• Bunce on Olympics

Cheering on the little guy

Steve Bunce August 4, 2012
Noa Tavevele had his day in the spotlight © Getty Images

Noa Tavevele of Tuvalu failed to qualify for what is called the 'first round proper' of the men's 100 metres, in a race packed with so many exotic names from equally exotic locations I expected David Attenborough to be on commentary.

Medal Table

I love the chaos of the hopeless and outclassed athletes, their times for 70 metres equivalent to Usain Bolt's 100 metre time. I saw a geezer from somewhere in Polynesia with what looked like an autograph over his number. Did he approach Bolt on the warm-up field and ask the towering Jamaican to sign it? I would, why not?

The fella from American Samoa had about a dozen good luck charms dangling from his neck and was lucky not to knock himself out from a flying whale tooth. He was running handicapped, carrying weight like a quality jockey.

These brave souls are the men who go out early to delight the crowds at 10am in the stadium and even earlier in the swimming pool. They have no chance and are understandably not fixtures on the international circuit, but the Olympics, the beast of all sporting circuses, is their home every four years. They still preen at the end like the American sprint millionaires and for 30 seconds at the finish line they can pout. Fantastic.

We all need to remember that in a hut somewhere humid in the Indian ocean their relations gather round a radio or an old TV. This happens, I'm not inventing this. It does not matter that Timi Garstang of the Marshall Islands has just run 12.81 - this is the Olympic spirit at its purest.

So tune in early and watch the no hopers strut their stuff each morning on the track. Think back to your best 100 metre time and imagine, the next time that you are in a pool, how fast you can do the 50 freestyle. Anybody can have a dream, just look at little Noa from Tuvalu.

And, just to stoke the fantasy fire, take a look at the luge and the skeleton in the Winter Olympics. Now, those are two events that dreamers can make their dreams come true in. It happened in Peru a few years ago when McDonalds went looking for winter athletes at open auditions - the X-factor of sport - and four year later the men and women they discovered were at the Salt Lake City games. Honest, that is not an invention.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.