Written by Hannah Dunleavy

In The News

What the fuck just happened?

Hannah Dunleavy keeps track of the news that’s too quick to keep track of. This time she’s taken a trip to the Olympics. From her sofa. Well, obviously.

Clare Balding: better equipped to deal with the Olympic madness than Hannah. Photo: BBC.

Clare Balding: better equipped to deal with the Olympic madness than Hannah. Photo: BBC.

Saturday 6 August

Opening ceremony successfully pulled off, things get off to the usual chaotic start. There are gripes about queues at venues, debates about empty seats and a controlled explosion. Plus a stray from a 5.56mm assault rifle pierces the roof of the media tent. Initially reported as an accident, it is later upgraded to an incident.

In an Olympics that seems especially heavy on the falling, French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd wins the gold medal for OMFG early when he breaks his leg while vaulting during the men’s team qualifications. No really, that poor man. There is also a suspected broken collarbone in a fall in the men’s road race.

Following reports of a kayaker capsizing when he hit a submerged sofa during training, a Serbian boat does the same in the first race. Without the aid of the sofa, which by now has its own Twitter account.

Russia hears that some suspended athletes can compete in the Games. In other news, the entire Russian team is barred from the Paralympics. (“OK guys, what do you want first, the good or the bad?”)

In the women’s 10-metre air-rifle event, (which is far enough from the media tent to rule them out of my enquires) the first gold medal of the Games is a surprise victory for America. Virginia Thrasher takes the title, as well as putting in an early bid for best name of the Games (other contenders English Gardner, Stephan Feck, Richard Funk and Fatuma Sado. I SALUTE YOU ALL).

“Elsewhere, there’s no rowing (as in on the water), although loads of rowing (as in arguing) in the water.”

People wonder, and not for the last time, what the hell that Happy Meal looking thing is being given away with the medals.

In the pool, Australia’s Bronte and Cate Campbell are part of a winning relay team, proving one of the major rules of Rio 2016: if there isn’t someone you are related to also in the competition, you’re just not trying hard enough as a family.

Sunday 7 August

Rowing chiefs (as in the sport, not as in the arguments) brush off fears that the Olympic regatta could face days of delays after the entire racing programme is postponed because of dangerously high winds.

Matt Smith (I’m assuming not the Doctor Who one) insists the world rowing’s governing body, Fisa (Federation of International Sedentary Athletics?) had “tricks up their sleeve” when it came to managing time. (But now I’m thinking, maybe the Doctor Who one?)

US comedian Leslie Jones is so riotously prolific on Twitter, much-criticised-for-its-coverage NBC invites her to join its Olympic team in Rio. It happens. Not sure how much it soothes the horror of the last few months for the star of Ghostbusters II: Twitter Clusterfuck, but it certainly shows one of the best sides of social media.

As does the selfie taken by Lee Eun Ju of South Korea and Hong Un-jong of the North, which prompted that most British of responses: a universal smile, followed by a lot of editorials about what would happen when the North Korean returned home.

Monday 8 August

Some big names tumble early in the men’s singles and doubles, including Novak Djokovic and the Murray Brothers. As in the tennis players, not the weirdly appealing folk combo that just popped into your head.

Adam Peaty wins Team GB’s first gold and breaks his own world record. Sprinter Asha Philip catches one of the most-badly timed bufferings ever as her team-mates watch at camp.

Elsewhere, there’s no rowing (as in on the water), although loads of rowing (as in arguing) in the water. Which is confusing, I grant you.

Swimming gets snarled up in two ‘drugs’ rows. The finger-wagging of the US’s Lilly King towards “drugs cheats” and, by implication, Russia’s Yulia Efimova, somewhat overshadows an often farcical spat between China and Australia after verbal argy-bargy from Mack Horton towards Sun Yang.

Horton’s description of his rival as a “drugs cheat” sends the state-controlled Global Times newspaper into a scary/oddly Victorian/proper funny editorial which states: “In many serious essays written by Westerners, Australia is mentioned as a country at the fringes of civilisation. In some cases, they refer to the country’s early history as Britain’s offshore prison. This suggests that no one should be surprised at uncivilised acts emanating from the country.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Israeli delegation, Gili Lusting, says he sees it as an aggressive gesture that Israeli athletes were “blocked” from boarding a bus packed with Lebanese athletes in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

There is some inter-country love over at the football where the home crowd cheer “Iraq! Iraq!” after the outsiders hold Brazil to a 0-0 draw.

Michael Phelps wins his 19th gold medal, succeeding himself as the World’s Most Successful Olympian Ever. (I tell you this because I can’t remember if the BBC mentioned this at all during its coverage.)

Meanwhile, reporting from the pool, Helen Skelton makes front pages by wearing a dress. Which would only be acceptable if it was one of the Hunger Games ones that goes on fire when you spin round. Although Stella, maybe get working on that for Tokyo 2020? You’re welcome.

The Chicago Tribune joins the roll of sexism shame when it reduces two-times bronze medallist Olympian Corey Cogdell to the role of wife of a Chicago Bears player in a story about her. What a time to be alive!

Tuesday 9 August

The diving pool is shut after the water turns green, leading to 1,000 theories, including ‘some sort of algae’, ‘fake tan’ and 998 variations on ‘pee’.

statue of Christ the Redeemer

“Nothing to do with me this time, guys!”

Ibtihaj Muhammad becomes the first woman to represent Team USA wearing hijab, which seems like the dawn of something, right up to the point that fellow American Gabby Douglas gets near-annihilated on Twitter for not putting her hand on her heart during the national anthem. Reminds you why you’re so worried about Trump becoming President, right?

The US team secures the gold in the gymnastics, thanks to a solid team but also, you know, Simone Biles, who has to be seen to be believed. The 19-year-old later objects to being called the new Usain Bolt or the new Michael Phelps, a statement so wonderfully American, you’d hope it serves as some sort of reminder to Trump that all those values he claims to have are actually found in the communities he demonises. Jesus, I’ve got Olympics madness.

Meanwhile Michael Phelps succeeds himself as the World’s Most Successful Olympian. (I only mention it because I can’t remember if the BBC did. Which is strange, because you’d think it’d be the sort of thing they went on and on about.)

And women, yeah you, you might find a scrap of comfort knowing you are not the only people edited out of your own autobiographies. Exhibit A: the treatment of some guy who won bronze for copying Tom Daley. Even the mother of Daniel Goodfellow (for ’twas him) complains after The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express all lead with an image of Daley alone, while Goodfellow is identified only as his “synchronised partner” in a subheading in the Times. The sporting equivalent of being cropped out of your own wedding photograph.

In presumably unrelated news, a bus carrying journalists is apparently attacked on a highway between Olympic venues. One journalist reports it to be the work of stones. Another says she heard it was bullets. Another, isn’t yet prepared to commit himself either way. Which is about as good a metaphor for journalism as you’ll get.

Bradley Wiggins. Photo: www.Rio2016.com

Bradley Wiggins. Photo: www.Rio2016.com

Wednesday 10 August

The LA Times reports that Olympians pooh-pooh fears of dirty water in Rio. (Nice work guys.) In it, Canada’s Julien Bahain blames media hype: “In Beijing it was air pollution. In London, it was all about traffic and unfinished competition sites… Tokyo 2020 is around the corner now. What is it going to be about this time?”

He’s been to three Olympics, so he probably knows his stuff. Although as a journalist, I do sometimes feel the need to defend the team. So I’ll just say, he’s going to be eating his words if he’s bobbing around of the coast of Tokyo and Godzilla pops up next to him.

In a seemingly endless parade of firsts and bests, Justin Rose shoots the first hole in one in Olympic history. Although to be fair, it’s the first year golf’s been in the Games. Except for 1900 and 1904, when I think they played with bits of wood nailed together or something.

I start to ask myself, how much Olympics is too much Olympics? Is it when crashes in the road racing are said to be the result of an “inappropriate road” and I can’t begin to explain what I find funny about it? Or when I hear Lochte and Phelps are about to go head-to-head in an individual medley and I’m disappointed to discover that didn’t mean karaoke? Idea for Tokyo there guys. You’re welcome.

Tennis is delayed, but equestrianism kicks (canters?) off. As does judo (that probably is kicks).

Justin Gatlin – the sprinter who served a four-year ban for doping – responds to King’s suggestion that the likes of him shouldn’t be part of Team USA. “People want to label people and that’s all they want to do,” he says. Honestly, labellers. Those people are the worst. Always bring up things that have happened in your past. They’re as bad as the people who fail the piss test in the first place.

“I try to watch fencing while waiting for a load of laundry to finish and it takes two wasted trips to the kitchen before I work out the beeping is coming from the telly.”

Jack Laugher and some other guy (OK, Chris Mears, if you insist on knowing) take gold in the synchronised 3m springboard. In water that looks so green you half expect someone to come up with their ankle caught in a shopping trolley. They hug when they win, like some kind of deviants. The Daily Mail wonders why these can’t be like the Chinese and just pat each other on the back like real men.

Max Whitlock takes bronze in the men’s individual gymnastics. I decide to go to bed when I hear “Whitlock will be the first one to get up there on the floor,” and can’t shake the idea he’s going to start dancing and encouraging others to join in.

*Googles “Is Olympics madness a thing?”*

Thursday 11 August

What with all this drugs chat and dress wearing, swimming still finds time to have another drama when it’s revealed that Olympic entry lists show many of the swimmers competing in Rio achieved their entry times in… well, it’s too long to go into here, but the events seem to have lost some credibility.

Meanwhile, acting head of British cycling Andy Harrison denies a rift between Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish as the cycling starts. Fucking hell, cycling, have I got to watch all that too?

In other news, Fiji run all over Team GB in the Men’s Rugby Sevens to win their country’s first gold medal. No really, they might as well have been in cars. No offence, silver-winning Brits. Great rejoicing ensues. No, like really great.

Jessica Ennis-Hill. Photo: www.Rio2016.com

Jessica Ennis-Hill. Photo: www.Rio2016.com

Friday 12 August

I try to watch fencing while waiting for a load of laundry to finish and it takes two wasted trips to the kitchen before I work out the beeping is coming from the telly. But fuck that, the ath-er-letics is on.

Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson have mixed results in the heptathlon, and Greg Rutherford causes some late-night nail-biting. The big story of the day on the track is the women’s 10,000m, where Ethiopian Almaz Ayana takes 14 seconds off the world record. Britain’s Jo Pavey comes 15th. She’s 42. Massive cheer.

The Men’s Team Sprint foursome (Jason Kenny and some other guys that aren’t getting married to Laura Trott) retain the title, for a third time.

Katherine Grainger takes silver in rowing to become Britain’s Most Successful Female Olympian and Glover and Stanning retain their title, meaning they haven’t been beaten for five years. ‘king hell.

Lesley Jones records her first ecstatic segment for NBC.

She is there to see Simone Manuel become the first African American to win a swimming gold medal. Manuel’s victory inspires a headline – in the San Jose Mercury News – which breaks the world record for shitty-ness: “Phelps shares historic night with African American”.

Meanwhile Bryony Page becomes the first British woman to win an Olympic trampoline medal. A silver. It is surprisingly awesome.

And at the weightlifting, Finland’s Milko Tokola manages a 175kg clean-and-jerk, then faints and falls off the stage. When he comes to, he explains: “Doctors have investigated and they think maybe it’s to do with blood levels in the brain when I lift heavyweights.” I mean it could be. I suppose if they’ve ruled out diet, hereditary stuff and carbon monoxide leads, I suppose it could be that he’s lifting 175kg above his head. Jury’s still out for me.

Over at the velodrome, Bradley Wiggins becomes Team GB’s Most Successful Ever Olympian and he and Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave have a cuddle. No word on where it scored on the Daily Mail‘s Acceptable Manliness of Celebration Scale.

That’s it, it’s been a week. Wait, that can’t be right. When was the last time I saw my family?

The highlight so far? The interview given by Skibbereen’s finest, Gary and Paul O’Donovan who take a rowing silver, in which they talk about all the important stuff, like Nutella and really needing to pee.

I’ll be back with week two on Monday. I don’t want anyone lapsing into Olympic Madness*.

* apparently not a real thing**
** although I’m waiting to hear back from the weightlifting doctors.


Catch up with Hannah’s previous head-scratching catch-ups here.

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.