Sports

Dave Barry: Tight shorts and polite cheers

Well, this part is true: Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Vinokourov crossed the finish line first to win the men’s road race. (Associated Press)
Well, this part is true: Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Vinokourov crossed the finish line first to win the men’s road race. (Associated Press)

LONDON – I went to my first Olympic event, Men Riding Bicycles a Long Way in Extremely Tight Shorts. This event began near Buckingham Palace on the Mall, where a good-natured crowd filled the grandstands and responded with polite cheers whenever the relentlessly perky P.A. announcer asked them how they were doing. He did this every 20 seconds.

Announcer: How’s everybody doing?!!

Crowd: Yay.

Announcer: Is everybody doing OK?!!

Crowd: Yay.

I thought this type of announcer existed only in the U.S., but apparently they’re here, too. It’s like going to a party where the host has a loud voice and severe amnesia.

Before the race I joined the international press corps milling around the cyclists, who were wearing outfits made of that stretchy, really thin Spider-Man-suit material that enables you to see pretty much every detail of their muscles, veins, spleens, etc. Especially their etc., if you know what I mean. What I mean is, you need to be a very confident type of male to wear these outfits.

The cyclists also shave their legs, to make them more aerodynamic. This is why you rarely see hair on airplane wings.

After about an hour or so of the announcer asking how everybody was doing, it was time for the race to start. The 144 cyclists – including one from Takaka, New Zealand, named Jack Bauer – came to the starting line. The tension built; the crowd grew quiet. The starting signal sounded, and then …

… and then the cyclists left. They pedaled away from the grandstands and quickly disappeared from view. And they weren’t expected back for approximately SIX HOURS. So I decided to leave. I have no idea what the people in the grandstands – who presumably paid good money for their tickets – did during the six hours. Maybe there was some kind of official entertainment. (“How’s everybody doing?!!”)

For their part, the cyclists continued on a course that covered 156 miles, traveling through the English countryside and towns south of London, including the town of Dorking, which is home to the world-famous Dorking Cockerel. In case you are unfamiliar with the world-famous Dorking Cockerel: It is a 10-foot-high sculpture of a chicken that was erected in a major Dorking roundabout as a way of expressing the theme: “Dorking – We Have a Really Big Chicken.”

The Dorking Cockerel has gotten into the Olympic spirit: Recently, a huge gold medal was placed around its neck by a group of guerilla knitters. I swear I am not making this up. According to the local newspaper, which is named the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, the medal was created and hung on the cockerel by “the Knit ‘n’ Knatter group, which meets regularly at the Fluff-a-Torium shop in West Street.” This is the same group, the paper said, that “previously claimed responsibility for the colourful scarves placed on the statue for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.”

Those people are completely out of control.

I didn’t make it down to Dorking. I went back to my hotel and watched the end of the cycling road race on TV. The heavy local favorite was Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish, but the winner, in a surprise ending, was Jack Bauer, who cruised to victory after the 53 cyclists ahead of him were all mysteriously shot in the thigh. This is exactly the kind of thing Mitt Romney was trying to warn us about.

No, seriously, the surprise winner was a guy in tight shorts. I would tell you his name, but in all my years of writing columns about Olympic events, I have never provided factual information, and it seems wrong to start now.



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