Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Tony Deyal | Games people play

Published:Saturday | August 20, 2016 | 8:08 AM

George W. Bush was one of the main speakers at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Nervous, he asked for a teleprompter. On the day of the speech, he went to the podium and started, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh." An aide quickly rushed to his side and whispered, "Mr President, those are the Olympic rings. Your speech is below that!"

While this never happened, a lot of other mishaps took place at the start of several Olympic Games. In Seoul, South Korea, 1988, the organisers released a flock of beautiful white doves to symbolise world peace. Their hopes went up in flames when several of the birds landed on the Olympic cauldron just as it was being lit. Unfortunately, they could not blame the North Koreans for this.

For the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Chinese Olympic Committee wanted a grand spectacle and initially contracted Steven Spielberg to produce the opening ceremony. He was concerned about China's human rights record and dropped out. While the opening was amazing, the performance of the Chinese national anthem became an international issue. The Washington Post reported that the adorable nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who appeared to be the singer, was actually lip-syncing to the performance of seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, whose face was found to be "not suitable" for television. In which case, ET and a lot of athletes would have been unkindly but inevitably eliminated from the global TV coverage.

Actually, two issues have already emerged in gymnastics at Rio and lead to the question whether it is the audience or the athletes who deserved to be humiliated. Alexa Moreno, one of the few gymnasts on the Mexican Olympic team, is slightly under five feet tall and weighs 99 pounds. After her performance in the qualifying round, she was slammed on the Internet by people who compared her to a pig and said she was too fat.

The other issue was headlined in The Daily Beast as 'Why Trinidad Hates Its Olympic Gymnast Marisa Dick'. The story read, "An 18-year-old girl will make history this summer as the first gymnast from Trinidad and Tobago to represent the island nation at the Olympic Games. Her battle for qualification has gripped the country, but there will be no parades in her honour, no banners to see her off at the airport, in fact, there will be virtually no support for her whatsoever. Marisa Dick may even be the most hated figure in Trinidad right now.

 

PERFORMING A UNIQUE MOVE

 

Most of the Caribbean island's 1.3 million inhabitants apparently believe that Dick, a Canada-born athlete, has conned her way into the history books after stealing the Olympic dreams of her rival who was born in Trinidad. An extraordinary tale of racial politics, alleged collusion, and topless selfies has turned the competition to represent Trinidad at the Olympic gymnastics competition into the nastiest domestic rivalry since the ex-husband of American figure skater Tonya Harding hired a hitman to smash up Nancy Kerrigan's leg more than 20 years ago."

What emerged in the local and social media were the most outrageous puns and insults based on the young lady's surname 'Dick'. When Marisa was selected, a local newspaper had as its front-page headline, 'DICK IN' and when she was eliminated, it said boldly, 'DICK OUT'.

What makes the situation surreal is that just before the Olympics, the Mail Online reported that Marisa has been immortalised in her sport's official Code of Points after developing and performing a unique move which sees her use a springboard to leap on to the balance beam in perfect splits. The Mail asked the question, "Would you dare to do 'The Dick'?"

Fortunately for Marisa, another incident, this time in the pole vault, overshadowed her surname and her move. The Daily Mail reported, "Japanese pole vaulter's Olympic dream crushed after his penis knocks off bar. He has only his penis to blame for putting an end to his dreams of a medal in Rio."

Athlete Hiroki Ogita was attempting to clear a height of 5.3m in the pole vault qualifications rounds when disaster struck. His shin grazed the bar first as he dropped to the ground, causing it to wobble. His thigh just touched the bar as well, although it looked as though it would manage to stay in place. But then his penis delivered the final blow, knocking the bar to the ground in a heartbreaking conclusion.

As sports accidents go, while unique, it was not as bad as some others, like Willie Shoemaker mistaking a trackside pole for the winning post and standing up in his stirrups to celebrate his victory in the 1957 Kentucky Derby only to be passed by another horse, Iron Liege, or Leeds goalkeeper, Garry Sprake, throwing the ball into his own net.

But the offending organ was sweet music to many people, especially my friends on Facebook who joined the global choir when I shared the article. 'J' imagined the rush to date Hiroki, Deryck said, "He used two poles for the jump" (meaning perhaps that Hiroki should have been disqualified), Kamal, like Malcolm Gladwell, saw it in more universal terms as a 'Tipping Point', Mark saw it as "premature elimination" and "S" won the gold for, "There goes these Asian stereotypes." It is rumoured that Toyota now wishes to capitalise on Hiroki's fame and is coming out with a longer, more muscular version of its best-selling Hi-Lux pickup called the 'Sky-lux'.

- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating the news that the head of the Somali Olympic squad has apologised to officials on behalf of their team after realising that shooting and sailing were two separate events.