Some Olympic events raise question of what constitutes a sport.

The water in the diving pool has turned green. Are the divers all using the pool as some kind of communal drug test? And now the pool's come back positive, does the whole diving competition become a Hercule Poirot whodunnit, with every diver pointing the finger at the others?

I've never seen the point of diving. At least swimmers cover some distance. Divers just get in, then get out. Diving is like a car race where the drivers just get in the car, don't even start the ignition, then get straight out. You didn't go anywhere! The diver goes: "That's right. But did you see me get in?"

Well, it was a pretty fancy entrance.

"Wait. I'm gonna get in again. This time, with my friend. (Synchronised.)"



As I type this, Michael Phelps has won - let's see - his 20th Olympic gold medal.

The people who say Phelps has personally won more golds than most countries neglect the fact that eight of his 20 golds have come in relays. Relays require teams, so if he was his own country, he'd need at least three other citizens to make up the relay team, and probably some coaches, pool staff and admin, so his country's population would be at least 10 people, not counting his parents, and the parents of his teammates (who presumably also live in the nation of Michaelphelpia) which makes the stat about 19 to 20 times less awesome. So there.

Swimming inflates the medal count anyway. The same distance is a different event, if you just swim it a slightly different way.

I mean, honestly.

Imagine if runners got to win another medal, by running the same distance, but backwards. Or while stroking their breast. Or while flapping their arms like a butterfly. "I'm a butterfly! I'm a butterfly!" Imagine how many Peter Snell singlets there'd be at Te Papa. It'd be like Peter Snell Glassons in there.

In swimming, the distance should be the event. Swim however you want, but 100m is 100m. If you want to swim breaststroke, fine, but that's your problem. Don't complain when everyone else is doing front crawl.

Ditto race-walking. If you want to walk, fine - the rest of us are running. You can't make up your own sport just because you're kind of in a hurry, but don't want to look it.


Ditto beach volleyball. How is beach volleyball a different sport to volleyball? They might as well do every other sport on a beach, and have double the sports. Having said that, I wouldn't mind watching beach javelin (which I picture as a form of sport-fishing).

Which raises the question of what makes a sport. The Olympics are all for growing their brand and adding new events. The new sports are all more accessible than the ones that can be won only by athletes hot-housed by their state from birth.

Say what you like about canoe-slalom, at least it's human physical effort. And this may sound speciesist, but I believe that's what the Olympics should be. For humans.

So - sacrilege warning - let's lose equestrian. When we talk about the Melbourne Cup, we recognise that the champion was the horse. But at the Olympics, the rider gets the medal.

In 1984 - a year before Michael Phelps was even born - Mark Todd, an untitled commoner, a mere squire, won gold in Los Angeles. In 2016, Sir Mark very nearly closed it out again.

It's a tribute to Todd that we're bitterly disappointed he couldn't close out the gold medal, at age 60. He's obviously phenomenal at whatever Jedi mind trick he plays on horses. And yep, his core, his balance, his reflexes, are still his.

But the only reason Todd can compete is because he gets to trade in his legs every four years for a brand new set. He's like a transformer.

In 1984 (and 1988) the wind beneath Todd's wings was a horse named Charisma. The years are tough on horses, though, and eventually, like Donald Trump, Mark Todd had to trade up to younger and younger models. If you can compete at the very top, at the age of 60, it's not a sport.

If you can compete, wearing a suit, a tie and a top hat - pretty much in costume for a period romantic comedy - it's not a sport.

The question isn't, "Could you do it?" The line between sport and circus act is a bit blurry. But if equestrian is an Olympic sport, why not dog-frisbee? Whale riding? Elephant polo?

(Obviously I wouldn't be saying this if we'd won a medal.)