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Monday, August 6. 2012
It's been a bit over a week since the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, and I haven't seen much on Maggie's about them. I really enjoy the Olympics. The Opening Ceremony is always great entertainment, and the events capture my attention. I've found myself watching handball, water polo, and even men's field hockey. I enjoy sports, and there's something about the Olympic Spirit that captures me. But there's always a portion which bothers me.
It used to be the overcommercialization which bugged me. I've grown used to this. I knew the 'amateur' status we used to try and pretend existed wouldn't last. It was clear that money would eventually be the driving force. In some ways, this has made the competition better. The athletes still play for pride, but now they can also get a payday. Nothing wrong with that.
On the other hand, the politicization, which was bad in Cold War years, has taken a subtle turn. There is still a semblance of competing ideologies. But there is also the use of spectacle to make some kind of statement, using the commercial aspect to push a separate agenda.
Danny Boyle, in my estimation, made a hash of the Opening Ceremony. Had he stuck to a few simple themes and played them out, it would've been richer and more compelling. Trying to pack in Shakespeare, the Industrial Revolution, an English countryside, the rich literary tradition, the NHS (huh?), and the music scene from 1960 to today was far too much for the time allotted. Little attention was paid to many bright lights of the UK’s past, too much attention paid to silly cultural and philosophical ephemera.
Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see Dickens, Tolkien or Roald Dahl references anywhere. How could the Industrial Revolution play out in the stadium without some reference to Dickens? Or a children's sequence without Willy Wonka or James and the Giant Peach? Instead, the children's and literary tableau played out as an homage to the NHS. Sure, the NHS is part of British history, but let's be honest - the political point was ridiculous. It wasn't necessary and it added to the massive confusion I was observing. As a spectacle, it was eye-catching. But it was a letdown.
Then there were the Olympic flagbearers. I can appreciate the accomplishments of some, not all, of these people, and certainly don’t understand why non-UK political figures were involved. Especially those with "really strong environmental credentials."
The torch lighting was, in some ways, a snub. Sports can be team oriented, so why can’t the lighting? From that perspective, it was an interesting twist. Roger Bannister still deserved something, some kind of hat tip. After all, he did something many people said couldn’t be done, though never with Olympic success. Neither the NHS or any of the flag bearers had Olympic success, but they still got a prime spotlight.
When the Olympics roll around, I prefer focus on the ability of the athlete to accomplish great feats. To be impressed with how people push themselves, and achieve great things, in both an individual and team setting. The Olympics are a voluntary collective event celebrating the best of humanity’s physical capabilities, highlighting human spirit and effort. Along those lines, I’m all for the interesting choice to make the torch lighting a collective venture. I understand, it focused on youth, on teamwork. The collective lighting of the torch seemed to me the pinnacle of a statement Danny Boyle was trying to make - that even though the Olympics are about individual and team achievement, it's the collective that matters above all else.
As a great sentiment, it came across as indoctrination.
On a side note, the effects were superb. Who didn’t like seeing the Queen ‘jump’ out of a helicopter with James Bond? The Queen is now officially a ‘Bond Girl’, and after all these years, she deserves it.
The Games themselves have been terrific and fun. Despite the nonsense in the Opening Ceremonies, I really have loved the competition. But even here, political agendas were still played out. Several athletes, to their credit, chose to compete under the IOC flag. Better to compete than not simply because national governance had gone awry.
On the other hand, families hold back information which may impact a competitor's performance? Is this what nations stress? Elevation of national performance over personal and family needs is not the stuff of Olympic pride. China claims it was the family's choice. Hard to believe, given the history of the Chinese government. Interesting this is the country some pundits feel we should emulate.
Finally, there was the lack of a tribute to 1972 and the Israeli team. Each Olympic has paid a small tribute to that tragedy, but on the 40th anniversary surely a few moments of silence would have been worth it to remember that politics shouldn't play a role in celebrations of human achievement.
It's difficult to set aside politics in international sport. Often teams and individuals play not just for themselves, but for the pride of their nation. Who can forget the glory of the 1980 US Hockey Team? But who can forget the insanity of the 1972 Soviet Basketball Team? Both events had political overtones. Only one was manipulated via a political process.
If 1972 taught us anything, it's that we should focus on the human spirit of achievement, rather than hoping to manipulate agendas. These athletes are here, achieving on an international stage, to show us that they engaged rigorous effort to reach a high level. I don't care if they had a state or corporate sponsor, those sponsors weren't on the field or in the pool. The athletes did it on their own and most did it for themselves. Let's celebrate those accomplishments.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:50 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
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Not watching the Olympics, although I can appreciate the stunning achievements of the participants. Gave up on them when they allowed professional athletes to perform, and am repulsed by this year's PC folly of allowing The Blade Runner to compete, which makes a mockery of the rules. Like the blind archer from South Korea, Im Dong-hyun, he should be allowed to compete only if he can meet the qualifying standards and race with NO mechanical aids.
No, I don't think so. Only watching the NBC version so could be wrong big time.
I think you are spot-on about the collectivist indoctrination and about the absences in the opening ceremony.
One other comment I have heard-from the opening ceremony one would have no idea that Britain is an island/the UK is (some of) two. Not the slightest tip of the hat to a world-spanning maritime history [I shall ignore the Royal Navy because, of course, it would be horribly militaristic to mention it].
I felt allowing professionals in would 'ruin' the Olympics, but to be honest professionals were in it for years from Communist countries. And this wasn't going to change any time soon. Can you imagine our athletes competing against China today? China would wipe everyone out.
By opening it up, they admitted there were professionals playing, and leveled the playing field to a larger degree.
If the IOC chose to really make it for amateurs, I believe the quality of performances would be greatly diminished.
I disagree about Pistorius, too. He's got no 'advantage' and in fact he has a massive disadvantage (who would willingly chop off their legs to get a performance enhancing blade, knowing that once your career running is over, you're left with....prosthetics?)
If Pistorius can compete effectively, then let him. The same with the archer.
Pistorius' situation was proven to be a disadvantage yesterday, as he lost in the semifinals.
I believe his situation can be monitored, much like golf, by testing new products to make sure they don't give any kind of mechanical advantage. As long as that is determined and effectively managed, then let paralympians in.
Bulldog, cry me a river about Pistorius. He can compete in the Special Olympics. "Let's make an exception for this guy because he has no legs. It's a great story. He's an inspiration to everyone." Yes he is. But, sorry, he has artificial legs. And just because HE lost this time, it's no guarantee that a Bionic Man having a mechanical advantage over able-boidied athletes will NOT win in the future.
Monitor the situation? Don't kid yourself. Here's Rule #1 of Rulemaking: If you make a rule, stick by it instead of bending it until it breaks. You are saying we should allow the rules of competitive sports to be bent and twisted until an able-bodied athlete who competes by them loses a medal to someone who doesn't. When that happens, do we let the saddest story decide who gets the medal? Maybe we award two medals, one for each? You're letting your feelings get in the way of your brain. You're kicking the can down the road. Decide now, either let all competitors use artificial devices that enhance individual performance or let none.
Equipment can make the difference between winning and losing in sports. I have no problem with that as long as everyone has access to the "equipment" of his choice. The IOC banned special body suits in swimming in the Summer Olympics. They should ban all artificial limbs in track & field for the same reason. However, if the IOC does open the way for competitors to take advantage of sports technology, they should revise the rules of the Olympics so it's explicitly clear that everyone has permission to do so and, especially, there should be no arbitrary limits on the design of artificial performance aids. If a high jumper's technical team can design a type of spring that allows him to high jump 12 feet, so be it. I won't be watching anyway.
If you play golf, then you'd understand how improvements in technology don't necessarily have to alter the game in favor of one person versus another.
I've got no issue with Pistorius. None at all. The complaints regarding him were all proven false when he failed to qualify. It was assumed he 'had an advantage'. Hmmm. I don't hear anyone saying this now.
Maybe, someday, the technology could confer an advantage. But I doubt it.
It reminds me of the old SNL skit on the all drug Olympics...and a potential outcome of these: