The Olympic tradition meets the Chinese government

I SEE the Olympic torch relay has not been entirely wasted.

We now know that some flames will burn no matter how cold the air. Apparently they created a flame from a gas that will burn in “frigid, windy, oxygen-thin air” such as will exist on Mount Everest, which is where the Chinese are taking it, presumably surrounded by guards.

“Frigid, windy…” sounds a lot like the reception they got in America. Or England. Or Australia. Or… almost anywhere it’s been, actually.

But there are other bonuses to this disastrous, pathetic, Olympic-standard embarrassment Ñ I hear moves are being made hurriedly to introduce some new sports to the Olympic arena.

Word in the corridors of Olympic power is that it’s being done because the Chinese Government reckons a few changes will improve China’s chance of picking up some medals. It’s not new. Synchronised swimming was introduced for similar reasons… as a sop to the wet whims of the host city Ñ Los Angeles Ñ in 1984.

At least China is planning to go back to more wholesome, dare I say manly, Olympic pursuits. There are plans, I am reliably informed, to offer medals in crowd security control. I understand the plan is to release human rights activists into the Olympic arena, where security guards disguised as Olympic torch bearers will attempt to create the largest heap of inert bodies. It’s not yet clear whether the gold medal will go to the largest heap, or the most bodies, thus introducing an interesting tactical twist to the sport  Ñ do you go for the fattest activists (and thereby create the biggest heap) or the lightest (thereby amassing the most bodies).

They’ve also modified the javelin, shotput and discus. Distance will no longer be the ultimate goal. It’s accuracy instead.

Tibetan monks are to be buried up to their necks in specially prepared holes, and the winner will be the sportsperson who achieves the most direct hits.

And the hurdle event has been modified so that contestants will be competing against the extra element of savage guard dogs. The gold will still go to the fastest contestant, only this year it will be a dog Ñ whichever one is first to sink its teeth into a hurdler.

I’m sorry. I’m probably overreacting.

No, I’m not!

Nor am I feeling particularly hostile towards the Chinese. I think most of them probably know they’re being governed by a bunch of paternalistic cretins, just as the Russians and the Poles knew. They’re just not in a position to do anything about it.

I mostly blame the idiots who voted to stage the Olympics in China in the first place. I mean, what did they expect? That the world’s love of sport would overcome political barriers and silly left-wing sensibilities about torture, freedom of speech and arrest without trial?

In Australia maybe, where sport gets even more news coverage than sex, but not in the rest of the world.

Of course, it could be us that have got it wrong. We like to think of the Olympics as being about honouring the best Ñ the best jumper, swimmer, runner, thrower Ñ but maybe it’s about honouring the strongest Ñ the strongest jumper, swimmer, runner, thrower.

Or government?

I dunno; I can’t claim to be big on sport, but I used to enjoy the Olympics. It used to be about sportsmanship (replaced today, I suppose, by sportspersonship); that quaint old idea that it didn’t matter if you won, but how you played.

Whatever happened to that! Now we only care about winning. Sports, business, elections, power… anything is justified if we win.

In which case the Chinese Government already has a gold medal. Whether it can hang on to it, though, is another matter.