Fit as a fiddle

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 21 October 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1070
  1. George Giri

    Rather a good thing to be. I do not know the origin of this well known phrase, but it occurs to me that most of the finest instruments are a good deal older than many generations of fiddlers. They may have had minor surgical attention since manufacture, but are clearly in full voice. I believe that keeping fit in the elderly is important and because it would save the NHS a lot of money it is something that the government should devote more money to.

    I went to Australia in September 1994 to take part in the third World Masters Games, one of the least advertised world events. Held every four years, like the Olympics, these games are for those deemed too old to win a national championship again in their sport. The lower age limit varies and anyone can enter. Competition is in five year age groups, which may be subdivided by past record of ability.

    There were 27000 competitors in Brisbane. The largest sporting meeting of any sort ever held in the world. Some participants had acquired sponsorship, but the majority paid their own way and expenses. A spirit of joyful rivalry and fun prevailed, things that are now sadly lacking in so many sports.

    Because of the wisespread locations and intense activity it was difficult to follow any sport but your own (some I had never heard of). The only time we all met was at the opening ceremony in the stadium built for the Commonwealth Games in 1982. The athletes occupied most of the seating, with scant room for spectators. After a splendid series of opening displays, a theme song, and a flag raising we marched down to occupy the centre. It became a cheerful shambles. As I live in Mallorca I had got permission from the Balearic president to represent the islands. I was provided with a flag and coupled with the local costume, which I wear to fiddle for the traditional Mallorcan dances, an extra dash of colour was thrown in. It was wonderful to be part of such an overwhelming assembly.

    The press outside Australia were interested only in one item. The rules of the games are that no medal may be won by a walkover, the course must be run, and the standard set. A woman of 101, having no others in her class, dived into the pool and swam 100 m freestyle to gain her gold medal.

    The worry of organisers of such events is that death or illness will bring discredit. Many sports can be declared dangerous by detractors, even if they do not increase the risk of morbid events. One 80 year old cyclist of iron determination collapsed and died after his 25 km cycle race; I do not know if there were other contributory factors. This sad event was defused by the medical officer in charge, by commenting to the press that if 27000 of our age group had been picknicking in a park the expected accident rate would have been much higher in a fortnight. The next games are in Portland, Oregon. For those interested the games have a concomitant sports medicine conference. I am confident I shall be there. This time round I managed the bronze medal in the over 70s open squash. I suspect that the opposition will weaken faster than I do so that I can go for gold.—GEORGE GIRI is a retired surgeon captain and former BMA assistant secretary, living in Mallorca

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