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Olympic Buttocks24 February 2012 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
In Aigle, Switzerland, the Frenchman Robert Marchand recently set the cycling world hour record for riders over one hundred years old. He finished at 24.25 kilometres. This made me want to interview this man and it reminded me of The 100-year-old, a short story by the Dutch author Godfried Bomans (1913–1971).
Bomans describes entering the house. ‘Is your father at home?’ I asked the old man who opened the door. Bomans is taken to a room with an even older man in it and begins shouting congratulations into this man’s ear. ‘You’ve got it wrong,’ the old man said in a lack-lustre voice, ‘father is upstairs.’ I ran up the stairs because I understood there wasn’t a second to lose. The one-hundred-year-old was on the rings doing his gymnastic exercises.
As a young man Robert Marchand dreamed of a glittering cycling career, but it wasn’t until he turned 78 that he was able to beat his contemporaries.
Older men never feel ashamed. I remember a triathlon during which an elderly Belgian teetered across the finish line. He immediately had to be supported by three men, but he managed to shout at the reporter: ‘I’m feeling good, I’m feeling good, I’m still quite fit!’
Triathlon participants tend to wear tight-fitting outfits. The sort of clothing that shows whether men’s private parts are on the left or right, and reveals every muscle, which is not always such a delight. Occasionally it makes me hanker after the Middle Ages, when most sports required wearing armour.
It starts when you are a youngster; I don’t think you should put anorexic teenagers in tight gymnasts’ outfits. These costumes used to be plain but nowadays they are made of glossy Lycra. Often there is a slightly creepy coach watching from the sidelines. When, sitting in front of the telly, I see such a trainer consoling a young female gymnast after she has fallen off a piece of apparatus yet again, I feel like hitting the man.
Dutch speed skaters, too, are kitted out in strange attire, especially at the back, with the orange tapering towards the buttocks. It reminds me of skating baboons.
Or take table tennis: its players have sunken eyes. However young they may be, there are dark bags under their eyes, and before serving a table tennis player looks like a patient on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
Rather sadly, this misery is no longer limited to youngsters: you come across it when walking down the street. My view is that, the moment you realise you’ve missed your chance of appearing at the Olympic Games, you should give up sport. Yet we live in a sport-loving culture: if you can’t run any more, you take up walking.
President Kennedy once wondered if his staff could walk 50 miles in 20 hours. His brother Robert was the only one to manage it, but he said to the last one to quit, at 35 miles: ‘You’re lucky, your brother isn’t President of the United States.’ Kennedy marches are still organised.
This week I came across some participants in the local Kennedy march. You could see them coming from a distance; they were on their last kilometre, it later transpired. Most of the walkers were swinging their arms in an uncontrolled way, some were limping, and just a few managed to say hello with a final effort. At first I thought someone had let some patients out of a closed psychiatric ward.
The London Olympics are approaching; once again I will enjoy watching female swimmers with shoulders that are just too wide, female weightlifters with a moustache and the beautiful competitors in the heptathlon. But please don’t walk down the street dressed like this.
Apparently I have quite good buttocks – in fact, you could consider them Olympic buttocks. I don’t show them in public, though; even better, I sit on them a lot. Wonderful!
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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