Saturday, 16 August 2008
John Silver follows the 2008 Olympics
I had been waiting with great excitement for these Olympics. The great female swimmers that Italy could boast, the raw spectacle that is Michael Phelps, the football tourny which for once appeared to be more than sixteen teams of illiterate adolescents arguing among each other when they're not arguing with their own coach... it was all shaping up to be an event for the ages.
I invite a friend to have a chess game with me and we go sit in the bar of our college so we can see the opening ceremony as well. We open the door to the bar: the Mongol invasion! Virtually all Chinese people living in a radius of 200 miles have reunited themselves in this bar, bringing along with them the Vietnamese, Thai, Koreans and so forth (not the Japanese, of course, because from what I know they get along like bitch-slaps with priests). Here's a chronicle by count of beer:
Beer 1: We take a seat and start playing our game.
Beer 2: I get my ass kicked so hard by my friend that I suggest he should join the Olympic long-jump team. And, also, go get fucked.
Beer 3: All the Chinese people stand up in unison so me and my friend stand up as well. Then the Chinese start singing their national anthem and me and my friend sit down in embarrassment as it becomes painfully clear that we do not know the words. (Nor are capable of simulating them - with no offence to the mandarins, but I'd sooner learn by heart the national anthem of the screamer monkeys than something in a language so complicated that they invented printing and never bothered to use it).
Beer 4: Spectacular opening ceremony. Just spectacular.
I'll interrupt the count now because the next event of some significance occurred around beer 217: posterior to the theatrical bit of the ceremony, I decided to wait for the entrance of the Italian team so I could publicly cheer for them. I crossed my fingers and hoped Italy would appear within the first half-hour.
Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the more time you've wasted on something, the least likely you are to just leave. On this occasion, I went through the first half-hour, then through the second just in case, then killed a third as an ultimatum, a fourth for the sake of God knows what reason, I can't even remember, my friend in the meantime had died or something, anyway he wasn't there anymore, I had to find someone else, but at all events somewhere half-way through the fifth half-hour the Italian flag suddenly made its appearance on the screen. Because every team had only about five seconds of screen-time and because I had been waiting so long, all the emotion in me burst out in one single go, and I stood up and started yelling for my team. In a case of remarkable national distinction (in the sense that we're more likely to get transatlantic liners in a Northumbrian catacomb than for the following to happen in Europe), the Chinese didn't stare at me with perplexity, but joined in the clapping and started cheering. I in turn got so involved with it that I spun towards them and started shouting encouragement, which got them really riled up and for a few seconds I had the entire room yapping. That's the closest I've ever experienced (and, I suspect, ever will experience) to what a successful demagogue gets when making a really good speech.
Following that ceremony came the disheartening experience of trying to follow the races. Underworld times! I walked outside for the first swimming final at four in the morning. In an attempt to keep myself up, I had gotten so high that I almost got lost within my own college. Night rabbits and the occasional patrolling super-heroes passed about. Except for them, it was complete silence.
I get to the college. I notice from outside that the lights to the common room are still on. I walk in, half-expecting to meet some Chinese Olympic maniac who is staying up like the idiot typing these lines to watch the swimming races, instead I find these two Kerouac-without-a-car figures sitting on the sofa with a ridiculous cube connected to the TV, playing a football videogame. 'I say,' I exclaimed, 'have you guys run away from the countryside farm that was your destiny?' They look at me with perlaceous eyes. They say, 'Just playing some games, man.'
Great. Just great. Now I can't watch the Olympics because these two rabbit-fucking swabs have pawned the TV to play electric monopoly on it. Why don't they take their heads and go plant them with their onions. I'm thinking desperately of what to offer them as a way of getting them out of there. A motorcycle would probably be the best thing considering they'd kill themselves at the second turn and I could get it back, but there's the little detail that I don't have one and only will on the day that Prince Charles declares his homosexuality - that is to say, never.
In the end I buy them off with a couple of spliffs. 'Can I have a flint?,' I ask one of them. He produces a box of matches called 'England's Glory.' I read the caption below it: 'Made in Sweden.' Sort of like these guys themselves, products of the city, but made in a penhouse and by the animals and probably by accident (if only for the reason that if their parents resemble them in half their looks then they probably couldn't get sex in a brothel in Yugoslavia).
Finally I see the women's swimming final - and we get our asses whipped!
I am in tears - my Indian flatmate is in tears too, though in his case it's because he tripped while holding a Whisky bottle and it slipped from his hands like a lubricated sardine to smash tragically on the floor. We can't even drown our sorrows. And they say that there's no pain in sports.
Other three nights staying up until four a.m. (three nights in a row, just to be clear about it) and finally I get the satisfaction in the 200 freestyle women's swimming final: GOLD MEDAL TO FEDERICA PELLEGRINI!!!!! SUCCESS!!!!!!
Worth every minute of it. For real.