Phil: According to Twitter, in every Olympic event, alongside the competitors, there should be a normal person taking part to show just how amazing the athletes are.
Imagine the scene – Usain Bolt sets off in lane 4 for the 100 metres. In lane 9 (refered to as the “slow lane” by the press) I start running as well. 9.something seconds later, Bolt is jumping up and down on the finish line. 30 seconds later he’s swathed in the Jamaican flag and doing the lightening bolt pose while I’ve sat down on a tartan travelling rug half-way along the track for a rest and perhaps a refreshing cup of tea and cake. Wouldn’t that be a good idea ?
(Note: It has to be me being average. Candice could actually run that far properly and anyway would probably give Bolt a look before the starting gun that says, “Run faster than me buddy and you’ll need a rubber glove to retrieve your medal.)
The thing is, that without this “improvement”, all the runners exist in their own special world. You look into the bubble and don’t see unfit and chubby reality, just lithe, toned and healthy humans. It’s just like reading a book and being asked by the author to forget about the world outside the page. Tolkien painted The Shire so well that anyone immersed in the story is filling their heads with a mental picture. Should a reader be muttering, “There are no such things as goblins or elves.” than he or she isn’t going past chapter one.
If real people do wander into the story, such as in the Chronicles of Narnia, the plot relies on the imaginary world overpowering the real world like a gold medal judo player. Those kids had to quickly become part of the fantasy – mind you, entering the world via the back of a wardrobe is a pretty good start !
For a story to work, the unreal world has to exist. In a book, initially it is in the writers head. For the Olympics, it’s in a stadium. Both have a rarefied atmosphere that can’t exist outside its special container. Back in the real world, athletics is hard work and pain and training and sweat and early starts. Even Jessica Ennis goes to the supermarket. Outside a writers head, the imaginary world is merely scribblings in a notepad and (in our case) chats in pubs, cafes and occasionally offices but inside it, real people live eventful lives.
Both (hopefully) culminate in success and adulation, either with medals or a prominent place in a Waterstones window and best of all, the one I’m involved in doesn’t require wearing Lycra.