Sunday, August 17, 2008

next on Olympic Grandstand: the hop, step and apostasy

I'm not a big fan of athletics, archery, Greco-Roman wrestling etc., but it's impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of the Olympic Games. I'm not going to get into dicussing any of the individual events as more than enough has been written about them already, but I do have a couple of observations about the BBC commentary team.

Firstly, I don't know how the BBC persuaded the legendary Michael Johnson to come on board, but hats off to whoever did it, because he is an extremely intelligent and articulate summariser, which provides a merciful contrast to the inane witterings of Sue Barker and the somewhat camp but in no way gay Colin Jackson. Johnson even puts up patiently with Sue's insistence on discussing the plucky Brit who came 7th at interminable length, rather than the actual winner - who's probably from some rubbishy country like Poland where they reward you at school if you win a race, the filthy swines.

Secondly, I was interested to read the other day that BBC commentator and ex-Olympic and world triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards has renounced his Christian faith - he was formerly quite a high-profile celebrity Christian, presenting Songs of Praise and for a time in his early career refusing to compete on Sundays, in addition to having that slightly intense, earnest, groovy vicar air about him - the sort of vicar who'd tell you that if Jesus was around today he'd be, in a very real sense, hanging out with the kids in hoodies and doing a bit of parkour down the skateboard park in between miracles.

A couple of interesting points in the numerous articles written about this - firstly the Daily Mail article says:
He has a deep, theological comprehension of the Bible, making his spiritual meltdown even more unlikely.
In fact, my experience from reading a large number of "deconversion" stories is that that closer a reasonably intelligent person's reading of the Bible is, the more likely they are to decide, eventually, that the whole thing is self-evidently ludicrous. Secondly, this Times article includes Edwards' own observation that:
Once you start asking yourself questions like, ‘How do I really know there is a God?’ you are already on the path to unbelief.
Bingo. Religion's weapons by which they keep the masses in line are: suppress questioning, silence dissent. Once you break out of those mental shackles you're halfway out of the door into the sunshine.

One of my occasional random forays into watching BBC athletics coverage was to watch the coverage of the triple jump at the 1995 World Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, at which Edwards performed one of the more remarkable athletic feats I've ever witnessed - raising his own world record by a total of 31cm within the space of about half an hour. The only YouTube clip I can find is in Swedish, unfortunately, but you get the idea. This represents an improvement of 1.72% on the previous record, which doesn't sound much, but which is, coincidentally, almost the same amount that Johnson improved his own 200m world record by during that historic run in Atlanta (that was about 1.76%, to be precise). Just to put that in perspective, that's about the same as Usain Bolt improving his own 100m world record from 9.72 seconds to 9.56 seconds - something he could very well have done yesterday if he hadn't stopped running after 85 metres or so and started celebrating.

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