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Pheidippides and the Snickers Bar On:2012-09-09 00:00:00

The other day, well really quite while ago by the time you hear this, and much to my surprise, someone at work mentioned that yet another round of those Olympic Game thingies was going on in London. They seemed to think that I should be taking an interest since it was being held in the land of my birth, and I didn't have the heart to tell them that A) I had carefully avoided the damn thing by making quite sure that my visit, earlier this year, was most definitely when it wasn't being held, on the grounds of London already being wildly over-crowded even before they shoved a great load of athletes and spectators and what have you into it, and B) that I had, in the time between said avoidily visit and the other-day mentioning, completely forgotten about the damn thing. So I rushed home (well, not immediately, I did wait for my usual knocking-off time) and checked it out on the BBC site so I'd have something to add to the next Olympic mentioning session at work, if there happened to be one.

There seemed to be nothing there but a load of not-terribly-interesting stuff about sports, many of them only marginally sporty in my opinion, and other incomprehensible stuff, until...until one item caught my eye. There was a piece, by a guy with the rather Welsh sounding name of Colm O’Regan, that claimed to be an “Olympiad round-up, Ancient Greece-style” Well I could hardly resist that, could I? Especially when I noticed that they’d changed their name from ‘the BBC’ to ‘the BC BC’ just for the article. So now that the games are real gone, man. I feel that I can essay on them or rather on that Beeb piece about them without ruining my Not-Taking-A-Damn-Bit-Of-Notice Cred. You see, after bits of silliness about the hypothetical opening of their ceremony (which in the original games, of course, actually featured some terminal involvement by a number of very unfortunate bulls1) being "multi-cultural lefty nonsense" because it was nice to slaves and women, and then a photo, purportedly of the ancient games, that with complete disregard of the facts, showed the athletes disgustingly fully clothed. Then our putative Welshman made what I thought was a rather good joke about a controversy over Pheidippides, whom he described as “the father of modern communication” being commemorated in future Olympics. Perhaps with a race!


When I stopped laughing and read on I discovered that he felt it necessary to explain his joke at some length, and I’m tempted to do the same. But I won’t. No I prefer to muse (I hope amusingly) about change.

Oh! Oh! Just before I do, I must say at least one thing about a change in the modern (that’s the London 2012) games. The British, for a change, absolutely ruined their reputation at these games for being good losers, in a really odd way, by doing rather well, ending up with the third highest number of golds after the US and China. You probably know that already, but have you thought that Britain is quite a small country, especially compared with those two and indeed when compared with number four in the gold holders list, Russia. If we change the totals, adjusting for population, then the 137 medals that the top four won between them would be distributed: 25 to the US, 5 to China, 28 to Russia, and a whopping 79 to Britain. So you can think yourselves lucky we are such a small country and one that’s usually so rotten at sports.  

Adjusted Olympics


Where was I?...

Oh Yes. Pheidippides, jokes and change, though since I’ve used up all my time I’ll just say that a hundred years ago our Mr O’Regan would not have had to explain his joke, at least not to an educated audience like you. Every one would as a matter of course get his reference, after all those years they would have spent in high school amassing (and amo-ing and amat-ing for that matter) the classical education that, come to think of it, pretty-well was education back then.

Oh! And one last bit of rather more candid mutability which may make you snicker, did you know that in Britain until 1990 the Snickers bar was called Marathon that was until they renamed it after the very same racehorse as in the States rather than for a place to commemorate. Or, indeed, to run away from.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


1"On the final day, there was a banquet for all the participants, consisting of 100 oxen that had been sacrificed to Zeus on the first day."

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