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April 26, 2004 | by  | in Opinion |
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Faster, Higher, Stronger, Beer

For the first week of the holidays, many of us travelled to Dunedin for Easter Tourney to compete in our various sports. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any other sports taking place because I spent all of the day consumed with my sport and all night consuming alcohol in the scarfie bars. I really can’t compete with the eight page supplement you’re getting, so I’ll leave it to Keith and Geoff who saw it all to give the details on what happened down there.

Otago gave the other universities a good thrashing, winning the Games by a convincing margin and more than doubling Victoria’s score in 4th place. It does tend to be tradition though that the home Uni wins. It’s been that way since 1990 with only three exceptions in that time. Clearly there is an advantage to having the Games at home; Victoria has won all three times it has been hosted in Wellington since 1991. It is easier to get more players along when tourney is at home since they don’t have to pay extra for transport and accommodation. More players mean more teams, more teams mean earning more points, and more points mean a better chance at winning.

But how credible are the sports that we participate in at the Uni Games? Half of them aren’t held at the Olympics and often it seems that Easter Tourney is an excuse for having a four-day party and drinking lots. This was the feeling at the beginning of the 1990s, so it was decided then by University Sport New Zealand to revitalise the games and place a more serious and competitive emphasis on them.

The University Games will never be the same as the Olympics, and the aims of the organisers of these two events are going to be quite different. It is however, a good benchmark to measure ourselves against. Faster, Higher, Stronger.

The Modern Olympics began in 1896 with nine sports, and eight years later the first Easter Tourney was held in New Zealand. Half of the sports at Uni Games are not competed in at the Olympics, and the two star attractions of the Olympics, Swimming and Athletics, are not seen at our Games.

Some of the sports at Uni Games, such as golf, have appeared at the Olympics and then disappeared, while others have been there from the original nine and still carry on; these being tennis, shooting and fencing. Some, it could be argued just take place in a slightly different form: aerobics is similar to gymnastics; mountain biking is a branch of cycling; and the duathlon is a scaled down version of the triathlon.

Rowing is the largest sport at the games with around 900 competitors. This would likely be eclipsed by Athletics, and Swimming would have a chance too, if they were included in the Games. This would create an even larger tournament and imaginably a more exciting atmosphere. For whatever reason Athletics and Swimming choose not to take part in Uni Games, possibly because they take their sports so seriously and continue to train intensively during the winter, unlike the rowers who are quick to let themselves loose after their event, and even on the bus ride down beforehand.

If anyone aspires to see their sport from Uni Games also be included in the Olympics – and maybe a chance to compete for New Zealand – then there are criteria to meet. 1. It must be widely practiced (by men, in 75 countries on four continents; by women, in 40 countries and on three continents). 2. The Olympic anti-doping code must be applied. 3. It must not rely on mechanical propulsion (such as a motor).

Imagine what it would be like to see debating, surfing, or ultimate frisbee included in the Olympic Games. They would all struggle to reach the number of countries required: surfing may have to become a frequent pastime of people in West Africa rather than gang warfare; and soccer balls may have to turn into frisbees before there are enough countries to reach the threshold for ultimate. Also imagine the consequences of taking performance-enhancing drugs for your sport: pills to make you think faster and be wittier in debating; or red blood cell injections to out run and out jump in ultimate frisbee, or hand extensions and special biomechanical implants to catch the Frisbee easier.

None of this will happen to the Olympics in the near future, or possibly anytime in the future but that’s okay. The University Games have a different purpose, they bring together many students from around New Zealand to compete in our favourite sports. For most of the competitors, sport is not our livelihood, as opposed to most Olympians. Therefore, it should be something we enjoy during our holidays and not become overwhelmed in the serious nature that sometimes is seen in sport. We should compete, and it doesn’t matter whether it is rowing, ultimate Frisbee, or golf, but we should also drink and party at the end of the day because we are university students.

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