A Broken Record

I know this is sacrilegious, but I have to say that I'm not much of a summer Olympics fan.

This is perhaps because I'm Canadian and the Canadian teams have traditionally, to use the technical, sports medicine term … stunk at the summer games. We frequently get beaten in the medal counts by such economic and social powerhouses as Bulgaria.

To be fair, this is not the fault of our athletes, who are top-notch. Our beach volleyball players, for example, are among the toughest in the world. This is because for 10 months out of every year, they're practicing on beaches that are about as warm and inviting as a meat locker, wearing nothing but fur-lined swimming trunks.

This is mostly the fault of our Olympic team management. For a start, most of our athletes didn't even know they were going to be on the Canadian team until July, when they received a phone call that went something like this:

TEAM CANADA: Good morning, Bob? We've selected you to be on our cycling team.

BOB: Oh. Right. I didn't even know I was under consideration.

TC: Well you were. We think you're top-notch.

BOB: Okay, well, I suppose I should take the snow chains off my tires, eh? Practice biking in Athenian conditions.

TC: Hey! Great idea!

Canadian summer athletes aren't very well-funded either. Indeed, most of them earned the money for their airplane tickets to Athens by selling fur-lined swimming trunks and snow chains to each other.

It's also not like our athletes are missing by much. At first it's disheartening to think your country's entrant came in eighth place…until you realize that the difference between first and eighth is less than one quarter of one second.

Which brings me to the issue of human achievement. The games have long ceased being of interest to me because we've reached the limits of what we can do. Desperate for any competitive edge, athletes are doing things like buying special swim suits that cut drag, using performance-enhancing drugs, or even worse, practicing their sports clichés by telling journalists that they gave 110% percent out there.

Indeed, we have so little room for improvement in standard sports anymore that people are resorting to participating in increasingly silly competitions, like, say, running for the U.S. presidency.

Or consider the entries in the Guinness Book of World Records. Kevin Cole of Carlsbad, New Mexico, U.S.A., holds the record for — I kid you not — the longest spaghetti strand blown out of a nostril in a single blow. Vincent Pilkington of Cootehill, County Cavan, Republic of Ireland, plucked a turkey in 1 minute 30 seconds. There is even an entry for the fastest winkle picker in the world.

All of which leads me to ask important journalistic questions like: How does one learn one can eject spaghetti from one's nose? (Answer: I really don't want to know.) And did the turkey get any sort of recognition for being the fastest plucked of its species? (Answer: Yes, a pot of cranberry sauce and a good basting.) And just what the heck is a winkle anyway? (Answer: A close relative of the wonkle, obviously.)

Perhaps it's time then to consider some new sports and sports venues. Why not put the next summer games on the Moon?

Then athletes really would have to put in 110%…just to deal with the lower gravity. And Canadians might just have a chance.

It's darned cold up there, you see. We could sell fur-lined spacesuits.

To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.

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