Monday, August 25, 2008
I can't help it. I love the Olympics.
The Olympic Games, as an ideal, offer a vision of a better world; a world where athletic competition brings the various peoples of the world together, there to excise their nationalist and patriotic emotions in a way that might actually be constructive... or, at least, not destructive.
So, why then, do I feel sheepish about enjoying the games? Why do I feel as though I'm walking into a trap if I relax enough to just sit back and get caught up in the spirit of athletic competition?
Could it be that I've been conditioned to suspect that the Olympics, just like everything else in today's corporate world, is just another distraction to keep me from noticing that I'm being fleeced at every turn by usurious credit card companies, unethical corporate banks, and the various resource extraction industries? Well, probably.
The parasitic corporate entities that leech onto the games are truly nauseating. Is there really an "official" credit card for the 2008 Olympic Games? An "official" beer? Well then, why not an "official" cigarette? Or an "official" handgun? The International Olympic Committee, sadly, has bought in to the capitalist dogma: profit is king.
And then, of course, there is also the cloying American media coverage that strives to manipulate our emotions with breathless commentary, pseudo-controversy, and high melodrama. NBC has already enumerated the Games' 8 most memorable moments, apparently not trusting spectators enough to judge for themselves. (I know that I, for one, am sick to death of seeing and hearing about Michael Phelps, who, frankly, seems like something of a jerk. His is an historic achievement, for sure, but enough already!)
All that being said, I find that I still love the Olympics. Maty and I watched the opening and closing ceremonies in all their glory. They were spectacular. Filmmaker Zhang Yimou and choreographer Zhang Jigang created events that will truly stand as pinnacles to the beauty and creativity of mankind. And as we watched the athletic teams from all corners of the globe, march into the Bird's Nest, waving their flags and smiling, I found that Maty's enthusiasm and excitement were infectious. "There's Mali!" she exclaimed, clapping and laughing. "There's Burkina! There's Senegal!"
Women's 4 X 100m Relay Final. The Jamaican team was favored to win, but the Russians and Belgians were also contenders. The race was close, but the Jamaicans blew the baton-pass for the fourth leg. The Russians ended up winning the gold, and the Belgians got the silver. But as they crossed the finish line, the most jubilation seemed to come from the bronze-winning Nigerian team. They hadn't been expected to medal and their elation and pride were heart-warming. I found that I was elated for them and proud of them.
It has been at least 20 years since I last indulged in the spectacle of the Olympic Games. But this time, with so much bad news and catastrophe, I found that they were a wonderful diversion that, in spite of everything, evoked feelings of brotherhood and commonality with my fellow humans.