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.

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