Olympiad round-up, Ancient Greece-style
- 5 August 2012
- From the section Magazine
Welcome to the Olympiad here in Ancient Greece, brought to you by the B.C.BC. It's been an eventful day, with a winged horse, the Oracle of Delphi and an athlete named Achilles making the headlines.
The running track and field are crowded with athletes from dusk till dawn, yet as is always the case, it is events away from the sporting arena that have received most prominence from journalists and fans alike.
For a start, although it is now nearly a week since the opening ceremony, its resonance is still being felt.
The ceremony's very overt tribute to slaves and women has been condemned as "multi-cultural lefty nonsense" - according to a short message hurriedly carved on a wall. Despite that, the evening's entertainment was acknowledged to have been the most innovative of recent Olympiads.
One particular segment, the salute to Pheidippides - known as the father of modern communication - has led to an increased clamour for him to be permanently enshrined in the Games.
Centuries have elapsed since the messenger's iconic run along the path from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the victory of the Athenians over the Persians. Yet still, ratification of the distance as an Olympic Sport has been held up by wrangles over which town to name the race after.
It looks like "The Athens" is the current favourite, but many see Marathon as being more satisfying.
Controversy over the provision of security for the Olympics appears to have abated. Buklis of Giforos had claimed that he would bring 3,000 men to guard the sacred games against any attack but was forced to admit that the men had not turned up.
The matter has since been resolved and the entire games are now guarded by just 300 Spartans (and their slaves). While officials are said to be privately concerned that "the world will never cease hearing about the heroism of the Spartans" (but not their slaves), there is relief that the concerns over security are no longer centre stage.
Unfortunately the dark side of sport has once again come to the fore as the Olympic village is rife with allegations of betting syndicates influencing the outcomes of some events. Evidence is emerging of a number of competitors having visited the Oracle in Delphi to predict the result of their competitions.
Meanwhile another scandal is unfolding as competitors in several events are accused of deliberately not trying in order to gain more favourable draws in subsequent rounds. Perhaps the most egregious has been the case of the Greek athlete, Achilles.
The Myrmidon warrior - who is said to have got his name from the common heel injury - was observed to run so slowly that he failed to even overtake a tortoise that was coincidentally moving parallel to the track.
Achilles has angrily refuted the allegations. He released a statement saying that by the time he had reached the point where the tortoise had left, the tortoise had moved on to another point, and by the time he reached that point, the tortoise had moved on another distance and so on in ever smaller increments.
This has been rejected by Olympic officials saying that everyone else seemed to have no problem overtaking the tortoise. Achilles has in turn accused them of Zenophobia.
The adventures of the buffoonish local mayor continued. In his latest escapade, he ascended a large stylos to promote the Games and was unable to get down. He has since claimed he was setting a new trend in ascetism and is said to be revelling in his new nickname of "Pillar of the Community".
Even the media has not been untouched by controversy. A number of pundits have been sent home in disgrace following their apparent widespread use of cliches.
The official broadcast partner B.C.BC has confirmed that the there were numerous instances of "At the end of the day" and "He'll be looking for a win in this one" and the culprits have been stripped of their accreditation.
"It is unconscionable that in the home of Logic, Rhetoric and Epistemology, that adults should resort to such nonsense" said a spokesman. One or two of the disgraced commentators have called for dialogue on the matter but this has been rejected by B.C.BC chairman, Plato.
After all of this, events on the playing field and running track seem almost a footnote but there were a number of events down for decision today.
On the racing track, there was an expected victory for Bellerophon who has once again taken advantage of a loophole in the rules and ridden his winged mythological horse Pegasus to take the win.
The no-hold barred boxing and wrestling event or Pankration reached an exciting denoument with a walk-over (literally) for Dioxippus.
After these last couple of days, the first controversy-free event in a while will be a welcome olive branch for fans of the Games.
You can hear Colm O'Regan every Saturday on In The Balance, on the BBC World Service, at 11:00 GMT