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Picture the scene.
It’s 2032. Covid-19 is a distant memory, newspapers are king again as all social media platforms have been outlawed, we’ve finally got our flying cars, humanity has solved the climate crisis that it caused, and the Winston Churchill Party leads a new coalition government.
And, in Brisbane, the Olympic Games are about to be held in Australia for the first time in 32 years.
All the traditional sports are there — though the 50km walk has mercifully been shelved — and the IOC has introduced seven new events. Let’s take a look at them.
Cricket. Well, hello. A major summer sports event in Australia without cricket? You’re dreamin’. Cricket makes a comeback after a lone appearance — with Britain and France, weirdly — at the 1900 Olympics. The Black Caps are three-time defending world test champions but obviously that format is unsuitable for the Olympics. So some bright bazzoo has dreamed up The 25. A team has 25 balls to hit as many maximums (worth 55 runs) as possible. Five bowlers get five balls each. And there are five stumps.
Sheep shearing. Another essential part of the Australian sporting landscape. And great for the Black Blades, who call Sir David Fagan out of retirement to lead them once more.
Netball. The wheels are already in motion for the biggest women’s code in Australasia to make its Olympic debut. Lock in the Silver Ferns for a medal.
V8 Supercars. It doesn’t get more Australian than the sound of loud exhausts down Conrod Straight.
Horse racing. Yep, it’s out with the dressage and in with the thundering hooves of the Melbourne Cup, switched from the first Tuesday in November to the first Tuesday in August, and restricted to two horses from any one nation.
Tug of war. Another blast from the past — it was at the Olympics from 1900 to 1920. The tug of war also ticks the inclusiveness box as teams will be mixed gender. And games — tugs? contests? — will take place over a crocodile pit.
Australian rules football. Hey, the Japanese were allowed to bring karate back for Tokyo.
The craziest ...
Hat tip to Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins for alerting me to what must be one of the most extraordinary sporting events of all.
We speak of the marathon at the 1904 Olympics in St Louis.
Thirty-two athletes made it to the start line, but only 14 finished.
As for the remaining details, well, I can just lift straight from Wikipedia.—
- The marathon included Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau and Jan Mashiani, who happened to be in St Louis as part of the South African exhibit at the 1904 World’s Fair.
- Many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by wild dogs.
- The start included five laps around the stadium track; the rest of the course was on dusty country roads, with race officials riding in vehicles ahead of and behind the runners: this created dust clouds that exacerbated the severely hot and humid conditions.
- Five-foot tall Cuban postman Andarin Carvajal joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute. After losing all of his money gambling at dice in New Orleans, he hitchhiked to St Louis and had to run the event in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts.
- Not having eaten in 40 hours, Carvajal stopped off in an orchard during the race to snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. The rotten apples caused him to have strong stomach cramps and to have to lie down and take a nap. He also spent time chatting with spectators and playfully stole some peaches from a race official. He still finished fourth.
... race of all
- The first to arrive at the finish line, after three hours and 13 minutes, was Fred Lorz. He was hailed as the winner, having his photograph taken with Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of then US President Theodore Roosevelt, and was about to be awarded the gold medal when it was revealed he had actually dropped out of the race after nine miles, suffering from cramps, and hitched a ride back to the stadium in a car, waving at spectators and runners alike during the ride before he re-entered the race and jogged across the finish line after the car broke down at the 19th mile.
- Thomas Hicks ended up being the winner of the event. Ten miles from the finish, Hicks led the race by a mile and a-half, but he had to be restrained from stopping and lying down by his trainers. From then until the end of the race, Hicks received several doses of strychnine (a common rat poison, which stimulates the nervous system in small doses) mixed with brandy. He continued to battle onwards, hallucinating, barely able to walk for most of the course.
- When Hicks reached the stadium, his support team carried him over the line, holding him in the air while he shuffled his feet as if still running. Hicks had to be carried off the track on a stretcher, and might have died in the stadium had he not been treated by several doctors.
- The only two sources of water for the competitors were a water tower at six miles and a well at about the 12-mile mark. James E. Sullivan was a chief organiser of the Olympics, and decided to allow only these water stations on the 24.85-mile course of the marathon, despite the fact it was conducted in 32degC heat over unpaved roads choked with dust. His ostensible reason was to conduct research on ‘‘purposeful dehydration’’, a theory that dehydration could actually improve athletic performance.
Row, what a feeling
A belated acknowledgement of the Otago University Rowing Club that had no fewer than seven alumni with the New Zealand team at the Tokyo Olympics.
Triple gold medallist Hamish Bond — better known for his North End link, but who started with University — was joined in the champion men’s eight by Phillip Wilson; Ella Greenslade won silver with the women’s eight; Jordan Parry rowed the men’s single scull; Ruby Tew was in the women’s quad; and Davina Waddy (women’s reserve) and Justin Evans (team physiologist) also played key roles.
Mother and son
You might have missed a lovely story out of American basketball at the Olympics.
Denver Nuggets centre JaVale McGee, a three-time NBA champion, won gold with the US men’s team.
It came 37 years after his mother, Hall of Famer Pamela McGee, won gold with the US women at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Another basketball mother-son combo is the legendary Yao Ming and his mother, former Chinese women’s captain Fang Fengdi.
I’ve racked my ageing brains but can’t think of any prominent New Zealand mother-son sporting link. Anyone?
The Dunedin test-ometer
Chances of this All Blacks v Springboks test going ahead at Forsyth Barr Stadium on September 25?