When did the Olympics start? I think it was a few weeks back but it’s starting to feel like months.

I have to admit that I watched a fair bit of the opening ceremony but since then I’ve just seen updates in my news feeds or on telly. I’ve never been a big Olympic Games watcher but I think I’ve seen less than ever this time around and I think I know why.

The format is tired.

Yes, there have been new sports added over the years and some older, less interesting sports removed, but it’s essentially been the same for such a long time.

The ancient Olympic Games were held from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. After that the idea was pretty much rested until Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. Sure, there were a few attempts at reviving some sort of games related to an Olympic theme along the way but they didn’t really come to much.

I reckon it’s time to freshen things up. Let’s create a mashup of the Olympics and MasterChef.

MasterAthlete. I think it’s got a great ring to it and the possibilities are endless.

We’d start with three judges including two professional athletes and an acclaimed sports writer. Then hundreds of amateur athletes would battle it out for the honour of becoming MasterAthlete 2016. The MasterAthlete would win $250 000 and the opportunity to train alongside some of the greatest professional athletes in the world. They’d also be given a monthly column in Muscle & Fitness Magazine.

Contestants would talk endlessly about their ‘sports dream’ and about ‘doing this for their family’ (even though the competition would mean they’d have to be away from their family for several months). They’d talk about the pressure and just how far they’d come on their personal ‘athlete journey’.

Week by week the black active wear would come out as contestants fought to stay in the competition during the elimination rounds. The very best would be dressed in white active wear and compete against a professional athlete for an immunity pin which would entitle them to a generous head start in their next race.

The mystery box would bring added excitement as the athletes would have no idea what sport they’d have to compete in until the box is lifted. “When the lid came off and I saw the speedos, I was terrified. My specialty is weight lifting, so to know that I’d have to go up against the others in the pool really set my heart racing.”

We’d shed a few tears as our favourites left the competition because they’d left an element out of the triathlon. “It wasn’t until we got to the finish line that I looked around at the other contestants in their clip cloppy shoes and realised …… I’d forgotten to do the cycle leg”.

Imagine contestants arriving in the Master Athlete stadium to hear the judges tell them that they had to go from one side of the city to the other. “You’ve got an open sports locker. Get there any way you like. You can combine swimming, cycling, jogging or canoeing, but remember that in today’s challenge, running must be the hero of the event. Your time starts …… now”.

So there’s the basic concept but I think we need to push it just a little further. What other ways can you think of to create MasterAthlete? Let me know in the comments section of this post. I think we’re onto a real winner.

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Getting Australia on Bikes

Rain, hail or shine, I’m on my bike. Well maybe not hail but you get what I mean.

As I cycle down the dual use path beside the freeway, whizzing past slow moving columns of cars, I wonder why more people don’t make the switch to cycling. I know that if they did, they’d be healthier, happier, have more energy and wouldn’t have to sit in stop go traffic every day.

A national survey conducted by the Cycling Promotion Fund and the National Heart Foundation of Australia has found more than 62% of Australians want to ride a bike for transport, but their safety fears are keeping them in their cars and their bikes in the shed.

The data, released this week, found that while more than 60% of Australians have access to a bike, almost 70% were not considering cycling for transport in the near future.

Six time Tour de France competitor and Atlanta Olympian, Stephen Hodge, is the spokesperson for the Cycling Promotion Fund and he joined me on 98.5 Sonshine FM this morning to discuss the survey and what can be done to increase the number of people choosing two wheels over four. You can hear the interview by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

Around 60% of respondents stated they own or have access to a bike.

Two in five respondents that owned or had access to a bike had ridden a bike in the past month. Of these, 60% had ridden a bike for transport purposes.

The majority of respondents that had ridden a bike did so for either running errands/going to the shops or for leisure and recreational activities. More than 60% of respondents had both cycled for running errands/going to the shops and for leisure and recreational

The majority of respondents cycle due to the health and exercise benefits obtained from cycling. Respondents were also likely to be influenced by the economic benefits of cycling, as well as the environmental advantages.

A common theme for not cycling more often was due to road traffic conditions or safety. Respondents were likely to rate unsafe road condition, speed/volume of traffic, lack of bicycle lanes or safety as key reasons for not cycling often. Issues such as lack of time or
motivation were not significant factors in holding back cyclists.

Those that ride a bike for transport, typically ride on quiet roads and alone.

Almost 90% of those that ride a bike for transport felt their general health had improved since starting to ride for transport.

So, what’s stopping you from cycling? Would you get on a bike more often if conditions were right?


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What's your greatest sporting moment?

BeijingOlympics.jpgThe opening ceremony is in full swing and Olympic Games for 2008 are finally underway.

In the coming days the best of the best will be representing their countries and competing for gold.

I must admit that I’ve never really been a competitive sports person. I’ve won a sprint or two against friends during our casual Saturday morning bike ride but I don’t think that counts. I’ve certainly cycled long distances including five times across Australia as well as a couple of cycling trips in India and one in Canada, but I wasn’t actually competing against the other cyclists who rode with me.

I’ve also played a bit of squash over the years and even though I’m not great, when I play, I do play to win. (Not that I’m always successful in my endeavours.)

Have you ever been involved in competitive sports? Do you have medals and trophies from your younger years? What is your greatest sporting moment?

I reckon the closest I ever got to sporting greatness was getting a green ribbon for third place in the sack race back at Wembley Downs Primary School when I was in about grade one or two.

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Will you be watching the Olympic Games?

Will you be watching the Olympic Games from Beijing this year?

Many people are boycotting the games in protest of what they see as China’s appalling human rights record.

I must admit that I’m not a big Olympics watcher usually but I’m even less enthused than normal this time around.

I’m certainly not thrilled by the way that politics has been dragged into the equation for the Olympic Games once again but I also realise that no matter where the games are held, someone will be trying to score political points. There isn’t a place on this globe that doesn’t cause questions to be asked about certain behaviours or lack of action on some topic.

No one country has it completely right and so if we wanted to we could find reasons to boycott every sporting event, no matter where it’s held around the world.

While I won’t be watching too much of the games I might just sneak a peak when Cadel Evans jumps on his bike.

Amnesty International is hoping to make the most of the event and use the attention on the Olympics to hold China accountable for its human rights record. They have a comprehensive explanation of their concerns and actions on their site under the title Human rights in China and the Beijing Olympics. They also have a seperate site called The China Debate dedicated to debating the issues where they encourage people from around the world to discuss the

What about you? Will you be watching? Do you think that not watching will achieve anything? Do you think that we should just forget about the politics and focus on the sporting contest? Does holding the games in China help us to shine a spotlight on what’s going on there or do you think that once the carnival leaves town it’ll be business as usual?

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The Silent Salute

Salute.jpgIt’s one of the most powerful images of our time.

The photo shows Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the gold and bronze medalists in the men’s 200 metre race at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympic Games, taking their places on the podium for the medal ceremony barefooted and wearing civil rights badges. Both men lowered their heads and each defiantly raised a black gloved fist as the Star Spangled Banner was played. Both of them were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

What isn’t as well recognised is that Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who came second in the 200 metres race, also wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge at the games and on the podium to show support for the American sprinters.

Salute is a a journey back to the 1960’s and beyond, to tell the real story behind what has now become one of the most famous Olympic moments in history. The writer, producer and director for the film is Matt Norman, Peter Norman’s nephew.

On the film’s official website we read,

As the release of this film nears and the world protests against China’s civil and human rights atrocities leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a new generation needs to see how the Olympic games has been part of World politics in the past.

“Salute” has become even more important to showcase to the World that even after 40 years since the Mexico City Olympic games in 1968 we have still learnt NOTHING.

This should be a lesson as this generation watch history repeat itself.

Salute the movie, for the first time, tells the true story of what happened in 1968 by all three athletes Tommie Smith, John Carlos and more importantly the late Peter Norman.

I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Matt Norman about his film during my radio programme on 98.5 Sonshine FM this morning. Matt talked about his passion to see his uncle recognised for his part in that historic moment. He talked of a man who was committed to doing what was right, even though he knew it would come at a cost and that he was putting himself at risk.

If you’d like to hear more about Peter Norman’s remarkable story, click play on the audio player at the bottom of this post and hear my interview with Matt Norman.

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