Of course, every Olympic sport has its merits. Even the most bizarre, random game that you’ve never heard of will be someone’s national sport.
But there are some that just really aren’t well designed for spectators.
Water polo has to be among them, and even though it was brought to Olympic fame by the British we are more than happy to have a good old grumble about it.
So here goes. Six reasons why water polo, the swimming pool version of handball, is just a bit rubbish for spectators.
1. All the action is under water.
While the actual aim of both teams is to score the most goals (located at each end of the pool), the real tension happens out of eye-shot.
Players must constantly tread water and are not allowed to touch the bottom, or even the sides of the pool. But how would the audience spot them if they did?
It’s a pretty tricky moment to catch from dry land – as are the frantic leg movements and cheeky games of footsie, which would definitely add to the entertainment.
2. Everything else is hidden by splashing.
Was that a pass? A throw? A goal? We couldn’t quite see with all that water being mashed up all over the place!
3. It’s basically impossible to recognise any of the players.
Again, not helped by the splashing.
You can tell the teams by the colours, but the hats, goggles and any other swimming pool facial accessories essentially obscure any identifying features of the individual players.
And it isn’t made any easier by the fact that each team is allowed up to six substitutes per match.
4. Just when you’re starting to get into it, it’s over.
You’ve just about grasped who’s who and what’s going on, you’re getting really into it – and it’s game over.
Matches are divided into four parts, each eight minutes long, which probably feels like an eternity to the players who are continuously using every muscle in their body, switching between “eggbeater” treading and sprinting, all while trying to avoid swallowing pool water.
But well under an hour of play doesn’t seem like a whole lot of bang for the 50-260 bucks per ticket paid by spectators.
5. Pretty much all physical contact is classed as a foul.
No kicking, punching, shoving or even splashing each other on purpose is allowed. And certainly no ducking other players under the water – though that one is probably fair enough.
Anyone who breaks these sportsmanship rules has to spend several valuable seconds sat in a naughty corner out of the pool.
But we’re not sure what the rules are on trash-talking.
6. Swimming pools are a bit gross.
It’s not so bad when you are in the nice cool water, but have you ever tried sitting fully dressed in a swimming pool audience? Unless you really love the smell of chlorine, you’re generally in for a hot, humid and bleachy hour.
And with the acoustics turning all cheers and boos into a deafening white noise, we’d recommend bringing your ear plugs.
But, while we’ve given poor old water polo some pretty negative feedback, we have to give real credit to the actual players, who have to be SERIOUSLY athletic to endure the physically trying game …
And while the more recent rules on physical contact might have done away with some of the sport’s drama, it hasn’t always been the way.
The Hungary v USSR match in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics is well known for being the most brutal in the game’s history, ending in bloodied eyes and ripped shorts for some players!