This series, by Michael Murray, appears in the Summer edition of Ottawa Magazine as part of a 10-page Olympics-inspired “Best of Summer” feature. To read more, buy the magazine on newsstands or order your online edition.
SAILING is a sport I like to watch while drinking gin and tonic. I usually dress for this event in the sort of outfit that would get you beat up on buses or in certain towns. Actually, I should tell the truth here. I don’t really watch sailing but fall into a kind of glamour stupor with sailing as the backdrop. I dream, and yes, those dreams include supermodels in bikinis and helicopter pads and then supermodels not in bikinis. Long live the one percent!
BEACH VOLLEYBALL has finally been saved. I couldn’t watch it before, because I found it demeaning to women. I mean, why did they have to wear bikinis? And why weren’t their bodies more like, you know, women’s bodies? They all looked like a tall, thin, and often leathery species from outer space. Nobody needs that kind of objectification. Now, in sensitivity to nations where the female body is rightly feared, participants will be allowed to wear more traditional burqas or clogs or whatever flies in their country, religion, et cetera. This year, beach volleyball will be a learning experience, and I will treat it with the solemnity it deserves, watching it while sipping tea in my library.
TABLE TENNIS reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, and I like to watch it wearing shorts and drinking Coke. It makes me feel like a boy — a boy with an unlimited future where anything is possible, including an Olympic gold medal in a child’s sport — instead of the middle-aged man who keeps getting ads for gout medication popping up in his Facebook feed.
The 3,000-m STEEPLECHASE has always struck me as an event that was meant for animals rather than people. I would like to see a bunch of different species having at it, always hopeful that the dachshund would find a way to win. However, as an event exclusive to humans, it feels timely — a kind of Hunger Games. I suggest that this year, they give each of the runners (who will have to jump over barriers and wade through pools, as if escaping through a fake forest) weapons with which to impede their competition — nothing serious, just a little bit of pepper spray or a bicycle chain. There should be music, too: loud, portentous, gladiatorial music. I favour rye for this one.
I have always found it best to watch ARCHERY while quietly sipping vodka. Archery. It sounds so elegant, and at first, it seems very innocent — like watching rich-person darts. But as the vodka begins to settle and the thuck of arrow into target starts to make a deep and satisfying sound that speaks to your core, you realize how much you despise your job and suddenly it’s like, “Yeah, I really get the Olympic spirit.”
Perhaps my favourite part of the TRIATHLON is the name. It sounds like a Japanese monster that took on Godzilla. Beyond that, though, I find myself drawn to the hopeless masochism of it and the strange psychology that propels people through it. “No, I do not want to do one thing well. I want to dedicate myself only partially to three different things.” I can relate to that. It’s an event for the ADD age, celebrating the doomed scattering of ambition rather than the focused achievement of excellence in one field. It’s what people who don’t expect to win a marathon, bike race, or swim meet do — it’s a hedge. I drink chocolate milk while I watch triathlon, as well as play video games, surf the Net for good Groupon deals, and unload the dishwasher.