In which I LOVE SPORT



If by any chance my high school PE teacher is reading this, or in fact my middle school PA teacher, or anyone who has ever had the luckless job of persuading me to partake in physical activity, I’d like to say first – sorry. All those times I ‘had my period’, I didn’t, and all those times had I twisted my ankle in a sketchily-described incident involving slippery grass and tripping over a kitten, well, I hadn’t.

But it’s all ok! Because now, suddenly, I LOVE SPORT. It turns out you were wrong about trampolining and telling me I was going to die of juvenile heart disease – what it actually takes to get me into sport is £8bn, a shedfull of elite athletes and the chance to cry noisily in public at least four times a day. So inspired am I by Team GB that I checked my trainers for nesting mice and went running this weekend. Twice! In front of people!

Like most of the rest of the country, between weeping and wondering what Michael Phelps DOES with all his medals (coasters? Hands them out to his milkman instead of a Christmas box?), I’ve decided I’m going to compete in Rio 2016. If Helen Glover can set foot in a boat for the first time in 2008 and row her way to gold four years later like a steel-armed goddess, then I can probably work up a passable performance in something obscure like water polo. I just need a tough, wizened old coach with maverick methods and a seriously good training montage.

Plus, if nominative determinism could ring as true for me as it does for Usain Bolt, I’d be really blooming good at it. Or a low-grade cable TV channel.

I realise I’m not a good sample group, being that this is the first Olympics I’ve watched voluntarily rather than because I’m on a family holiday and it’s raining, but London 2012 is the best Olympics ever, isn’t it? My personal highlights have included the Olympic parents (“Tell me what you’ve been going through this last week,” said presenter. “I’ve been laying a patio,” replied Beth Tweddle’s dad), the discovery of endless well of love in my heart for Claire Balding, and inventing a drinking game around repeating ‘Johnson-Thompson, Johnson-Thompson’ until it goes funny.

Then there have been the underdog stories, the bluffing of sporty terminology (I LOVE a good keirin, don’t you?), the listening to every presenter’s careful use of ‘union flag’, the Wiggo-fuelled mod revival, and the fact that almost every single thing I had expected of the Olympics has been proved wrong. The tube has been a veritable floo system of easy transportation, the tourists have been lovely, the rain has been dramatically decorative at worst, and it’s impossible to be grumpy when every third person on the street is wearing a bright pink anorak. 

And if all those things can defy expectation, maybe my thigh muscles can too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find some synchronised swimming to cry over.