Thursday, August 9, 2012

Give Me That Old Time Olympics

I've been watching decathlon, and it's like having cleared layers of muck to rediscover a purer core. Not that, say, dressage, mountain biking, trampoline, and badminton don't present their respective challenges and charms, but few events these days carry much old school Olympian vibe (in 2016 they're adding golf, for god's sake).

But decathlon, that's the uncut stuff! In an Olympics where Usain Bolt habitually shuts down 20m from the finish line to "save energy" (a phrase I've been hearing constantly all week), it's refreshing to see decathletes give their all over a two day ordeal. It takes you back a couple millennia - or, at least, a couple decades, to when Olympians were earnest amateurs rather than temperamental stars or star wannabes (LeBron, I love you, but you belong in the American Airlines Arena, not gazing mock-wistfully toward the Olympic torch in the Parade of Nations).

My suggestion is that the Olympics rebrand under the title "Sports". And every sporting event in the world (including poker and pole dancing) can happen under that banner. Then, on top of that, every four years, let's have a real Olympics, with sincere, amateur, non-zillionaire athletes giving their all in the classic Olympic events, just for those who are into that sort of thing.

Anyways, here's the thing about decathlon: you can't watch without wondering just how close Olympic decathletes come, in their individual events, to their single-event-specialist colleagues. And Wikipedia, bless them, has precisely the chart you want to see, contrasting current decathlon best scores for each event with the world record for that event...and, also, the percentage difference. Amazingly, aside from the throwing events, the margin's really not that wide.

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