Despite the warnings and misgivings of many, including the emperor of Japan, the summer Olympics are underway. By the end of the two-week games, we will inevitably be fluent in the intricacies of épée fencing, know the sights and sounds of the most intense badminton matches known to man and be filled with our quadrennial booster shot of nationalism.
It is in that spirit that the International Olympic Committee should consider adding one more event rooted in Olympic history that could replace or exist alongside the modern pentathlon, a five-sport homage to the original pentathlon that tested the ancient Greeks at the Panhellenic games on the five necessary skills an ancient infantryman.
Introducing the “Even More Modern Pentathlon” (trademark pending), a re-imagination of the current 200-meter freestyle swim, equestrian show, fencing tournament, 3,200-meter run and laser pistol shooting that tested skills necessary to the 19th-century fight.
The nature of warfare has changed, after all, requiring troops to develop new skills. Like its predecessors, the Even More Modern Pentathlon will be a five-sport event that encapsulates the modern military experience.
EVENT #1: 100-METER BROOM SWEEP
Contestants will take turns running down an outdoor track coated with dirt. They will be graded by speed and how clean their track lane is after the run is completed.
On either side of the track will be large pits of loose sand. In the spirit of military cleanliness, if sand happens to blow back onto the track after the contestant completes their run but before the cleanliness is judged, the new dirt will count against their score.
Some may think this policy is unfair or point out that sweeping outside during a sandstorm does not make any sense, regardless of when the general is stopping by. But complaints don’t win gold.
EVENT #2: HEALTH AND COMFORT SCRAMBLE
We’ve all been there. Maybe you have a bottle of beer, some liquor or even that 155mm high explosive shell you reported fired but snuck into your bag instead. Suddenly, the military police are doing a surprise inspection of the barracks and you must hide it all — and fast.
The health and comfort scramble will simulate that experience by placing contestants in a standard barracks room with 10 randomly assigned contraband items. Contestants will have five minutes to dispose of, or hide, said items before the room is thoroughly inspected. Each contestant will receive a point for every item successfully hidden.
If alcohol happens to be one of the randomly selected items, contestants are permitted to quickly drink it as a disposal option. But if their breath indicates heavy drinking, they get zero points for the round. Select mouthwashes are provided by the IOC, so it would behoove contestants to operate accordingly.
EVENT #3: CHANGE OF COMMAND ENDURANCE TEST
Every troop’s favorite ceremony is the change of command. Standing for hours at a time under a hot sun and listening to interminable speeches can test the durability of the very best.
For this event, contestants will stand on a surprisingly green patch of grass under a heat lamp set to 110 degrees Fahrenheit while alternating between parade rest and the position of attention. During this time, a loudspeaker blares the words of a stranger who repeatedly thanks people no contestant has ever heard of.
While the other events will permit contestants to wear preferred athletic gear along with a glow belt for safety, the Change of Command Endurance Test will require a three-piece suit. (Glow belts will still be required.)
Contestants will earn points based on how long they can stand before passing out, falling asleep or simply quitting out of sheer frustration with the speaker.
EVENT #4: SKATING
Modern members of the military are excellent skaters, adapting like chameleons to environments to avoid trash pickup, sand-raking, squad bay-sweeping and other tedious acts that plague their daily existence.
Thus, the fourth event will put those hide-and-seek skating skills to the test.
Contestants will spend five hours in either a recreated motor pool, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or barracks, and will be tasked to hide from judges eager to task them with the aforementioned work.
To increase watchability, contestants will be given phones that allow them to interact with fans via social platforms oft-used by service members, such as Facebook and Tinder, therefore providing the true skating experience.
The contestant who skates the longest will earn the most points, with bonus points given to the contestant who arranges the most Tinder dates during the allotted time period. If a contestant successfully gets engaged while skating, they automatically win the event.
EVENT #5: TWO-MILE RUN
The final event of the Even More Modern Pentathlon, trademark still pending, will be a simple two-mile run, because that is somehow a requirement for any measure of military fitness.
The run will feature a staggered start in which a math nerd calculates the scores from previous events to determine who is deserving of a head start.
While most athletes will run two miles, any participant who happens to be a Marine or Marine veteran will be required to run three miles for some unknown reason.
Contestants who finish in the bottom 10 percent of the events are barred from future Olympic games and will lose a half-month salary.
With these events, the Even More Modern Pentathlon, trademark pending, will carry on the Olympic tradition alongside the evolution of warfare from the ancient Greeks to the modern day. Do you have what it takes?
Army Times reporter Davis Winkie and Observation Post editor J.D. Simkins contributed to this article.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.