I am a dedicated and experienced armchair athlete.
So, like many others of a similar persuasion, an Olympic year is always a time of great excitement, anticipation and joy.
It all started with the Montreal Games and I’ve been hooked – or slouched on a sofa – ever since whenever the Olympic flame gets lit again.
The Sydney Games were staged while I was working on the newsdesk of a newspaper and I volunteered to do the late shift. It meant by the time I got home – between 11pm and midnight – the coverage was just getting started and I’d remain glued to my TV throughout the early hours, before heading off to bed and getting up in time to start my next shift at 5pm.
The fact that British cyclists have been performing so brilliantly at the World Championships in Manchester has heightened my feelings of anticipation.
But my Olympic dream is crumbling this year and I’m left with a huge dilemma.
I would dearly love to become an insomniac again, staying up until all hours to watch the diving, the table tennis or the pentathlon (it is always the sports that don’t get enough mainstream coverage that prove the most watchable at the Olympics). Yet I’m struggling to reconcile my armchair athleticism with a firm belief that the IOC messed up big time in awarding the Games to Beijing.
Can I actually sit back and just enjoy the 2008 Games?
I’m supportive of the Reporters Without Borders campaign – I’ve even bought the t-shirt – and yet I don’t believe a boycott of the Games is realistic or would achieve anything. The biggest message would have been from the IOC refusing to allow China’s bid.
So, should I make my own, largely silent protest by refusing to watch the coverage? What would that achieve?
Others are facing slightly more serious questions. Duncan Mackay explains why he’s accepted an invite to carry the Olympic Torch when it arrives in London on April 6, while Konnie Huq has attempted to reconcile her criticism of China’s record in Tibet with her own acceptance of a Torch bearer invite.
Neither attempt really convinces in a satisfactory way.
I no longer buy into the “Olympic Ideal” argument so much these days. Money has tarnished the Olympic rings in recent years – arguably since the Atlanta Games – and now we have human rights abuses to add to the melting pot.
As a sporting spectacle, the Olympics still stands proud and that is why the armchair athlete in me is still hooked. But as a bastion of fair-play, idealism and purity, the Games has already sold out in spectacular style.
There are expected to be protests during the Torch’s visit to London and en route to Beijing. A massive security operation is already under way in China itself, with any sign of dissent quickly squashed.
There doesn’t seem a straight-forward answer to the “should I/shouldn’t I?” question regarding whether I take up my position as armchair athlete when the opening ceremony takes place in Beijing.
We will still have saturation coverage as the media has no intention of staging any sort of boycott or protest, not when there are viewers to attract, ratings to fret over and circulations to be boosted. So is it even possible to escape the Olympics?
What am I saying, there is a simple solution – don’t watch and don’t read. I’m just not ready to accept it yet.