The ‘Alternative’ Olympic Games 2012

With Olympics over and the Paralympics round the corner I came up with the idea of comparing some of London 2012’s greatest athletes and events to their military counterparts.


100m sprint

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive and technologically advanced aircraft in the world and as the years roll on, the aviation-loving public continue to wait with bated breath as to whether this modern maverick lives up to expectations.

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No event captures an Olympic audience imagination like the 100 metres final and, like the field of air combat, the event can put on a decisive and explosive spectacle. Headlining this year is “fastest man who has ever lived” Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, who is hoping to defend his crown. Both Bolt and the F-35 programme are commanding a huge amount of money and both have been criticised recently by some that would say they are not taking their development seriously enough, while others have questioned their ability to take off. As of 2012, doubts have surfaced about their performance capabilities, but the truth will remain a mystery until the Big Day.


The powerhouse strategic airlift jet is the Ukrainian Antov A124, which can carry a massive payload of 150,000 kg. Built during the Cold War years, this soviet craft need not worry of any doping controversies that plagued Olympic athletes from the eastern bloc; it’s a mechanical brute.

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Nicknamed “The Iranian Hercules”, Hossein Rezazadeh is an incredibly strong Olympic specimen. With the world record in the Clean and Jerk, he can lift 263.5 kg (580.9 lbs). Both man and machine hail from the East, are unusually big in size among their peers, and you wouldn’t want to see either one of them barrelling towards you down a dark alley.


The Soviet Alfa (Lira) Class was a class of nuclear powered hunter/killer submarines. With a top speed of 41 knots (47 mph, 76 km/h) was a pure speedster – and in fact, that was all it was designed for despite being an “attack sub” with the Northern Fleet from 1977 to 1996.

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Despite the urge to mention Michael Phelps, defending aquatic champion and winner of the most Olympic medals ever, we’re taking the low-brow road and making the very obvious reference to Ian “Thorpedo” Thorpe.  Like the Alfa-class, both athlete and boat are now permanently retired, and neither used their skills for anything more practical than sheer exhibition of power. Innovative and energy-efficient for its time, the Alfa has since lost its spotlight to sleeker US models.


Above the surface, it’s the battle of the warship, with the fastest being the US-built Iowa Class, clocking in a maximum speed of 31 knots (36 mph; 57 km/h).

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Rowing world records are broken regularly; in 1936 the single sculls gold medal winner Dan Barratt of the USA rowed a time of 7:30.5 minutes but today the record stands at just under a minute quicker. It’s held by New Zealander Mahé Drysdale who, like the Iowa Class, cut his teeth in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Whilst newer and more powerful ships and boats have been developed, so has their weight, meaning speed has remained relative.


With an effective range of 2,500m, the FGM-148 Javelin anti-armour missile commands a fire and forget tandem warhead which is a High explosive anti-tank (HEAT) type model. With a cost of $40,000 (£25,500) for the missile alone, the weapon represents an expensive but effective weapon capable of destroying enemy targets worth significantly more value.

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Erm…the javelin..? In fact, it’s a closer comparison than we perhaps care to remember. Though a sophisticated Olympic sport event, the javelin was first employed as a devastating weapon thousands of years ago by the Greeks and Romans, effectively making it the earliest form of long-range offensive projectile.


The weapons a soldier use are his and her tools, and only ever as good as the person carrying them. With the Olympics being held in London the versatility of the British Armed Forces has also been on display, taking soldiers from the mud tracks in Afghanistan to the streets of the capital in security roles at venues across the UK.

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Quick history lesson: the modern pentathlon was inspired by the pentathlon event in the Ancient Olympic Games, which was itself modelled after the skills of the ideal soldier at the time. The modern variant seeks to replicate this with testing the skills required of a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he/she must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim, and run. Britain’s Mhairi Spence contends at this year’s Games following European and World titles.


The popular P-8 Poseidon, the manned Maritime Patrol Aircraft from Boeing, is being teamed with an unmanned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system for the U.S. Navy, which will see 40 UAVs working in conjunction with the P-8 to circle the skies without rest. Even without that team support, each UAV has an individual endurance of 30 hours.

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Frequently the favourites in the marathon, the Kenyan team is this year fielding Wilson Kipsang, who won the London Marathon in April in just 2:04:44. Like the BAE Nimrod MRA4, Britain’s number one marathon runner Paula Radcliffe has limped out of the competition before the chance to properly prove herself on the world stage, while world record holder Patrick Makau didn’t even make the squad.


The Apache helicopter has the sort of firepower, precision, and armour that can disperse most insurgents simply by appearing over the horizon. It has become a staple of military air power and recently proved effective during the Libya campaign, not to mention Afghanistan and other irregular warfare environments.

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Olympic gymnasts have to be agile, strong and flexible; ready to compete in any environment and prepared to tackle a number of obstacles. Just like facing-off against the Apache, when Japan’s Kohei Uchimura turns up in his leotard to the arena of conflict, the opposing forces take a deep breath and wish they’d stayed at home.

Beach volleyball

The increasing cyber threat is becoming more prevalent for government, the military and industry everyday as thousands of cyber attackers attempt to breach security barriers and firewalls. The recent announcement of another super-virus, called the Flame, has reignited fears that our national and military secrets are vulnerable to digital assailants. This summer, all eyes will be on the cyber domain.

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In beach volleyball there’s a huge net (firewall) that each side needs to overcome if it is to break down the defences of the opposition. Both are growing activities and ones that are getting a great deal of media attention of late. And finally, the terms ‘cyber security’ and ‘beach volleyball’ are also both very, well, dare we say ‘sexy’, to their respective parties (that is in their own, very different ways).


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