Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Games a tarnished but unifying force

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The London Olympics are in good shape compared with the rest of the word. Photo / LOCOG
The London Olympics are in good shape compared with the rest of the word. Photo / LOCOG

The Olympics hammer home the thrill and skill of high-class track and field. The Olympics are far from perfect but they are still the Lone Ranger in bringing a fractured world together.

Yes, the list of Olympic cons is long and sad. London has been turned into a military exercise, the terrorism threat real. Not all the athletes will be on the level.

There are Olympic sports that shouldn't be Olympic sports. Corruption has torn at the Olympic heart (just as it has done to a lesser degree with Fifa's World Cup).

The public, as with all these events, must foot the bill with the inevitable overruns from estimates blown to smithereens. Corporate power rules in an obscene way. Patriotic pride will be squeezed for all it is worth, until we are all wrung dry.

The Olympics are not an entirely pretty picture unless you've got very clever blinkers, yet the world picture would be much bleaker without them.

One of my habits is to listen to the BBC World Service through the night. Just as sports roundup programmes go around the grounds for score updates, the Beeb goes around the war and oppression zones for a catch-up. Radio like this is a nightmare. The world is sick and the United Nations close to impotent, a bureaucratic deadweight of deals and no deals.

So the fact that we can still unite in peace, hopefully, for a bit of wrestling or running or to chuck a ball around a "beach" next to Buckingham Palace represents a lot more than small comfort. The Olympics are in remarkably good shape compared with the rest of the world.

They could be better of course. The high-profile add-ons tennis, soccer, rugby and golf - the latter two arrive next time - don't belong. Those sports already have their major championships, leaving the contrived Olympic versions meaningless. The sports and the Olympics are demeaned by their presence, a blatant publicity grab. This is probably a case of preaching to the converted, because few beyond the lucky Olympians involved feel those sports do belong. But the TV remote control takes care of those pretenders and lets the real Olympics take centre stage, so, little damage done.

A marvellous aspect of the grandiose, megabucks Games is that they still have room for the quirky sports, the average citizen doing non-average things, and inspirational stories.

Among this year's anomalies will be Malaysia's first woman shooter who - apparently - is also the first pregnant summer Olympics competitor.

As has been widely reported, Saudi Arabia will send two women competitors to London, a small step in the fight for female freedoms in a repressive country.

More than anything though, the Olympics hammer home the thrill, the beauty and the skill of high-class track and field, all brought to us by the wonderful advancements in television coverage.

Usain Bolt, Valerie Adams et al - that is what the Olympics are all about and beyond the other core sports such as swimming, to my mind. Extra disappointing then that our teenage shot put sensation Jacko Gill won't be there.

The Games - which begin late next week - can't come quick enough. The action, the controversy, the personal stories, the sheer limits to which the human body can be taken ... fabulous.

At the end, the giant stadium on a smallish site in London's East End will be heavily dismantled thanks to a design that required no on-site welding above a certain level.

This will leave a much smaller and useful athletics venue rather than an oversized white elephant, as has happened at Games past.

Bolt, then unbolted.

Not all Olympic progress has been good, but not all is bad either.

Heavyweight movie

A film recommendation: Klitschko is a superb, understated study of the world heavyweight champion brothers Vitali and Wladimir from the Ukraine. Not to be missed, even for those not overly interested in boxing or sport. Two thumbs up, to steal the film critics' favourite device.

JK hardly a surprise

And finally ... drum roll - the John Kirwan era at the Blues has arrived. He had to get the job, considering the "list" of candidates was limited to the failed Blues boss Pat Lam and the left-field candidate Kieran Crowley.

If the Blues were not going to target another coach such as the France-based Vern Cotter, then it would have been a complete shock if Sir JK had not got the job.

All I can do here is wish Kirwan the best, and advise that he take a ground zero approach and try to rebuild the franchise from scratch. Tinkering with such a broken-down wreck will get him nowhere fast.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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