Please spare me a few minutes of your undoubtedly very precious time without further ado, I shall get straight to the point.
I have just returned from a very enjoyable vacation in the south of France, a vacation I shared with 7 Flemish friends and a little 13 month old baby, who doesn’t really have anything to do with the reason for writing, but I just mention him, because , well – he’s a cute kid.
Now where was I? - Ah yes, the vacation.
A great time was had, lazing around the pool of our stylish villa all day long, relaxing, reading and sipping at chilled rosé wine. We even found the time to go on a couple of wine tasting days out, one to the charming village of Gigondas and the other to the world-renowned Chateauneuf de Pap. (I hope you’re as impressed as I am).
Anyway, the purpose of this letter is not to swap vacation stories with a complete stranger – although if you would like me to, I’m certainly up for it if you are (photos guarantee reply); oh no, the reason is that I have a proposal for you to consider a sport for inclusion in the Olympics possible even in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
[BTW thanks for giving us that one – you know we’d have sulked for years if you hadn’t and The Sun would have gone on one of it’s xenophobic rants and the whole thing could have got terribly messy, so I’m sure you know that it’s for the best – but am I the only one that thinks it was worth it just to get one over on Le Frogs?!!]
But I digress.
The sport that I would like you to consider for inclusion – nay include is that most taxing of disciplines, petanque or “French Bowls” as it is more commonly known in the rest of the civilised world.
For the uninitiated, I would suggest visiting the website http://www.laboulebleue.fr/en/html/reglepetanque.htm for details of the rules, but I certainly do not question the sporting knowledge that lies within your ranks and will not insult your intelligence by going through the rules at this juncture.
Not only do I feel it is a sport worthy of inclusion but I’m sure intelligent people like yourselves can also see the beauty of including this game – the French may not have got the Olympic Games, but at least they’d have a little piece of back home in which they can compete in with a great chance of winning. This should ease their loss somewhat and give them something to strive for, although I draw the line at making ‘acts of cowardice’ or ‘smelling’ Olympic disciplines – we may as well just give them the bloody medals straight away if that’s the case.
Petanque is a fine sport, suited best for lazy, sunny, Sunday afternoons at the local town square, whilst sipping on chilled pastis or rosé wine, so it’s obviously perfect for London and its environs. I mean just think what the Eastenders omnibus would be like if they were all playing petanque in the gardens of Albert Square?....Exactly!
However, this is not just about recommending a fine upstanding sport for inclusion in the Olympic Games, for I must confess to an ulterior motive for me mailing this suggestion to you.
For you see, whilst on vacation, I was introduced to this most magnificent and noble of sports for the first time and I embraced it into my manly bosom with great gusto and fervour. Indeed, I found it to be an absolute joy - mainly because I kept winning, granted – but also because it gave me an excuse to drink lots of rosé wine without too much of a reprimand from the other half.
Cometh the man, cometh the hour and I don't mind admitting that for the period of that vacation I was a lean, mean, rosé drinking, petanque playing machine - Man, rosé and petanque in perfect harmony.
I've finally found my talent in life! OK - it's taken me into my early 30’s to find it but the beauty of it all is that I can still play petanque when I’m old, fat, bald and stink of piss – you only have to go to any town square in rural France on any given Sunday to see this to be the case. My time has come!
Indeed so impressed am I with my talent for petanque that I have copied the Great Britain and Irish Olympic teams into this letter, to offer myself as a representative for either fine nation in both the individual and team events.
(Dual nationality being one of the benefits of being from Northern Ireland and therefore twice the chance for Olympic inclusion!)
Especially when you consider the fact that I was playing with my "bad arm" (my good arm still bandaged and recovering from a recent operation) and also this was my first time playing the game. Ever! And I was up against seasoned veterans in the sport, Belgian guys who are certainly no strangers to the demands of playing petanque in the blistering heat of Provence in conjunction with all day drinking .
What can I say? When it comes to combining all day drinking with throwing objects accurately I'm definitely the guy for the job (and this has certainly got nothing to do with me being brought up on the streets in Northern Ireland).
As I am already convinced that you’ll give the sport of petanque the big 5-ring rubber stamp (and it’s been a while since I encouraged anyone to give me one of those), I have a few suggestions for you as to how the games should be incorporated into the global event that is The Olympic Games, in order for the sport to retain some of its humble authenticity:
- The arena should be an exact replica of a typical French village's town square, complete with small café terraces, where the spectators can sit and read newspapers whilst drinking café au lait and breathe in an atmosphere made all the more authentic by the subtle infusion in the arena's air conditioning system of smells of garlic, onions and unwashed sweaty bodies sprayed with eau de toilette.
- Chilled rosé must be available for competitors constantly. Not only does this add to the relaxed atmosphere of the sport, it also helps to loosen up the player’s throwing arm
- Berets, whilst optional in real-life petanque, should, in fact, be made compulsory for the Olympic version. This will add a certain colour and style to the sport which will have those in disciplines such as the cycling and swimming green with envy
- The berets could sport the player’s flag of nationality which will make it easier for Sky cameras to pick out players from their overhead ‘blimp-cam’
- Walking around with an air of indifference whilst shrugging shoulders and smoking Gauloises should be encouraged at all times
I trust that I am not alone in seeing how obviously the Olympic Games would benefit with the inclusion of petanque and look forward to reading your confirmation that my proposal has been accepted.
Jonny "The Petanque Prince" Black
PS – Team GB and Team Ireland, I look forward to receiving your invitation to represent these proud nations. It’s not an easy decision to make so I’ll base it purely on a first come, first served basis. Get in touch asap!