Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Balding gets on her bike, but not her bikini

There were many difficult choices to be made in the Eighties.

Madness or The Jam; Raspberry Creamola Foam or Soda Stream Cola; Swap Shop or Tiswas; Blue Peter or Magpie — I could go on all night, but surely the hardest of all was BMX or Grifter.

Little did I know then that by plumping for the latter that almost 30 years later I had ruled myself out of competing for gold at London 2012.

Sunday afternoon on BBC2 was taken over by Clare Balding. I don’t mean she burst into a news studio and hand-cuffed herself to Fiona Bruce but the day was given over to yet another Olympic Countdown.

“The clock is ticking, the venues are built, but if this is to be a games for the athletes, the venues need to be tested by the athletes,” bellowed a scary Clare.

Yes and no. The best people to test these stadia are surely health and safety officials, people from Building Control and the like. Does no-one remember the Commonwealth Games in India when a sneeze could have toppled bridges?

What we don’t need is beach volleyball players from Brazil in the briefest of briefs being given yellow coats with a hard hat on to test them.

We had a quick look at some established sports; rowing, swimming, running, throwing — well, the ones that Britain might win something at — and then moved onto the ones no-one looks twice at, unless Britain has a chance of winning something.

So dressage, canoeing and triathlon are now very popular as is BMX because of Shanaze Reade, who flew and bounced her way around the track very quickly and won the pre-Olympic test. No doubt she celebrated with a glass of Creamola Foam.

Just the thing a hot and sweaty Brazilian would need over at the historic Horse Guards Parade, the venue for the beach volleyball. I hope the sand has been cleaned.

“Many are tipping beach volleyball to be the show-stealing event in 2012, bikinis, beach action, all in a prime location, it won’t be asking but screaming for attention,” insisted Clare.

And that’s the problem, no matter how serious you can try and make it, it will still be viewed as what it is — women running about in next to nothing on sand.

“The sport’s low profile in Britain means that on occasion the girls have suffered the ‘babe in the bikini’ tag. The hope is 2012 will change all that.” I wouldn’t hold your breath Clare. More chance of me winning gold in the 100m Grifter final narrowly edging out Suggs and Keith Chegwin.

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