Sport Prophecy

by Eric Nelson

“I wish Christmas would come more often, don’t you?” (Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren)

The youthful narrator in Astrid Lingren’s classic story wishes for a more frequent occurrence of Christmas, in hopes of extending the joy through the year.

Should we say the same of the Summer Olympics, our every-four-year excuse to be drenched in patriotism about swimming, gymnastics and track?

Lasting 17 days and coming as often as a presidential election, there’s good reason to anticipate the 2012 Games from London. Though shorter than the 12 days of Christmas, there’s likely more variety and personal intrigue in the tradition we revived from the Greeks. Badminton, canoeing, equestrian events — something for everyone! (Which we can’t always say for some smörgåsbords.)

But like the pleasures of Christmas, frequency is part of what makes tradition special. The build-up to the Games — countries will soon be hosting trials, and you’ll start reading profiles of London in national news mags soon — whets our appetite and reminds us that this may be the year we actually watch sabre fencing, or learn the difference between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

When London last hosted the Games, 104 years ago, the Russian archery team was absent. Team leaders had been using an outmoded calendar without leap year adjustments, and arrived in Merry Old England 12 days late for their event. (The games were then spread over months.)

Such a bloody pity, that, considering the scarcity of opportunities to meet our brothers and sisters around the world on an athletic stage this size. So let those old Ruskies be a reminder to you — buy a current calendar, block some time in your August schedule to watch the Olympics on television, and start thinking about what a double-back-handspring should look like.

Let the Games begin!