Bum Rush: Olympic Clogging #2

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Actual important politician

{photo of Boris Johnson's craniofacial situation via Wikimedia}

When the 2012 USA basketball team—reckoned by Kobe Bryant to measure up against the Dream Team of 1992—came up against Tony Parker’s France in the first game of their Olympic campaign, 40 of the very best seats in the house were empty.

It’s true that if you say ‘hoops’ to a British person, they are more likely to think of the hula variety, but public ignorance of the game and the stars of the NBA wasn’t to blame. It emerged that the problem at the North Greenwich Arena was symptomatic of a wider organisational failing—thousands of tickets have gone unused in the first 72 hours of the Games, despite venues being officially “sold out.”

With fully a quarter of the 8.8 million Olympic tickets being set aside for sponsors, officials, the media and the “Olympic Family”—much of the blame is being laid at the feet of the beneficiaries of corporate entertainment packages. Presumably, to the tastes of these plutocrats, the bubbles from the champagne bar are more alluring than the crowded melee of the games themselves.

Tickets have also notably gone unused in gymnastics and at events in the aquatics centre, but according to reports here, one sport that seems to have been relatively well attended by corporate guests in particular is beach volleyball.

In the first ever Olympic Games to welcome both male and female competitors from each nation, allowances have been made for female athletes to ditch the traditional itsy-bitsy bikinis in favour of more modest garb (the body-stocking look was thoroughly documented by Uni Watch). But fears that this—and the British climate—would dampen spectators’ enthusiasm for the competition have proved ungrounded.

How has volleyball remained the most popular sport of these games?

Perhaps it’s got something to do with location. (And yes, OK, maybe sex appeal as well.) Just listen to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, writing his regular newspaper column in the Sunday Telegraph:

[T]here are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers.

Characteristically lively writing from a colourful character, but his approach, somehow, seems to be good politics too. Boris, as he’s known, (like Beyonce, Oprah, and Saddam, the first name is all that’s needed) was announced by a survey today to be Conservative supporters’ preferred choice to succeed the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as the next leader of the political party.

Boris’s observation, of course, is not the first instance when politics and beach volleyball have crossed paths. It was the USA’s very own Misty May-Treanor who, four years ago, offered the then President George W. Bush the chance to give her a congratulatory pat on the butt. He declined.

As we know, the Republicans went on to lose the next Presidential election. It’s not yet clear if Boris views this as an omen or whether he would pass up the same offer but his words, and the actions of plenty of others, have hinted at a broader truth. No matter what the organisational hiccups might be, certain events will always guarantee bums on seats.

Edwin Smith is a journalist and a gentleman pedant, and tweets @EdwinSmith.

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