Letters From London

Olympic viewing station

Free Rain

The Olympics al fresco! It looked better in the brochure.

By Ellie Gibson • August 3, 2012

Many of us on the Gameological crew like the Olympics. Eurogamers Ellie Gibson, on the other hand, does not care for them (or so she claims). Naturally, then, we’ve invited her to be the site’s sole correspondent for the London 2012 Olympics. She does live there, after all. During the two weeks of competition, Ellie will be providing periodic updates to her running diary of the Games, in a feature we’re calling Letters From London.

Tuesday, August 2—Men’s singles badminton, quarterfinals; women’s judo, gold-medal match

At last. After years of debate and deliberation, it has been confirmed: Badminton is officially the world’s most rubbish sport.

This is not what the Olympic commentators would call an upset victory. For starters, all sports with more than two syllables in their name are inherently ridiculous. Think about it. Table tennis (tiny bats). Water polo (wacky hats). American football (no explanation required).

But the top prize has to go to the sport so pathetic, not even the best players in the world can be bothered to play it properly. Never mind the fact that even when the rules are obeyed, it requires no more exertion than it takes to swat away a used tissue.

I enjoyed the footage of the disqualified badminton players flopping around the court so much that I decided to tune in for the men’s final. Disappointingly, these men seemed to be putting in real effort, or at least as much effort as anyone ever puts into playing badminton. At one point, the Japanese guy almost tripped over, but then he didn’t. Meanwhile, actual beads of sweat were just visible above the Chinese guy’s top lip. (Good job I was watching in HD.)

Truth be told, this was about all the Olympic excitement I could take after the day I’d had. It began with a phone call to my friend Jessie, who has two kids and therefore an encyclopedic knowledge of all Fun Activities within a 25-mile radius at any given time.

“Let’s do something Olympic,” I said.

“OK,” she said. “Do you want to go and see the rings?”

“Why?” I said. “I am pretty sure I can guess what they look like.” Instead we arranged to meet on Blackheath, a large expanse of flat green land in South-East London.

Legend has it that Blackheath is where all the victims of the plague were buried, which explains both the name and the fact no one has ever built on the land. (As regular podcast listeners will know, Gameological editor John Teti has done his best to paint this fictional historical fact as a myth and thinks 100,000 people dying with suppurating boils under their armpits is hilarious.)

The local council had decided this was the perfect place to erect a giant outdoor screen showing Olympic events. Their website also promised “a brilliant lineup of free entertainment and activities including dance, music, theatre, sports workshops, and family fun. Bring a picnic and join in the party atmosphere!”

It was pouring with rain when I arrived. A load of women were huddling under a small marquee along with several dozen miserable children and two policemen. Across the way was an artisanal food stall selling pieces of chicken for £7 each. I gazed into the distance, hoping to spot some dance, music, theatre or sports workshops, but all I could see was a giant bouncy castle in the shape of Spongebob Squarepants.

I found Jessie, who was accompanied by Sam and Megan, both aged 3. “Are you excited about the Olympics?” I said.

“I want to go and see Spongebob,” said Megan.

Once the rain cleared, we sat down on our anoraks in front of the big screen. The women’s judo was on. It was strangely familiar. All that grabbing each other by the lapels and flinging each other to the ground—we might as well have been sat outside Wetherspoon’s on a Friday night.

Still, watching the event with a big group of people was fun. We passed a pleasant half-hour enjoying the fresh air, reveling in the sense of community, and trying not to think about the mass grave of plague-infested corpses beneath our feet. Then Sam and Megan started practicing their own, incredibly violent version of judo, and we decided it was time to go and see Spongebob.

Oh, by the way: The two syllable rule doesn’t work in reverse, because of curling.

(Olympic viewing station photo: The UK Department For Culture, Media, And Sport)

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98 Responses to “Free Rain”

  1. doyourealize says:

    It’s a good thing, based on your rule of syllabic sport grading, American Football is actually just called “Football”. And your last sentence should read, “The two syllable rule doesn’t work in reverse, because of curling and soccer.”

    Also, while I don’t necessarily enjoying watching badminton, playing is fun. Same with table tennis, called ping-pong. I wonder if there’s anything else in this short piece I can pick apart.


    • ToddG says:

      The two-syllable rule would also eliminate… most things.  Basketball.  Gymanstics.  Volleyball.  Marathon.  Archery.  Calvinball.

    • Merve says:

      “I wonder if there’s anything else in this short piece I can pick apart.”

      There’s clearly no such thing as women’s judo. Ellie just made that up.

  2. Xtracurlyfries says:

    I understand the slight twinge of humor one might encounter reading a report on the Olympics written by someone who doesn’t like the Olympics (how droll!), but saying that Badminton is easy is neither funny nor accurate.

    • John Teti says:

      It’s a tongue-in-cheek remark. Please don’t be the guy who has to let everyone know when you fail to be amused by something. Be insightful, be funny, and/or be supportive. Just don’t be a killjoy, please.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        But who will think of the Badminton!?

      • Bo Squiggley says:

        John, I really appreciate the atmosphere being cultivated over here – but you want there to be no critiquing or non-positive response to a piece Amelie Gillette (in her pre-Hollywood days) would have considered too caustic?

        This is the Olympics, despite NBC’s best efforts towards making it Redemption, International Style (or something of the like). Maybe if there was anything else being put forward from The Gameological on it, there wouldn’t be annoyance/lack-of-caring towards this (sole) approach. Or if Ms. Gibson had a greater laugh count in these missives…

        But I still love these comment boards better than the hyper-bs of the AV Club ones, any day!

        • John Teti says:

          Nope, I didn’t say “no negative response.” The idea around here is that if you comment, you should have something to say, something to add. In fact, we welcome spirited disagreement. But I have zero tolerance for substance-free internet churlishness, and the reason you enjoy these comment boards is because we established early on that that stuff doesn’t pass muster. If the sum and substance of your comment is simply “I don’t like this,” you can save it. You’re not adding anything, and you’re just feeding negative energy into the room. You see the comment thread up top, with people arguing their case, but in a silly, good-natured way, in keeping with the piece? That’s how it’s supposed to work.

          It is so very easy for you to sit there and say, gosh, if only Gameological had done more, maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to complain. But from my end, let me tell you, man, there’s nothing more infuriating than the presumption that we ought to work overtime and bust our budget to cater to every possible whim. In fact, before Ellie proposed writing this diary, our Olympic coverage plans were zero. So in a way, you broke even.

          Instead of making a site that tries to please everyone (i.e., an awful, generic site), we operate on the premise that there exist other sites on the internet that have their own voice, sites that are also available to you. So if you don’t care for the way we’re writing about something, we can rest easy that you have options. From an editorial point of view, it’s really freeing. It means you may not love everything but you get a more distinctive, eclectic site overall.

          I’m totally okay with people not liking or being interested in some of the stuff we publish. My issue is with the internet-commenter sense of entitlement that treats “I don’t like this” as a worthwhile contribution to the conversation.

          (As for the “caustic” thing, if you really find these overwhelmingly caustic, you must need to get your fainting couch reupholstered pretty often. I think if you look a little closer at the pieces so far, Ellie’s making fun of her own “ignorance” as much as she’s making fun of the Olympics, hence the winking intro.)

        • Bo Squiggley says:

          Well said, sir! Ad-van-taage, Gibson/Teti.

        • Xtracurlyfries says:

          Great, my first interaction with Teti and he bascially tells me I’m being a dick. Nice one, XCF.

          John, I do appreciate the environment you’re trying to cultivate here (see some of my previous comments) though I think you’re going too far in saying that I didn’t say anything more than “I don’t like this”. Admittedly, my post was short and my intent was partially to register my distaste for the tone of the article. I didn’t say anything particularly eloquent nor thought-provoking, but it was all I had the time for (as evidenced by my being particularly late to this party, only now seeing the responses my post generated).

          The comments up top aren’t comments on the article per se, just comments on the topic. It would seem somewhat silly for me to complain about how people in this country don’t consider Badminton a serious sport, as if this had nothing to do with the article which does that very thing. I have no interest in being a killjoy (though admit that I may have done a little of it in my post above), but you’re asking us to tread a very fine line here.

          Nevertheless, if the above fails to move you, then all I ask is that no-one takes my post above as being a comment on Gameological in general. I really enjoy this site and think all are doing a bang-up job.

  3. Staggering Stew Bum says:

    At last. After years of debate and deliberation, it has been confirmed: Badminton is officially the world’s most rubbish sport.

    Ellie, you are aware of beach volleyball, right? Oh wait, you said ‘sport’.

  4. Pgoodso says:

    I think beach volleyball is more rubbish than badminton. The world champion US men’s team looks like a couple of aging frat dudes, not world class athletes. Meanwhile, the mixed couples badminton final I saw today between the two (remaining) Chinese teams was awe inspiring. That was probably the quickest, most reflex intensive thing I’ve seen in my life, AND I PLAY VIDEO GAMES.

    Also, it’s interesting that the Chinese response to the badminton debacle has led its remaining players to be extremely apologetic and friendly with everyone, including opposing teams and judges.