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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
I would have put this on The Slippery Column, but I thought that maybe it would have a wider interest. I think I'm going to get a lot of hate mail for this one....

It has swallowed up half of Rafa Benitez's midfield, savaged Mark Hughes' plans for a successful start, forced AC Milan fans to wait for their latest star and caused an almighty row at Werder Bremen. All across Europe, at the worst possible time, there is an exodus of stars and they're all going to the same place. Beijing. Javier Mascherano, Lucas, Jo, Ronaldinho, Rafinha, Diego and scores more are deserting their clubs in favour of that festival of folly, the Olympic Games. What on earth has got into them? Manchester City have just paid £20m for Jo and he's let them down already.

The Olympics is the most over-rated, over-hyped, pointless waste of resources in the sporting calendar. It's an packed programme of all the games that hardly anyone cares about, fringed by messy, ill-conceived attempts to incorporate the ones that people do. Every four years the world gathers uneasily to watch a collection of strangers running really, really fast, or jumping really, really high or, more often than not, praying really, really hard that they don't get asked to wee in a bottle. Drug cheats and champions mingle freely with plodding triers and no-hopers, like that poor non-swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who found himself in the 100m freestyle and almost drowned.

I hate it when people tell me that some of these obscure sports require years of training and great personal discipline. So does accountancy, but that doesn't mean I want to watch it on television. In the UK, people lose all sense of perspective when someone with a British passport manages to squirm into medal contention for throwing a hammer, or shooting clay pigeons, or for jumping off a diving board. If it's that good, if it's that entertaining, why don't we watch it all the time?

Any ideas about it being a sanctuary for the amateur athlete go out the window when you see half the ATP tour knocking about on the tennis courts and the argument is well and truly shot out of the sky when you hear about what they've done to the football. For some reason, it's the only event with an age limit, confusingly fixed at 23, and then undermined by a loophole for three 'over-age' players. New Zealand, Belgium and Honduras, those international giants, will battle for glory with the depleted representatives of the European elite and, of course, those pick'n'mix South Americans.

Why would all of these Brazilians and Argentines, en masse, walk out on their paymasters to fly halfway across the world for this? Are they not satisfied with the World Cup, the Copa America and the stand-alone group of World Cup qualifiers? Do they not get tested enough in the Champions League? If everybody was entering, if every team was top strength, then I could see the appeal, but this is just a lop-sided, restricted, rubbish version of the World Cup. Is anyone really going to be that happy to jump up on the podium, wave their gold medals and shout, "Yes! We did it! We beat the Korean youth team! This is just like winning the World Cup!" I sincerely hope not.