Saturday, 11 August 2012

True heroines

It's been slow, this editing business. And yes, one of the reasons is that I am swept up in the new national pastime of Armchair Sports Enthusiast.

Funny to think that two weeks ago most of us were sceptical about the Olympics; turned off by the expense, the excessive branding restraints and the corporate takeover. One OTT, charming and bonkers Opening Ceremony later, a ceremony that celebrated books and the NHS, multiculturalism, music and all Britain's heritage - the good and the bad, and the country heaved a collected, contented sigh, sank back onto the sofa and grabbed their remote controls, ready to surf a red button fuelled extravaganza of sports.

It's been lovely to see overpaid, over exposed men's football relegated to the footnotes whilst athletes, gymnasts, canoeists and swimmers take their place on the front pages. We are all experts in judo and taekwondo and almost understand how gymnastics is scored. Andy Murray wins gold on Centre Court, the men's gymnasts score Bronze - then silver, then Bronze again - and dancing ponies are suddenly the hottest ticket in town. And everywhere we look women are being judged not on their looks (mostly) but on their strength and prowess and ability.

Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Beth Tweddle, Sarah Stevenson, Jade Jones, Nicola Adams; just a few of the amazing women who have dominated the headlines in the last two weeks. Women who have  trained, sacrificed, worked every hour of every day to achieve their goals. Women who aren't interested in being famous at any cost, women who don't care about sweat, blood and tears, women with bodies that don't adhere to fashion's size zero ideal - bodies that are strong, powerful, that have a purpose and a use. Of course I have as much chance as achieving Ennis' abs as I have of squeezing into a pair of teeny designer jeans but I know which I'd rather have!

Of course two weeks won't change a culture. There's an alarming tendency for commentators and journalists to label grown women as 'girls', Benny Hill music played at beach volleyball, Telegraph writer's drooling on about women's soft limbs, the glitter, eye make up and sequin heavy costumes on the rhythmic gymnasts and synchronised swimmers (although, how do they breathe? Are they part fish? I'm not sure it's sport but it is certainly surreal and breath taking to watch). All this shows that as Team G.B.'s women rack up the medals there is a lot more work to be done. But it's a start.

Now where did I put that remote control again? I believe it's time for the diving...

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