Unlike many bloggers I've been enjoying selected parts of the Olympics, especially the equestrian events which are always beautiful and exciting to watch -- the horses are wonderful, graceful, powerful creatures and the riders are incredibly gutsy and smart. My benchmark for watching horses and riders is an unforgettable afternoon once in Vienna when I went with my friend Helen to watch a training session of the Lipizzaner Stallions, in the indoor arena of the Hofburg palace where these horses and their riders are based.
Because it was a training session, of course some of the horses were only half-trained. They're stallions (duh), and everyone knows what that means. And because they originated as war-horse training, the elaborate, unnatural 'dancing' movements of these horses were originally designed to kill and maim, or to set up the rider to do likewise. Watching the strong, sweating, white-faced riders, some of them hardly out of their teens, as they controlled these horses without hurting them, was the second best lesson I've ever had in what it actually takes to ride a horse properly. (The best was when I fell off a cantering horse onto some rocks at the bottom of a dry creek bed and heard my mother's voice clear as a bell from 750 km away saying in ringing tones 'You get back on that horse.' I did.)
I've also been enjoying the swimming, which was my favourite sport as a teenager. What I have not been enjoying is the commentary; while I appreciate some (not all) of the commentators' knowledge and expertise, I've been depressed if not surprised by the way that the overwhelmingly male commentariat refers to male competitors as men and female competitors as girls. Several people have blogged about this over the last few days.
But I've had it on all afternoon and evening while pottering round the house and I've noticed something even more sinister. There are not two categories, but three. They're calling the women 'girls', the white men 'men', and the black men 'boys'.