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The 2004 Olympic Games – the Forbes perspective

by John Forbes - Tornado Olympic sailor on 6 Sep 2004
A typical Olympic campaign is based over a four-year program totalling 1,460 days (four years x 365 days).

The actual time at the Olympic Games is approximately 28 days. So there are 1,432 days where you are not in the Olympic arena under Olympic guidelines.

So, . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For 1432 days you will drink anything that is shoved down your throat.

For 28 days you only drink something that has an ISO-9001 tamper proof lid that is provided free by Coca-Cola, manufactured using the most abnormal of food colours and is probably terrible for your teeth, digestive system and brain activity during sleep.

For 1432 days you wear anything you like.

For 28 days you are paranoid that the Nike/Reebok/Adidas logo on your socks and underpants is 2mm too big for IOC regulations. Ironically, you paid for the socks and undies as you aren’t sponsored by Nike/Reebok/Adidas.

For 1432 days the sailmaker’s logo on your sails, trampoline, trapeze harness, boat cover and rudder covers can be as big as they want and placed anywhere they want.

For 28 days you have to remove all manufacturers’ logos bigger than your thumbnail, even though all of these companies helped achieve your goals by working day and night for you, more than often for free.

For 1432 days you organised the best Olympic sailing campaign of your life including everything from building three boats from scratch, freighting them in high-cube 40 foot containers to every continent on the planet, arranging the rental of cars and hotels in 16 different languages and becoming more multicultural than Downtown on Sunday Market Day as a result of your worldly travels.

For 28 days you put all that aside and rely on someone who barely knows your name to arrange your entire life including clothing, housing, transport and diet - on the basis that they can do it better because their Olympic accreditation lets them get on the local public transport system for free.

For 1432 days you have a mobile phone that everyone knows the number of and can contact you in every conceivable fashion (RING/SMS/PXT).

For 28 days you get some dodgy pre-paid foreign number that not even your mother can remember and she struggles to contact you at every attempt including cases of emergency. The pre-paid is purported to save you $50 for the month but you forgot to choose the free SMS offer so you spend six times more than normal due to the foreign SMS rates which you don’t find out about until six weeks later!

For 1432 days you survived using four sets of sails and three spinnakers which helped you win three World Championships, three European Championships and ‘podiumed’ in every Olympic test event.

For 28 days you test eight mainsails, five jibs and seven spinnakers and conclude that the cheapest cloth with the standard (unaltered) computer design from two years ago is still the best shape on the market.

For 1432 days you can enjoy comfort at regatta venues and put your trailer right next to your boat at every regatta and have your spare boat ready in case of emergency.

For 28 days you have to walk a cumulative total of 7.3km back and forth in 36 degree heat to your trailer because some official from ISAF wants the rigging area to look clean like a pharmaceutical laboratory, even though we participate in a high maintenance sport requiring the necessity of tools and equipment at just about every conceivable moment whilst ashore.

For 1432 days you have travelled, sailed and competed without any thought or concern for your safety or the security of your equipment or fellow competitors.

For 28 days you are subjected to empty your pockets and pass 72 times through X-Ray machines and are continually in the presence of the army, navy, ground police, water police, air police, coast guard, and, at times, SAS – all of whom carry weapons you’ve only ever seen on Segal, Van Damme or Schwarzenegger in Hollywood action flicks.

For 1432 days you have never had any interest in the 27 other Olympic sports.

For 28 days you become an expert in judging Tai-Kwon-Do and Synchronised 10m Platform Diving and can judge the Javelin throwing accuracy to within 40cm – all from the barstool at the local Molly Blooms Irish Pub.

For 1432 days your two year old daughter is considered the cutest thing in the world.

For 28 days she and her trike are considered ‘A Security Risk’ and not allowed within 1.8 kilometres of the boat park. NO EXCEPTIONS!

For 1432 days ‘Support Staff’ for your Olympic campaign are the part-timers you employ at your business to fill in for you whilst you are away training.

For 28 days ‘Support Staff’ include Head Coach, six Sailing Coaches, Chef de Missions, Team Security, Team Doctor, Physiotherapist, Psychologist, Team Leader, Boat Repairer, Meteorologist and Media Liaison Officer.

For 1432 days the word ‘fair’ is what you try and get your rudders and centreboards to be so your boat steers well.

For 28 days the word ‘fair’ is what some local (unknown to your Class) Race Committee Officer thinks 160 degree wind shifts are, even though five Olympic Medallists and two World and European Champions try and tell him and the International Jury otherwise. (P.S. Races 3 & 5 still stand).


And that’s just some of it!

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