For non-Australians it may have passed unnoticed that Ian Thorpe slipped off the blocks in the Olympic qualifying event for the 400 metre freestyle swimming. This lead to an automatic disqualification and has been a major news story since. In Australia sports stars are deified and none more so than Ian Thorpe, world record holder and Olympic gold medallist as well as marketing gold. There has been much debate since on the merits of the second qualifier, Craig Stevens, and if he should stand down in favour of Thorpie.
I'm going to make some bold predictions. Stevens is already under a lot of pressure. Some are taking the moral high ground, saying that rules are rules and all that. But that's bullcrap. We're talking about the Olympics here, and we need our best man there on the day to win a gold medal so we can continue the Australian tradition of being 5th or so in the medal count (and so reclaiming some pride over the English following the Rugby). Here's some potential solutions:
1. Stevens gets in touch with Thorpie's sponsors. Cut a deal - say 25% of Thorpie's earning from sponsorships for the next four years. It's more than the guy will see any other way, and it keeps Australia's advertising industry safe. Who else can flog everything and anything with such panache?
2. Two months out from Athens Stevens suddenly finds his brakes aren't working while he's travelling down the Hume Highway at 100 km/hr. The resulting "accident", which he survives, turns into a struggle broadcast on national TV every night until Thorpie wins the 400m swimming at Athens and dedicates it to "My mate Craig back in Oz." Nation weeps. Sponsors organise tearful reunion broadcast on national TV.
3. The war on terror takes on a new meaning: ASIO calls in Tonya Harding to do John Howard's dirty work to prevent terrified sponsors from losing their key marketing weapon.
4. Stevens announces he's undergoing plastic surgery and comes out looking remarkably like Thorpie. Sure he gains a few inches and a couple of shoe sizes too, but nothing against it in the Olympics rule book.
5. Thorpie changes his name by deed poll to Craig Stevens.
6. Craig Stevens go for a swim in the ocean, with his last comment being "I'm off to find Harold Holt."
7. Someone from Swimming Australia tells Stevens the Olympics have been moved from Athens to Lightning Ridge because the "stadium's not ready and there are too many Greeks in Athens."
8. World Swimming, at the urgings of the Australian Olympic Committee, announces that Craig Steven's swimming actions are "suspect" and will be investigated.
9. Craig Stevens is disqualified from the Qualifiers for not saying "Polo" after the crowd roared "Marco" at the third turn.
10. Grant Hackett tells the country he's actually got a chance of winning the medal too. Country asks him to stick to the 1500m and leave the important stuff to Thorpie.
If any of these sensible solutions are followed Stevens will automatically qualify for 2004 Australian of the Year and the country can get on with life.Posted by Simon at March 31, 2004 03:16 PM | TrackBack