Aidan Smith: Thanks, Deni Deni, for giving the kids their own Precious moments
Every night this past week I’ve come home from work and found a strange symmetry to the usual plastic-based devastation of the summer hols. Instead of a mess of toys there’s been a mess of toys arranged in vague piles, and at every pile a junior broom handle or plastic golf club or light sabre from last year’s panto – anything that would make a bar capable of holding shopping bags of the aforementioned cars, dolls, etc at either end.
So what do you reckon is my kids’ favourite sport of the Olympics thus far? Give yourself a coconut if you guessed “Red button, category T-W, scrolling past table-tennis (fantastic game, wiff-waff, but oddly dulled by TV), tennis (too soon after Wimbledon, and not truly Olympic), past even volleyball (despite the presence in the US women’s team of the fabulously-monikered Destinee Hooker), and finally alighting on the last listed, weightlifting”.
You never know how your children are going to surprise you, only that they will. There have been more familiar sports (the over-familiar football) at London 2012 and more hyped ones (beach volleyball, not the same after the braying City suits announced their presence in the crowd). There have been more scandalous ones (suddenly the Tuesday night badminton session of Young Wives Groups in church halls across the land have a whiff of danger about them) and some with great new glamour attached (cycling, where men with Hovis-thick names like Bradley Wiggins get to perch on Beckhamesque thrones). But every day in our house it’s been: “Any weightlifting, Dad?”
I’ve been trying to work out the appeal. I mean, I remember Precious McKenzie so I like it for nostalgic reasons, and how no great new glamour ever seems to have been sprinkled on its halls, which still look Romanian from the Ceausescu era or Restalrigian from the time of the 1970 Commonwealth Games (Meadowbank is technically just outside Edinburgh’s Restalrig but you know what I mean). Plus, weightlifting always makes me think of Alan Weeks who always makes me think of Clive James, the doyen of TV critics who loved the small sports and their commentators and always covered them (and even when he didn’t they still provided him with his greatest-ever intro from May 1973: “By a tragic fluke of inattention I missed the immortal moment when Frank Bough said: ‘Harry Commentator is your carpenter.’”). That’s the attraction for me, but what about a five-year-old boy and his sister, not yet four?
Weighlifting’s simplicity, I guess, is crucial: a succession of small men (and women) representing Turkey and Turkmenistan, Mexico and the Koreas, appear from behind a curtain, serious and almost sad, and attempt to lift the equivalent of two and a half cows (not actually verified, please don’t write in). There’s drama here: “What do you think, kids, is this guy going to – technical term – bomb out, meaning there will be the dreaded DNF (did not finish) next to their name?” And while it’s tiny drama, this is enough.
My children are too young to be X Factor children, so they don’t need the competitors to over-emote (lift or drop, the little lemon grimace of weightlifting rarely changes), and overdo the “journey” thing when they’re over-interviewed by over-zealous presents over-keen on the “How do you feel?” question. That said, my daughter Stella could learn to love the over-gushy response, I reckon. When Indonesia’s Deni Deni (Destinee and Bradley’s only real rival for 2012’s best-named) didn’t quite manage to reach for the skies he couldn’t walk away without kneeling and kissing the bar. My little girl loved that.
Archie’s favourite moments, being a boy, ruff and tuff, are when the cameras zoom in on the competitors’ shins as the bar is dragged so tight to the body on the ascent that he’s able to shriek: “Blood! Look, Dad – real blood!” I suppose this is a sign that ultimately he, too, will want more from sport than the simple routines of these fun-sized Herculeses with the fun-free expressions, but in years to come I’ll enjoy reminding both of them that in the first Olympics to impact on them, weightlifting was the real must-see.
By the way, Deni Deni deserves a song written about him, if he doesn’t (almost) have one already, given it’s some time since Half Man Half Biscuit celebrated the “legendary rivulets” of the sweating, grunting Precious.
Now kids, get this awful mess tidied up.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: West