By Colin Houlson - 23 June 2009
Katie Price. Jordan. Mother. Model. Wife. Reality TV contestant. "Singer". And now, Olympian?
The news that Katie Price is looking for a wealthy benefactor who'll put up £1 million for a new horse to help her realise her dream of competing in the 2012 Olympics will be met with a certain degree of cynicism. After all, you'd imagine that someone who ranks at 1,771 in the Sunday Times Rich List would already have a, ahem, bulging treasure chest, but it seems her bitter divorce battle with husband Peter Andre has frozen her assets.
Detractors also say that the idea of the Brighton-born glamour model bidding for gold in dressage at London's Greenwich Park in three years time is a ridiculous one. They argue that she's a talentless celebrity who's merely famous for being famous, so her taking part would be an insult to the pure and noble concepts behind the creation of the modern Games. Yet a look at the history of the Olympics reveals that they've always been a five-ring circus she'd be perfectly at home in.
If Katie had been around at the time of the first modern Games in 1896, she definitely wouldn't have taken part. It was an all-male affair and there were no events for women, although a Greek called Stamata Revithi carried out a proto-feminist demonstration when she ran the marathon course to prove it could be done by an ickle girl.
Given Katie's well-publicised love of all things bling, she probably wouldn't have been too upset at not being able to compete since the winners' medals were struck from silver - gold medals weren't used until a later date. As for the male competitors in Athens, no formal qualification was required and the Games were only open, more or less, to those athletes who could afford to make the journey. One British athlete, for example, was really an Australian who lived in London. Maybe Peter Andre will follow suit and try his hand at Greco-Roman wrestling in 2012.
The first medals for women were awarded at the Paris Games in 1900, but that was far from being the end of Olympic sexual inequality. It was more than a quarter of a century before female athletics events were introduced at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. Canada's Ethel Catherwood was one of the star performers, yet the media coverage focused on her stunning looks almost to the point of obsession, rather than her sporting achievements.
However, the Amsterdam Olympics were ahead of their time in another way. When the Dutch Government refused to subsidise the Games, the organisers were forced to dream up some enterprising marketing ideas and photographic rights were sold to a commercial operation. In order to protect the monopoly, spectators were searched for concealed cameras. This was oddly prescient, since we now live in a world where TV companies regularly battle with each other to get exclusive coverage of events. Image rights also played a huge part in the recent transfer of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
With her symbiotic relationship to the paparazzi, this is a culture Katie's very familiar with. And as the life of Jade Goody showed, everything from a christening to a funeral can be bought at the right price.
Far from being at odds with the spirit of the Games, the rich and famous are actually woven into the fabric of Olympic history. In 1928, the Crown Prince of Norway, who later became King Olav V, picked up a yachting gold medal. Britain's Lord Burghley won the 400 metre hurdles in the same year, while Prince Albert II of Monaco took part in five Winter Olympics as a bobsledder. Equestrianism runs in the blood of our own royal family [in some cases, judging by appearance, almost literally] and Princess Anne was a member of the British eventing team at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Of course, Katie (pictured here with London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe) is no stranger to the jungle after her stint on "I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here", so she can take further inspiration from Johnny Weissmueller. Before he became the most famous big-screen Tarzan, he captured three golds in the swimming pool, plus a bronze in the water polo, at the Paris Olympics of 1924. He increased his medal tally four years later. The 1932 victor in the 400 metres swimming was Buster Crabbe, who later played Flash Gordon in the classic sci-fi serial.
The world-famous baby expert Dr Benjamin Spock won a gold medal at the 1924 Games as part of the USA's eight-oared rowing crew.
And one of the most famous images in Olympic history is that of the Italian runner Dorando Pietri staggering around the last lap of the marathon at London's White City stadium in 1908. He was disqualified because onlookers helped him across the line. What's not so well-known is that one of the hapless athlete's helpers during his final few metres was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
As for tarnishing the reputation of the Olympics, Katie would have to go some to match the 1904 Games. Originally intended to be held in Chicago, then US president Theodore Roosevelt pressured the organisers to switch to St Louis so that the Games would coincide with that city's World Trade Fair. Combining the events meant that Olympic disciplines were staged alongside such esoteric fare as tractor displays and long-distance tobacco spitting. More like a hoedown than the world's premier sporting event, it could only be matched for crassness if the next Games are organised by the team behind Top Gear.
So will 2012 see Katie Price standing on a podium, proudly wearing a gold medal at an unavoidably jaunty angle as God Save The Queen rings out in the background? Perhaps. But whatever happens, please don't let her sing.
Colin Houlson is a freelance journalist who writes regulary for the Brighton Argus, who first published this article. To read more of his work visit http://www.theargus.co.uk/blogs/blogs/colin_houlson/.
Some 'athletes' are almost certain to divide a nation. I would
suggest KP will fall into this onerous category. For all the
advantages that might come her way (£1m for a horse!), she will
probably encounter as many disadvantages (snobbery in the horsey
world for one). She may well have a reasonable level of talent,
but I think it significant that much of the day to day work of
schooling said horse will as likely be done by someone else.
By Chris Maddocks
24 June 2009 at 19:04pm
By Harry Pearce
25 June 2009 at 12:29pm