There is great excitement at the apparent successes of what I suppose we must call “Team GB”, but we fear this is misplaced. Team GB are said to be in third place in the medal table, but as far as we can tell the current standings, with two days to go, really look like this:
1. USA (so-called): two gold (pygme and decathalon) , one silver (decathalon).
2. Jamaica: one each of gold, silver and bronze (all in the stadion)
3. (=) Grenada (gold in the diaulos) and Russia (provisionally gold in the pale)
5. (=) the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Team GB (silver respectively in the diaulos, pale and pygme)
8. (=) Trinidad, Cuba, Ireland and Iran (bronzes in the diaulos, decathalon, pygme and pale)
How, then, are we to claim any British success in the traditional Olympics?
There are, of course, events still to occur in the boxing and wrestling (the overall results of which have been used to calculate the table above) which may hold some British hopes. The dolichos will be not be run until Saturday, but there is no British competitor in the final.
If we were imperialists we would be able comfort to ourselves that the British Empire (including secessionists) leads in medals by two to one, and in gold medals by four to one. At Plumstead Rectory, however, we always thought the Empire a rather modern invention. We will accept Irish medals as our own, of course.
Olympic athletes must, of course, traditionally be Greek speakers. We could certainly disqualify any of the medal winners who don’t know ελεησον με ο θεος κατα το μεγα ελεος σου. Is this behind Boris’ enthusiasm for classics in British schools, so that a greater proportion of our young people may be eligible to compete? But although we have not checked, we fear that there is more chance of the Jamaican medallists qualifying on this score than of the Britons, however public-school educated they may be.
So although it is too late for London 2012 our best hope must be in the traditional Olympic events not held in the present games. The pankratikon was specifically excluded from the modern games (on the orders of a bishop, for shame) but we think that Great Britain would have good medal hopes. This vicious boxing-wrestling cross is widely practised on our streets during the evening hours, and we think a women’s team would be particularly well placed. Meanwhile a modern hoplitodromos would be a natural chance for the British Army, although veterans of Afghanistan may need some adjustment to the concept of “full equipment.”
Great Britain’s best hopes traditionally come in the sitting-down events. It is to our great disadvantage that the chariot races are no longer held. Our technological edge in cycling could be put to more traditional use in this event, and our equestrians should form the basis of a strong team.
We are glad to see Mrs Tindall keeping up the tradition of royal competitors, and she should certainly be in the chariot-racing squad. But it is her grandfather who remains our brightest hope: a champion carriage-driver himself, he could make the switch to racing quite easily, we do not doubt, and would set the right Olympian tone for the restored Games. He is a native Greek, too. Go Team HRH.