After swimming and rowing our way to gold at the London Olympic Games, the country is breathing a sigh of relief. Remember South Africa’s one lonely medal at the Beijing Olympics? When Team SA flew to London, I doubted they would clinch the 12 medals, as predicted by SASCOC.
Never fear. As a country, we have excelled in other areas and activities, most of them seemingly of the non-sporting persuasion. Yet they’ve been executed with such precision and perfection, in such glorious, awe-inspiring fashion and technique. Many of us are self-proclaimed Olympians in our own right; even if it's not at the traditional Olympics, or in the form of any recognised activity.
Take corruption. In the alternative Olympics of a parallel netherworld, a Team SA of some kind would soar to victory, breaking records aplenty along the way. The arenas and venues would be the seats of power such as Parliament and the Union Buildings. The competitors? These would be drawn from the growing masses of politicians, those paragons of futility, the almost-but-not-quite athletes who have broken too many records to count in the field of graft.
These Games are not limited to politicians. Of course in the spirit of the Olympics, everyday Joe and Jane Nobodies also compete. This sport involves different styles - there's stealing, cheating, lying and back-stabbing. Excel in these and you not only become the champion of the world, but also impressively wealthy.
The stock standard commentary would go something like this, “And off they go! In lane one, we have MP Steel off to a great start, edging into the lead. In lane two, Tender Preneur has taken up second position followed by Eets Miright and I.M Fatcat, who are fast gaining ground.” You see where I'm going with this?
The criteria of this lesser-known sporting spectacle would differ greatly from the authentic Games, where traditional athletes exert immense displays of power and talent and sporting prowess. The most obvious and common criteria for, let’s call them the Parallel Olympics, is power. But it wouldn't be gauged, recorded, timed and measured along the same lines as the real Olympics, where power is usually seen in how fast you can run, how high you can jump, how often you can achieve victory. To win, competitors are expected to gain as much power as possible, by any means necessary.
The Parallel Olympics would showcase sports, which have never enjoyed the glamour and adoration showered on the traditional events of the real Olympics the world has come to know. Nonetheless, the events are taken as seriously as other perplexing activities like jukskei, handball and curling.
Take the event of Sitting Around. On the surface it's a pointless challenge to the untrained, unappreciative eye. The aim would be to out-sit your competitors and excel in doing as little as possible. Judges take into account posture and sitting styles. The crossing of legs and folding of arms are all considered and scored. MPs seem to excel in this, putting on impressive displays of indifference and sloth, all of which add to the scoring.
Where would professional Sitters train? Parliament is the main training ground, but only for those competitors of the advantaged kind, who've been able to have their training professionally funded - often in surreptitious, dubious ways - and overseen. Other competitors are found all around us, on the sides of roads and streets, where they languish on their backsides, waiting for jobs, brandishing cardboard signs pleading for donations and employment. In informal settlements - where so-called 'Development Training Programmes' are being rolled out - the disadvantaged have been hard at 'work' for years training, honing their talent at sitting and waiting.
Many South Africans excel at the often-overlooked sport of Object Throwing. Again the roads and streets of everyday society serve as the training venues for these sportspeople. At the Parallel Olympics, contestants compete in rounds where different projectiles must be hurled as far as possible. First, a stone must be thrown at a moving target - usually a person resembling a police officer or a vehicle. Secondly, the highly technical Petrol Bomb throwing event is judged on how competitors ignite molotov cocktails. They must then ensure the incendiary projectile is successfully thrown without going out. They are scored on the distance thrown and whether the projectile ignites after making contact with a target.
Another sorely ignored activity, which has its origins in Object Throwing, is Protesto-Police Wrestling. The aim of the game is for a competitor to avoid fellow contestants who must catch them. The ensuing flinging, contorting, slipping, flipping, arching and flailing - all of these are actual positions/techniques used in the sport - are scored along strict criteria, based on the ultimate goal of avoiding being pinned down and 'apprehended'.
Substance Consumption has become a hugely popular event in SA, but also the most dangerous. The objective entails contestants consuming as much alcohol as possible during certain time periods. They are scored on this and how they conduct themselves, while driving. The finesse in the swerving, jumping of lanes and stop streets serve as hotly contested criteria. Contestants must then alight from their vehicles and convince judges they are not intoxicated, all the while ensuring they hide their slurring, red eyes and mask the stench of booze.
While the Parallel Olympics may not have superseded the hype and popularity of the real Olympic Games, you'll find it's far more accessible to ordinary South Africans, with many of us striving, battling, exerting ourselves to mind boggling degrees to become the best.
Some of us are already professional Parallelympians. We just don't know it.
Regan Thaw is an Eyewitness News Reporter.