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Olympic farce

I have not really managed to develop much of an interest in the Olympic Games currently underway in Greece. I am watching the television right now. A bunch of Greek ‘fans’ are objecting to some US athletes for reasons I cannot quite seem to understand, judging by the less than helpful BBC commentator team.

The Games are not supposed to be about nationalism, and yet the constant focus seems to be on how many of ‘our’ (British) athletes have won how many gold, silver and bronze medals. When the Games are completed, there will be the usual bleating/gloating over how well ‘our’ men and women did. If ‘we’ do badly, be ready and primed for a great wailing about the unsportiness, unfitness, lack of moral fibre blah blah of young British folk.

It is easy to forget that the Olympics were originally envisioned as celebrating the value of individual achievement and struggle over nationalistic competition. I think it is fair to say that this hope has been well and truly thwarted.

21 comments to Olympic farce

  • A_t

    “It is easy to forget that the Olympics were originally envisioned as celebrating the value of individual achievement and struggle over nationalistic competition. I think it is fair to say that this hope has been well and truly thwarted.”

    Maybe in terms of the coverage, but I’ve heard a number of complaints in recent days about the TV switching mid-competition from an interesting sport to follow some second-rate Brit as they fail to win a medal. Seems like some of the audience (myself included) are more interested in human achievement than the nationalistic crap our presenters seem determined to foist upon us. Unlike football etc, most of the folk I know who’ve watched the olympics take polite pride in national wins, but are more interested in seeing compelling sporting action & human excellence. Maybe I move in unrepresentative circles, but it seems to me there’s still hope for that original idea.

  • Worse than that, because the Olympics are so tied in with nationalism and related collectivisms, it has become a matter of pride for countries to secure the right to hold the Olympics. We can see it in the U.K. The Government is spending millions on trying to bring the Olympics here for 2012 and if it succeds, will spend further billions of taxpayers’ money on the whole revolting nonsense. It will make the dome look like value for money.

  • It is of (almost) constant amazement to me that anyone actually watches such tosh.
    Even more perplexing why the BBC puts it on 1 and moves it’s regular stuff to 2, why not just put the Olympic paint drying on 2?

  • Hank Scorpio

    “The Government is spending millions on trying to bring the Olympics here for 2012 and if it succeds, will spend further billions of taxpayers’ money on the whole revolting nonsense. It will make the dome look like value for money.”

    I don’t really understand this position. If done right (ala Atlanta in ’96) the olympics can be a huge financial windfall to it’s host city. To be sure it can also be a severe pain in the ass to that city, but there’s no reason for supposing that it’s a total fiduciary loss.

    Secondly, when is the last time the UK has had the olympics on their soil? I’d never really thought about it before, but now that I do I’d say it’s high time you guys hosted the games.

  • Atlanata was not a financial success. You are thinking of Los Angeles 1984 which was hugely financially successful. The reason it was such a moneymaking success was that it was run with moneymaking as an objective, and also the host city did not spend billions of dollars in building “White Elephant” stadiums.

    Sydney for example is now lumbered with Stadium Australia. It is barely used; it is a magnificent stadium in many ways but it only is used properly about five times a year.

  • 1327

    You don’t realise if we had the Olympics here in the UK it would be a disaster and financial shambles. Yes if it was run correctly it could make money but that would require people who knew what they were doing in charge. If the UK were to host it though we would have the same old “Friends of Tony” put in charge who screwed up the London Dome.

    No this patriotic Englishman is firmly behind the Paris entry with the one afterwards held in Tehran or perhaps Nejaf.


  • ernest young

    Combining comments to two posts under one heading….

    Did you hear John Kerry made a surprise visit to the Olympics? He did pretty well. He was only there 40 minutes, but he came away with 6 medals! — Boy is he good, – or what?

    Quote stolen from Wicked Thoughts at ; http://bussorah.blogspot.com/

  • Verity

    I was in an appliance shop here the other day and they had banks of TVs tuned in to the Olympics. While I was waiting for the salesman to return, I watched it as even something incredibly boring benefits from being shown on 50 screens at the same time. It was synchronized swimming. It was absolutely hysterical. I’ve never seen anything so stupid in my life.

  • Hank Scorpio:

    If holding the Olympics really were profitable then there would no need for Governments to get involved. The fact is that Governments don’t hold Olympics to make money. They hold Olympics for reasons of pump priming and prestige.

    Of course I am not saying that every penny would be wasted. But the net effect will be negative by definition – money will be spent on something that people would not have chosen to spend their money if it was left to them. It is no different to Government prestige projects like dams or supersonic airliners.

  • ernest young

    I hear there are to be a few more ‘new categories’ for the 2012 Games.

    The ‘Bull shit’ contest stands a good chance of being included, It will have severall categories, one for individuals and one for Governments. The individual event is self explanatory, the event for government – a team event – will be judged on the length of time a Government can stay in power when driven solely on bullshit. This event is being sponsored by HM Govt. as they feel they have an excellent chance of a gold.

    It was suggested that there was room for an event for the ‘pseudo sciences’, with the winner being the writer of a paper based entirely on hearsay and dodgy data, with extra points given for political bias. The idea was rejected, the Committee felt that the sheer number of entries would be unmanageable, due largely to the shortage of qualified judges for the event.

    If you have any other suggestions, now is the time to put them up for approval.

  • Nick

    Johnathan, I believe you must be referring to the Men’s 200m sprint Final, won by Shawn Crawford of the USA (in fact, the USA achieved a 1-2-3). The Greek fans weren’t objecting to the US athletes per se (though doubtless many pro-American right-wing blogs will soon be arguing that was indeed the case, loony leftist Euros, they’ll all be Arabs soon etc. etc.), but rather were playing up because the defending Mens 200m champion (i.e. the guy who won Gold at Sydney in 2000) was, ahem, Konstantinos Kenteris, who dropped out the Athens games prior to them starting because he allegedly dodged a drugs test which many believe would have revealed that his startling run of victories – having previously been something of a no-mark- were chemically-assisted. The same went for Katerina Thenou, who won silver in the Womens 100m in Sydney. Both claimed they were involved in a `mysterious’ motorbike crash which caused them to miss the doping test. The vagueness of the BBC’s commentary team during the Mens 200m Final was doubtless due to legal niceties. All they could say, it appears, was that Kenteris wasn’t appearing but couldn’t say why they thought he had declined to appear.

  • Nancy

    Nick – If that is the event to which Johnathan is referring, I watched it, too. The explanation I heard (granted, by fairly pissed off American commentators) was that the Greek newspapers had printed unfounded, fantasy stories that the absence of the homeboy favourite was an American conspiracy, thus fanning local ire toward the American runners. Have no idea whether it’s true. However, if we are as useless at conspiracies as we obviously are at fascist enforcement of stadium silence during sporting events, I doubt it.

  • flaime

    The big event where the greeks were booing at the Americans was the 200 M dash, where the Americans finished 1,2,3…The Greek sprinter pulled out of the games after failing to take a drug test. That failure was an automatic failed drug test, according to the IOC, so, as I understand it, he was likely to be ejected anyway. To further fan the flames of rumor, they discovered banned substances at his trainer’s home.

    As to the nationalism, the Olympics are about the single most nationalistic event I remember. They have been that way all of my life. I grant you, I don’t much remember the 72 olympics (I was 4), but after that, I do remember that the coverage was always the US against everyone else. In the 1980 winter games, the big stories were all about Americans beating Russians, here in the US. We didn’t get to see the 80 summer games because Carter didn’t like Russia invading Afghanistan. The 84 Summer games didn’t have Russia and many Warsaw pact countries because the Soviet Union wanted to retaliate for the disaster the American pull out made the 80 Summer games. at least financially, for Moscow. And after that, it was always about who the US could beat. Who a US athlete could beat. And this year, it’s just as bad. NBC spends a lot of time trumpeting American wins. When it isn’t wasting our viewing time with “human interest” crap.

    It may be different elsewhere, but for as long as I can remember, the Olympics have the biggest focus of nationalism the US could put forth. There is much moaning and wailing this year that our NBA hoodlums couldn’t win the basketball gold. There are lesser levels of snarling and gnashing about every other event we didn’t medal in (regardless of our historical success).

  • Julian Morrison

    The original olympics was religious but the modern version has always been political. Specifically, a tranzi forum for safely diverted nationalism. Quoting wikipedia: “a way to bring nations closer together, to have the youth of the world compete in sports, rather than fight in war”.

  • I don’t know about you, but I’m glad our NBA team lost. Because they weren’t a “team” but a group of grandstanding twerps with a demonstrated inability to play well with others. Their loss only underscores the problem with the recent US basketball style – a star or two and their supporting players. It’s not that fun to watch – I prefer college and high school ball because a lot of those teams are still TEAMS.

  • Nancy

    High minded distaste for nationalism aside, there certainly are some first rate physiques on display among the male track and field contenders.

  • Susan

    I could do without those simpy “Up Close & Personal” “bios” they do on the atheletes (do they do that in the UK too?)

    The last one I saw was about a US wrestler who had some of his toes amputated due to severe frostbite. The Up Close and Personal team was pleased to inform us that said wrestler keeps the severed toes in a jar of Formaldehyde in the back of his refrigerator. No word as to why they thought we really needed to hear that.

    Then there’s always the obligatory cancer-survivor-who-battled-all-the-odds story. One does tend to marvel how many cancer survivors there are amongst the world’s Olympians. Is there some sort of tip sheet that goes out asking, “do you have any cancer survivors on your team? if so we need to interview him or her ASAP.”?

  • Lynne

    Finally, an opinion by someone on this blog I can agree with. I have long maintained that the Olympics makes nationalism worse. They were a mainly a cold war idea whose time has passed.

  • Gruesome

    Lynne: I never realised the Cold War started back in 1896.

    Better ritualised warfare in arenas and pools than real wars. Without national affiliations, international sport would not be nearly as popular, though I wouldn’t mind seeing the odd “stateless” competitor win gold.

    The most interesting aspect of the Olympics is as a museum of biodiversity, demonstrating the almost insuperable advantages of different races in different fields, e.g. Negroids of West African descent in sprinting (every finalist in the last six 100m finals) and upland Berbers or East Africans in long-distance running. Conversely, no blacks in swimming or gymnastics and not many orientals in weightlifting.

  • Greek scumbags are protesting about US now as well. They were peaceful but nasty, especially about Colin Powell who was supposed to go there.

  • Here’s what I said about the Olympic NBA team:

    The Olympics should be an opportunity for those who don’t have a shot at the sports limelight in their everyday lives, not for a bunch of cocky prima donnas who already have the limelight and the multimillion dollar contracts to go with it. The Olympics should be about the triumph of the little guy, best illustrated by the US hockey team at Lake Placid in 1980.