Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Just not cricket.

HOORAY! We've won a gold medal!

Cue the jubilation, listen to a verse of the national anthem, and then give it five minutes before someone starts complaining that we haven't won more.

The Olympic Games have been going less than a week and already people have been muttering about a lack of world-crushing sports prowess from a nation which spends most of its time sitting down.

A gymnast fell off the bar, a judologist was disqualified, some swimmers did worse than others and a cyclist was cruelly beaten by foreigners who were unexpectedly competitive.

Then someone lost her specs and a princess' horse kicked a bar and before you know it people are walking around saying £24billion is a lot to spend on mucking around with the TV schedules.

Well, yes it is. It would be a lot to spend on 50 new hospitals and an aircraft carrier, but someone decided to spend it and it's done now. Did anyone seriously expect when they wrote the cheques that as a result we'd win everything?

No. China was always going to win most, because totalitarian states put a lot of effort into making everyone forget the oppression by creating sports prodigies. They don't have rules saying they can't take physically suitable children and push them through bizarre training regimes for 15 years.

And after them would chase the Americans, the Russians, the Germans, while little old Britain was always going to do slightly-better-than-Eurovision-but-not-as-good-as-the-war.

That's fine. It's acceptable. It's what we would expect, if we thought about it calmly. We still have James Bond and a parachuting Queen.

As things stand we're not even at the halfway point yet and it's a little early to start complaining. We're taking the fortnight off from synchronised whingeing, remember?

Think about the things that have gone well. So far, no terror attacks, no stampedes, no doping. The Tubes and buses are largely doing what they should, the Prime Minister is probably going to get on with some work seeing as every time he turns up a Brit athlete flunks, and at time of writing we've been in the top three in the world for seven different things and top one in two of them.

Lots of other things we're good at have yet to start or reach the finals, and we all know that if they allowed cricket as an Olympic sport we'd thrash them. But at the same time we're the host, so that would just not be cricket.

(Translation of above sentence for foreigners can be found here.)

Do we invite people round for Christmas and then smash them at Monopoly? Do we meet pals to play a game of pool only if we can win and then do a lap of the pub? Do we insist on laurel wreaths and an interview with Sharron Davies after bombing in the community pool?

No, we do not. The British way is to let tailgating cyclists go in front with a cheery wave, to give polite rounds of applause and cheer the plucky underdog, to be the only people on the planet pointing out to the Americans that amazing Chinese swimmer has been declared clean by the doping authorities and unless that changes she ought to be given a hearty slap on the back just like Michael Phelps was.

Whatever happens in the rest of the Olympics and however many medals we gain of whatever colour, they will not be the best or worst bit about it. They're nice, but not worth getting aerated about.

That honour will be fought out between, variously: the empty seats, the unending waffle of the BBC, the predicted economic boom which has turned into a slump as spectators are steered away from shops, how warnings of traffic chaos made four million people leave the country, the fact Boris' station announcements were finally turned off after remaining Londoners swore at him twice a day, and that the army facing severe cutbacks saved our arses twice by providing security and half of our first gold medal.

But that is yet to come. For now, we must do just as we would at the cricket.

Which is to clap the other side when they do well, hurrah our side when they do better, and not expect too much.

China is wrong about lots of things, and one of them is that it's not the winning that matters.

 No-one ever got anywhere by getting too excited.