering is that I can't watch more than three films in a 24 hour period without my brain consolidating their plotlines into one, giant, thing.

Back in the day, there was a phenomenon called scholastic synthesis. This describes the way in which accepted Aristotelean philosophy and Biblical teachings became so interwoven with the thinking on science and nature that they essentially became one and the same thing. I suppose this film thing is the modern equivalent. But like all modern equivalents, it is far more spiritually enriching and likely to boost your overall level of intelligence.

I watch a staggeringly intellectually stimulating array of films. I'm pretty much a one-man renaissance. In the last five days, I have watched all of the following: Bowfinger, Southland Tales, Ted (I went to the cinema and everything, and have as such also absorbed the condensed storylines of a number of trailers, too), The Producers, Four Lions, The Hunger Games and Zombieland. Also, to further boost my credentials to assume the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at St John's College, Cambridge in the near future, I am currently watching Volcano.

I know what happened in all of these films. Not one single part of any of them has passed me by. Apart from pretty much all of Southland Tales, which confused me in the extreme but it had The Rock in it and I refuse to believe he would let me down. For the life of me, though, I couldn't with any confidence tell you which bit was in which film.

I mean, I'm fairly sure that the bloke out of Flash Gordon doing coke with a teddy bear was in Ted, but who's to say definitively that it wasn't also a running theme in a number of other productions? Did Ted run the London Marathon? I'm pretty sure that was in Four Lions, which also featured Sean William Scott selling screenplays to a zombie who lived up a tree in France. But who's to know? And does it really matter?

None of it is particularly a worry unless I'm playing Trivial Pursuit, after all. But now this is giving way to a greater concern: I think I'm starting to lose the thread of exactly which parts happened in real life and which didn't. I am quickly discovering that the problem with films - every volcanic eruptin', fissure in space-time rippin', sentient stoner teddy bear creatin', post apocalyptic reality TV show killin', alien invadin' moment of them - is: they're too compellingly realistic.

And I am very concerned.

Monday 13 August 2012

The trouble with introducing alien fauna into ecosystems unable to cope with them

As the sad and embittered regular readers of this shit will know, I am a big fan of 1950s science-fiction films. Particularly the ones with monsters in them. Because monsters are a peril we all must face at some point in our lives, or perhaps not.

So I was excited to note that Film4 had a film on this morning called 20 Million Miles to Earth. It had no write up in the Radio Times except to say it was a sci-fi horror and it was made in 1957. I like those odds. Upon looking it up on IMDb, I read the following:
The first U.S. spaceship to Venus crash-lands off the coast of Sicily on its return trip. A dangerous, lizard-like creature comes with it and quickly grows gigantic.
I love those odds.

So yeah, I watched it. How could I not? How could anyone not? Maybe it was the old Chewits adverts from the 1980s making me love monster films. But I actually suspect the root cause of my love of 1950s science-fiction films is that they are all strongly allegorical fables about the danger of progress, of the cold war and of the nuclear arms race. In many ways they were a coping mechanism for people, a way to help adjust to the new realities of the world and the scientific, philosophical and ideological challenges that, whether we liked it or not, everyone had to face. Plus they had spaceships and monsters and that in them.

Fresh from the Tiber to your ass

20 Million Miles to Earth is a little different in that regard. Spaceships and monsters were, thankfully, present and correct. But there's no real message in the film, save for its magnificently vague final line: " Why is it always, always, so costly for man to move from the present to the future?"

As questions go, this isn't the most hard-hitting one that the Cold War threw forward. Progress comes in many forms. Just go to Lakeland. There's spray-on cooking oil and things for opening cans that five years ago you could never even have dreamed of, but it's unlikely that the cost of these great leaps forward can be measured in human lives. Perhaps a little of the meaning was more culturally implicit and understood at the time the film was released. After all, it came out in the same year that the Soviets launched Sputnik. Could we be meddling in forces we don't understand? Was the nascent space race inherently bad? Were giant lizards an inevitable consequence of man's insatiable quest for knowledge and discovery?

But I'm not even sure if that is the case. I rather think I may be searching for reasons and justifications where there are none, which rather smacks of historical revisionism. But what can I say? I have a Media Studies 'A' level.

The spaceships and monsters are the best part. There's no doubt about that. The hokier the effects the better, too. But the shortcomings of the special effects technology available at the time can always be circumvented with skilful editing and good acting. Unfortunately, in 20 Million Miles to Earth both of these things suck. They suck balls. Smelly balls. Luckily, the monster effects were done by the great Ray Harryhausen and his revolutionary stop-motion animation techniques. Thanks to this, it's no exaggeration to say that the monster in the film was by far and away its best actor and his only line in it is "waaaaurgh".

Sigmund Freud would take his family on mushroom gathering expeditions during family holidays during which he would institute prizes for the best and second-best mushrooms found. Were these criteria to be applied to the acting in this film, the prize for second-best would go to an elephant in Rome Zoo. But everyone else: thanks for playing. We (probably) couldn't have done it without you.

Which is not to say that there was nothing to learn from this film. It's just that the lessons were more straightforward than one might have expected of a feature from this era. There is an awful lot that anyone watching can find out Venus, Italy and monsters. I found out loads. Here is a summary of my new-found wisdom.

1. Creatures from Venus eat sulphur
They can't get enough of that shit. He passed through a well-stocked Sicilian farmyard, passing by cows, pigs, sheep and horses (additional note: creatures from Venus are not French) in order to get to a few bags of sulphur. He even passed up the chance of a bag of grain. Delicious, delicious grain.

2. Creatures from Venus are "only ferocious if provoked"
This is something of a concern to me. Big green lizards of almost unfettered growth being ferocious at any stage is really no great help to anyone. If you provoked me, I'd probably get miffed after a little while. Ferocity would probably follow but not for a good few hours. Not so on Venus, where it's like a light switch. I'm not sure Venus and I would get along.

3. Elephants don't like creatures from Venus
Most of the sentient beings that encountered the alien vistor in the film reacted with admirable equanimity. But the elephant wasn't having any of it. The elephant, it seems, is ferocious even when not provoked. Good to know, should Venus ever become a problem.

4. The US Army are surprisingly accommodating to the press
Anyone still wondering if perhaps the Roswell incident was a big cover-up need only look as far as this film. Here the US military attaché gave a full, frank and blow-by-blow account of the entire sorry tale so far to the assembled press corps. It is an important lesson in the fact that the US government aren't going to lie to us about the presence of extra-terrestrial life, be it a small alien in New Mexico or a 100-foot high lizard from Venus. Although admittedly the latter would be harder to hush up completely for any significant length of time, especially if it ate the Pope.

5. The greed of Italian children will be the ruin of us all
The lizard's cocoon was in a hermetically sealed jar which washed up on the coast. And if only the first person who found it hadn't been a child whose phenomenal greed and addiction to American western films were his only motivating factors then the lizard may never have walked among us. But it was, and it did.  On the plus side, he did get 200 lire for his troubles (which is approximately eight pence) and with this he bought a cowboy hat. His subsequent admission of this to the US military earned him a further half-million lire, none of which positive re-enforcement seems particularly likely to help encourage him to stick to the right moral path in future. He was going to buy a horse with it, while tanks blasted several new holes in the Colosseum.

6. Venus is 20 million miles from Earth
I'm not sure about the veracity of this fact. I should probably check it before it ruins my chances of success in any future games of Trivial Pursuit. (In fact, at its nearest point to us, Venus is 23.6 million miles from Earth. It's unlikely NASA would be as slapdash as this in any future Venus missions).

7. Creatures from Venus have a bifurcated tail
Forked jobbies. Like a snake's tongue.

8. The water in the river Tiber makes creatures from Venus grow massive
This may not be a fact which is completely set in stone, as there were a number of problems with scale throughout the film. Sometimes the creature was the size of a man, only to be dwarfed by a passing chicken in the next scene. The Tiber certainly seemed to have a marked effect on it, though. So be careful before using it to fill your bidet or else your trousers won't fit.

9. Creatures from Venus have neither a heart or lungs
Frankly, I'm starting to wonder about these facts.

It goes without saying that I am now a bloody expert on Venutian fauna, the ethical implications of interplanetary space travel and the greed of Sicilian fishermen's children and am therefore available to answer any questions you may have about any of the issues raised in this post.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 16

So, let's talk about the Modern Pentathlon. The last sport to finish in the 2012 Olympic Games was very much the most remarkable of the lot and a fitting end to a thoroughly memorable fortnight.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin was a funny old goose. He founded the modern Olympic Games and for this we thank him. His general attitudes on gender politics notwithstanding, of course. He also created the Modern Pentathlon event, inspired by the Napoleonic wars and the demands that they placed on the modern soldier. Fencing! Swimming! Running! Shooting!

But my favourite of the lot is The Riding of an Unfamiliar Horse. This has percolated down the years to be a simple show jumping element, but the unfamiliarity of each competitor's mount is retained thanks to a random draw of horse. It is a dazzling piece of sporting theatre, that. No other event in the Olympics leaves things quite so much to chance, the luck of the draw. Some of the horses in that pot are a sight to behold. The reigning world champion in the event, Britain's Mhairi Spence's chances of a medal evaporated as out of the hat for her round came the most uncontrollable, lunatic, nag. The size of a small elephant, before the run began the swivel-eyed thing had its tongue lolling out of the corner of its mouth. It promptly gambolled around Greenwich Park with an abandon which was as intoxicating as it was terrifying. There have been worse strokes of luck endured by fancied competitors during the London Games, yes, but she would have been better off riding an angry camel.

The true magic of the Modern Pentathlon comes in the final event, the combined cross-country run and pistol shooting. The staggering of the competitors' start times so that it is straightforwardly the first athlete to cross the line who wins is something of a masterstroke and one I would like to see adopted into other multi-event sports. Hell, let's also have the riding of an unfamiliar horse shoehorned into as many sporting events as we can, too.

It was a suitably daft, picturesque and exciting end to a superb Olympic Games. All the pre-Olympic cynicism was as predictably British as the giddy excitement and a festival atmosphere that quickly followed it. For me it was never in any doubt because London is such a magnificent city and British people are such creative, adaptable and magnificent people. That it was so good and filled with such memorable sporting moments was just the cherry on the cake. Fitting too, in the Olympics where the British team have done better than ever before, the event saw British competitors win another medal, a silver for Samantha Murray to take the overall tally to a scarcely believable 65.

So that was it. I can tell I have enjoyed it because I'm feeling a bit maudlin now at the passage of it, at the passage of time. It was my ninth summer Olympic Games and you only get so many. So, the Olympic hangover begins for another 1400 days until Rio 2016, by which time I will be 36 with eight children, a money pit house in the country and a smelly dog called Hector. It's a far cry from Sydney 2000 which I watched in my pants, or Barcelona 92 which I glimpsed in between playing outdoors or Athens 2004 which I watched on the televisions in the corner of various boozers and in varying states of consciousness.

London 2012 is now a memory too, for its own reasons. It's all been rather beautiful.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 12

Imagine you are a horse. You are sat there - well actually standing there, as horses are such massive freaks that they can't sit down - when all of a sudden a minor member of the Dutch royal family sits on your back. Oh well, it could be worse I suppose. The Dutch royal family are wealthy enough to keep me in oats and sugar lumps and other assorted horse chow.

So, I'm willing to go with it even after they stick me on a slowboat to England. Now I'm in Greenwich Park. There's something of a crowd gathered, which isn't ideal. I'd rather be back in my field. But hang on, what's this? I know this song! I know the dance for it and everything.

So, I do the dance. The crowd go wild! But then they all start congratulating the horsey woman sat on my back and give her a gold medal. This seems rather unfair.

It does rather, doesn't it? I'm pretty steamed up about the whole business and I'm not even a horse. I know that moral opposition to things usually lasts only up to the point that one's ability at it catches up to the requisite level, but I'm willing to make an exception here. In spite of the Great Britain Olympic team's excellence in the Dressage competition, I cannot and will not accept that this unending, horsey, in-bred, shoot a fox in the face, bankers are a good sort, burn the Welsh, open the grounds to the plebs during the summer, cavalcade of titnonsense is worthy of an Olympic medal.

That a man old enough to have once heckled Ramsay McDonald at an NUS rally is able to perch himself on a nag and win the same medal that Usain Bolt gets for being the fastest human being who has ever walked the earth is damn near obscene. I'm not against horse dancing. Let the horse set train their horse to bump and grind to that Take That song from the Morrison's advert. Each to their own. Then gather all the horse people and all the horses to have a big horse dance off. Give the funkiest horse and rider a cup, too, by all means. But an Olympic gold medal? For goodness sake.

I'm sure there's a lot of skill. But most things that look deceptively simple are just that. And not all of those are deemed Olympic-worthy. I'm fairly sure the equestrian events are all a relic of the early years of the modern Olympic Games. It was like Grand Prix motor racing for them, then. But shit the bed, enough with the horses already. Show-jumping and cross country are only a sport if you happen to be a horse, and with dressage the odds are even longer.

Olympic dressage? Fuck right off. You horse.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 11

A fie on whoever it was who invented the slow-motion camera.  I've reached my limit of distorted sallow fleshbags wobbling at me. Even the world's finest, most honed and toned, athletes wibble like a troubled duck as they run along. Yesterday I watched Abi Oyepitan of Great Britain. A fine athlete, at the peak of her physical condition. But her whole face damn near folds in half with the impact of running when seen at half-speed. It's difficult to understand how she can see where she's going.

And that's before you even get to the willies. Willies aplenty. I reckon I could go on You Bet and successfully identify athlete's penises in the flesh just from what I've seen from the silhouettes in lovingly detailed close-ups  before the start of the races. Reedy ones. Bulby ones. Great big ones. Huge great massive ones. Ones with a bell end like an elephant's heart. Ones so huge you get a urethral camel toe. I should probably stop looking at them. I should definitely stop making a sketchbook of what I think they look like.

At least we didn't get any such pictures of the new Belarussian women's shot putt champion.

Monday 6 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 10

I'm beginning to get P.E. anxiety. The reason is the hurdles.

Jumping over shit is hard enough, without having to take a running jump at it. Oh, and if you trip over you'll lose all your teeth and everyone else will laugh at you. I hated hurdles whenever they came out in school P.E. lessons. Partially because they always meant there was going to be some hurdling. But mainly because they always accompanied a lecture about hurdle safety.

You have to put the legs out facing you. If you hit the hurdle, then, the hurdle will fall over. Put them the wrong way round and you could really hurt yourself. The implication being that fat tubs of shit like me were going to hit the hurdles, but as we were more likely to attain actual academic qualifications for the school it would be best - with one eye on the league tables - if we were to not die.

Switching one of the hurdles round the wrong way has always struck me as being the ideal plot for an episode of Columbo. To this day, I still can't think of anything more dangerous. A carelessly set up hurdle could see you end up really twisting your melon in a big way.

Watching the professional athletes do it, therefore, is always accompanied by a muscle memory of stress and panic within me. But it's normally placated somewhat by the great skill of the practitioners. These are people who know what they're doing. They could leap over a hurdle with flying colours, whichever way round or up it was.

Unfortunately for me, in the first hurdle race I saw this time round, an early heat in the women's 400 metre hurdles event, an African runner did a colossal face plant after tripping over the second hurdle, leaving her looking like Beth Tweddle eating a bag of limes.

Since which time I have been hiding under the bed, where there are no hurdles.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 9

I'm watching some horse sport. It's terrifying. At a time when people are discussing what a difference a year makes - suddenly we're not doing a riot any more and we all love Team GB hooray - it is a timely reminder of the delicate threads by which peace and stability hang. Because if I were a horse, I'd form a union and go out on strike at the very least.

For a start, these horses are out there busting their hump - note to competitors: if your horse actually does have a busted hump then it is a camel and you may well be disqualified for infringing rule 10.1.3 Useage Of Camels - but it is the posh person sat on their back who get given a medal. No such luck for the horse, who are lucky to be given a carrot or some oats. Some people have argued, what use would a horse have for an Olympic medal? My argument is, what use does a person have for an Olympic medal? All it proves is that you excelled in the Olympic Games. Are horses not allowed to do that?

Equal rights for horses. #equinerights

But it gets worse for these pitiable nags.The jumps that some of them are being asked to do in the showjumping event are quite literally impossible. Vertical. Think north face of the Eiger. One of them, the water jump, features a pool that is slightly wider than the English Channel at its narrowest point. Maybe they're supposed to be grateful that it isn't as steep? But it's hard to feel a great deal of gratitude when you're then expected to take a flying leap over a 1:1 scale model of the entire City of London.

All of this for a bag of carrots? Don't be surprised if you see a horse occupying Hackney Starbucks tomorrow, eating all the muffins.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 7

I watched the women's 10,000 metres final. Ten thousand metres? That's got to be like 90 berjillokilotrillion laps of the track or something. I imagine there'll still be some stragglers finishing now.

In fact, it's only (only!) 25 laps of the track. The new Olympic Stadium looks mightily impressive, I have to say. But if only they'd taken a leaf out of the swimmers' books it could have been much more modest in size and, therefore, expenditure. All of the running events on the track are in multiples of 100 metres. Only a few are multiples (or divisors) of 400 metres, which is of course the length of a circuit. You know it: I'm suggesting that they should run lengths. Think of the saving.

Nevertheless, 10,000 metres is divisible by 400 and so instead of a hundred lengths the world's fastest (skinniest) women set of for twenty-five of the finest. It was an immediate object lesson - and god knows it was badly needed -  that human beings are superior to greyhounds, who need a rabbit on a stick for this type of work.

Distance running events are, of course, dominated by athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya. They practice at high altitudes in their homelands and so when they come down to sea level the air is like gravy to them. So it was something of a surprise to see the opening stages dominated by the three Japanese runners. It was a scene with strong echoes of one of those Japanese game shows where people put themselves through mental and physical torture in the name of entertainment: seeing who can sweat the most by dancing in a sauna, running the gauntlet of an actual cannon, gargling with live eels - you know the type of thing. After a few laps, and with a phalanx of puzzled Africans sauntering behind them as they ploughed on bravely at full speed, their faces were masks of anguish.

The speed of the race was very much something that impressed me. These women were all running considerably faster than I ever have, I quickly realised. And they still had eighteen laps to go. In the final analysis, the winner's time was a shade over 31 minutes for a shade over six miles. That's enough to make me think that all the finalists should be elected Pope, before you even noticed that the world record was a full two minutes faster. Yikes.

Running races are not the most hazardous of Olympic sports - unless someone breaks the world javelin record with some significant gusto - and so the competitors bravely ploughed on avoiding a few minor hazards: mechanical rabbit droppings, the Polish bloke who won the shot putt legging it across the track to see his coach and discarded eels. So it was something of a surprise to see a bunch of tressle tables come out after about ten laps. Ah, of course, this must be the health and safety games. A posse of men in bibs offering tempting, frosty skeins of water, coke, lager and Cup a Soup appeared. There was even a portable shithouse, obviously booked at a time when the organisers thought that Paula Radcliffe might enter.

The athletes, like me, had never seen such a thing at a 10,000 metres race before and shunned the tabard army. The only runner I saw avail themselves of the opportunity for refreshment was one of the Japanese trio, whose suspicion was overwhelmed by the fact she'd successfully run away all her bodily moisture (and soup) in the early stages.

By this point, the race had boiled down to a hardcore of two Ethiopians and two Kenyans, now lapping the field. Eventually they came by to put one on the Japanese runners, who now looked in so much agonising pain that they'd surely finish the race with pall bearers. With six hundred metres to go, the reigning Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia kicked for home. As she passed the bell she was already thirty metres to the good, and the man who rang it mouthed "fuckin' hell". Dibaba tore round the final circuit at a flabbergasting pace for a woman who'd just run 9,600 metres. The last lap was completed in a minute and some change, during which time I would be able to run 96 metres. It was a genuinely extraordinary moment. I was awestruck. If she had been a greyhound, she'd have caught the hare up on the back straight.

Only on later replays did it become obvious that she was broadly smiling all the way through her victorious tour, through a sea of the dying and the dead. Like all the victors in the London 2012 track and field events she wins a gold medal, a magnum of Coca Cola and a fuck off a camel.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Dotlympics 2012: Day 5

It being day 5 of the London Games already I am, of course, being visited by a crushing black dog depression which left me completely apathetic about watching or writing about any form of sporting endeavour. Of course, there was an inevitability that this would also be the day that Team GB won their first gold medals of the competition. Coincidence? Who knows. But if it isn't, there's every chance that when the Velodrome opens tomorrow it could be a portent of my suicide.

Medals have been much in the thoughts and minds of Olympic commentators today. Last night the American swimmist Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, an all-time record for any competitor in any sport. Today, of course, saw Bradley "Wiggo" Wiggins win his seventh Olympic medal and becoming the most decorated British Olympian ever. Much wiffling about Greatness ensued.

Michael Phelps (USA) - some medals pictured

Is Michael Phelps the greatest ever Olympian? Is Bradley Wiggins the greatest ever British Olympian? Well, that depends. What is the outstanding factor of a great Olympian? If it is medal count, then its obviously a no-brainer. However, the Olympics is more about people than it is sport. For me the greatest Olympian is the one who inspires the most people, not just to do sport but in their day-to-day lives. If Phelps or Wiggins manage to do this of course, then the more power to them.

But I think both men still have some way to go to match Eric "The Eel" Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea. And I'm not even kidding.


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