Olympics mania is well and truly upon us. Try to avoid it if you wish, but it’ll be hard what with the barrage of advertising and the stressing about whether you’ll have to barricade yourself in your house for a couple of weeks/go on holiday while its on. It’s probably no secret that as a runner, I’m very excited about it all. I can’t wait to see all these world class athletes battle it out (while trying to remain not bitter about the fact that I didn’t get tickets to anything). I’m loving all the emphasis on sport and getting active because heck, as a pretty unhealthy country, that’s what we need. So I’m all excited, then all of a sudden, some dopey UK Athletics official decides to drop a clanger last week when he declared that Jessica Ennis is fat. H’excuse me?!
Are we talking about the same Jessica Ennis here? She of rock hard abs and perfectly sculpted body? The Heptathlete who is insanely skilled in seven different athletic disciplines and leaves competitors eating her dust? Yeah, that Jessica Ennis? Then I’m thoroughly confused. But I guess I shouldn’t be. Far be it from me to think we were turning a corner, that women in sport were being taken a bit more seriously, that we could finally focus on their abilities, rather than their bodies. But it turns out, that was just stupid of me. That UK Athletics official has brought us all way back down to earth. I notice how there are no reports of the men being told to slim down a bit and shed a few. But it’s never been a level playing field on that front, let’s face it.
As sadly unsurprising as this nonsense is, it’s made all the more confusing by the sponsors for the Olympics being McDonald’s and Coca Cola – neither of which are exactly known for their healthy or slimming qualities. So what kind of message are we trying to send here? Jessica Ennis, world class athlete who is in perfect shape is told she’s too fat – she’s competing in an Olympics where spectators are encouraged to gorge themselves on Big Macs and Cokes between events, which will further contribute to the growing obesity problem we already have in this country. So what is Miss Ennis supposed to do? Slim down? For whom exactly? She is quite literally the poster girl for a healthy, active lifestyle and I’d be willing to bet any money that we won’t find Mickey D’s or Coca Cola anywhere in her food diary.
There are women (AND MEN!) in this country who are legitimately, and in some cases dangerously, overweight, who may well be trying to turn their lives around. For them to see that world class athletes who are at the peak of physical fitness and healthy living are being written off as ‘fat’, heck, who can blame them for not seeing the point? The Olympics is a wonderful opportunity to encourage people to be more active and a platform on which to emphasise that fitness does not necessarily come down to body shape. It might be worthwhile getting some people on the Olympics and UK Athletics committees who can communicate these messages properly without inducing a media train wreck.
Personally, I wouldn’t be hurling insults so readily at someone who is so handy with a javelin.