Greco-Roman Clare Balding


Posted by in August's Magazine

Day zero
Over at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (in Glasgow, incase you’ve been away) Susan Boyle is looking angsty, or should that be antsy? As I’m typing this at a desk that is aswarm with ants and I’m feeling irritable and agitated as a result, we’ll go with ’antsy’. Anyhoo, Subo has much to be antsy about, as she will later be pilloried for mangling the lyrics of Mull of Kintyre. A trifle harsh to my mind, I like to think of it as a reimagining: “Mist of Kintyre, the Mull rolling in from the sea.” Indeed with a poetic imagination and a low tide this unlikely feat is perfectly achievable.

Day one
At the opening athletics event, the Women’s Triathlon, the commentator comes out of the blocks wearing a pair of lead diver’s boots, helpfully pointing out: “The two Welsh competitors have pulled out so that leaves England’s Jodie Stimpson as the only home competitor.” In Scotland? He then goes on to remark that the Northern Irish athlete has set off at a decent clip. (If you are having England as a ‘home’ nation it behoves me to point out that Northern Ireland is part of the UK.) Then, lo and behold, “the other two English girls are doing themselves proud!” So now we’re up to 4 ‘home’ entrants. If it were a horse race it would be The Breeders Cup.

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Later, in the men’s event, Alastair Brownlee is so far ahead that he takes it upon himself to have a promenade down the finishing straight, pausing not seldom to high five the ecstatic spectators and accept the odd flag before stopping at the finish line, a lit cigar would have been a nice touch here, to usher his brother Jonny home. If I were Jonny, I would have given him the (original) Glasgow Kiss.

Day three
Meanwhile at the (Sir) Chris Hoy Velodrome it’s gold for Scotland in the para-sport Tandem Cycle race. The partially sighted guy at the front of the bike is built like Desperate Dan after he has just swallowed a rhinoceros. The pilot, at the back, acts as a sort of guide dog, and is necessarily teensy.

Interviewed later the power monkey (Dan) is asked “how crucial are the instructions from your pilot?” He replies, “what with that daft helmet I wear and the noise of the crowd I can never hear a word he says, so I just go for it and he has to hang on.” Wait a minute, you are partially sighted and you can manoeuvre a bike, hurtling along at a speed in excess of 45mph, through a space that a well-oiled electric eel would have difficulty negotiating without any guidance? So what constitutes ’partially sighted’ exactly?

Day four
In which the commentators resort to newly coined Bruce Forsyth catchphrases: “Back in two thousand and eight this park was voted the best in Europe, and why not!” Whilst endlessly and needlessly apologising. “No matter what anyone tells you, this title is definitely worth winning. You try telling that young feller on the podium that the Commonwealth Games don’t matter!”

Every Day
Watching the peerless Clare Balding going about her business is an education, especially now that she is exhibiting a hitherto unforeseen sense of humour, and a wicked one at that. Makes me regret the CGF’s decision to drop Greco-Roman wrestling this time around. ‘Dame in waiting’ Clare would, you can be sure, have nailed that commentary.

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