And then there was all the music related stuff. Brad, of course, king of the sideburns, is an unreconstituted mod who loves The Jam, The Who and The Smiths; the fastest man on earth Usain Bolt is a hip hop man; American swimming sensation Ryan Lochte is apparently stepping out with Chicago singer songwriter K. Michelle; Mo Farah is, almost incredibly, a country music fan; and, when he’s waiting to go on court, grumpy tennis gold medal winner Andy Murray likes to chill to the sounds of Ed Sheeran on his iPod.
Then there were the opening and closing ceremonies. Bellowhead would have been a better bet than Frank “I’ll drink a beer with anyone” Turner…or indeed anyone at the closing ceremony, particularly the increasingly pointless George Michael. George, put the shuttlecocks back down your pants, dig up Andrew Ridgeley and start singing Wham! Rap again or shut up. Oh and while we’re on the soapbox: if I never hear Queen’s ‘We Will Bloody Rock You’ in a sports stadium ever again it will be several light years too soon; and why oh why does Annie Lennox always get dragged out for these ‘national’ occasions?
Anyway, back to the Olympics and I reckon the crossover with music should be enhanced in Rio with a cultural Olympiad that keeps it real by taking it back to the people.
So let’s get some lottery funding for Team GB…with Martin Carthy carrying the Olympic flag, followed by our proud competitors…
BIG BAND FOOTBALL: Well, there’s 11 in the team, so it’s Bellowhead obviously. Percussionist Pete Flood in goal, brass section in defence, string players doing the fancy bits in midfield, John Spiers driving down the wing with his melodeon putting in the crosses for Jon “the big feller” at the front to nod in. Gold medals all round.
TUG O’WAR: The Treacherous Orchestra. Launch the bagpipes, pour some whisky down their throats, get the crowd behind them beating out a frenzied rhythm and the feared Samoan and Taiwanese squads will throw the towel in straight away.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Belinda “Brenda” O’Hooley & Heidi Tidow. Of course I’m serious. ..
TALKING THE HIND LEGS OF A DONKEY TOURNAMENT: No shortage of gold medal candidates here, but why meddle with greatness – step forward Billy Bragg.
THROWING THE FIDDLE: There’s keen competition for the coveted spot in this discipline with the likes of John McCusker, Jackie Oates, Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr, not to mention hardy old veterans like Dave Swarbrick and Aly Bain. But, with strong opposition from all parts of the world, we need an experienced heavyweight to take them on so…step forward Mr Phil Beer.
THROWING THE FIDDLE TEAM EVENT: Blazing Fiddles. No contest.
TOSSING THE BANJO: Traditionally an event won by Americans but, after spending time in the US studying their techniques, we have high hopes of a podium finish for our versatile entry, Martin Simpson.
MORRIS HIGH JUMP: Let’s hear it for the nation’s sweetheart, the Jessica Ennis of folk dancing who is constantly achieving breathtaking new heights, Laurel Swift.
SINGING SCRABBLE: A new event in which songwriters score points using obscure lyrics and long words and Team GB is confident we’ve unearthed a surefire winner in the great Alasdair Roberts. Who else frankly could compete with a line like “To meet with grief in the Elysian Meres for out her breast there grew a broken crocus/From grief there grew a rosary of tears…”?
MUSICAL GYMNASTICS: Aidan O’Rourke playing fiddle on the vault, Kris Drever plucking the strings on the parallel bars, Martin Green doing incredible things with his squeezebox on the pommel horse…Lau are pure gold. Racing the losers indeed…
THE MULTI-INSTRUMENTAL DASH: An event reliant on fitness, vigour, power and the ability to sweat a lot. Short, sharp, blasts of energy are what it’s all about and he’s been altitude training in Devon’s Barrelhouse specifically for this event, so give it up for Seth Lakeman.
TEAM SAILING: They’ve been training for this event all their lives down in Cornwall and they’ve already struck gold in the Record Company Games, so we expect further success for Fisherman’s Friends.
SYNCHRONISED GUITAR AND LEG SHAKING: How do we compete with the might of the US squad, especially now that the legendary champion Loudon Wainwright 111 has passed on all his famous quivering calf skills to his daughter Martha Wainwright, who represents Canada? It’s a tough ask but don’t discount Scotland’s very own K.T. Tunstall.
800 METRES SMILING: Lucy Ward. She’s young but her enthusiasm is infectious and she always gives a good account of herself. The (red, white and) blue hair will also be a crowd pleaser.
MELODEON DUNKING: Many different techniques are employed in this ancient and slightly mysterious sport, but it’s an event in which Team GB is traditionally strong and we are spoilt for choice with many grand masters. However, with his international experience and willingness to embrace different styles we have to put our trust in Andy Cutting.
SPELL BINDING: Emily Portman: a young competitor for one of the oldest Olympic events and you know that when Portman’s on the premises, magic will be wielded.
AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH MAKING: The wily old campaigner and occasional luvvie John Tams surely has this one in the bag.TEAM TUNE BENDING: It’s a tricky event to master, but inspirational Team GB captain Simon Emmerson is confident of a podium finish for Imagined Village, though India is trying to claim team member Johnny Kalsi as their own to compete in the drum banging contest
Irwin was an assistant editor of Melody Maker in the 1970s and 1980s, before leaving in the summer of 1987 as the magazine moved in a different direction, and editor of Number One magazine in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
His book In Search of the Craic details a comic journey around Ireland seeking out pub music sessions and became a best-seller in Ireland. Subsequent books were In Search Of Albion, a similarly light-hearted journey around English traditions and rituals and Sing When You're Winning, about the history and culture of terrace songs at football matches.
He's also reviewed music for The Guardian, Mojo, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and fRoots and has been a Mercury Music Prize judge.