Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympian Fatigue

I, for one, am glad the 2008 Olympics are over.

Not that I watched them much. Not that I watched them at all. I knew enough of them from randomly-gathered news bits to know that Michael Phelps is a phenomenal swimmer, footage of the opening ceremony was augmented in spots, a Jamaican named Bolt broke the record in the 100-meter dash and various teams and individual athletes got chided either for posing in “slant-eye” pictures of for wearing masks.

I’m still glad they’re over. That means I don’t have to hear incessant rabbiting about one other thing: How the USA counts medals as compared to how the rest of the world counts medals. I don’t care that China won more gold medals. I don’t care that, overall, the USA won more medals of any metallic form. I don’t care that people got arrested or detained in China for protesting this or that, or that many people were rolling their eyes at the protesters – specifically the American ones – because protest or not, practically everything we buy is made in China. I’m just glad the Olympics are over.

The Olympics: International sport only thinly veneered over international jingoism. True, there are those athletes who can rise above the politics and simply excel at the sports they love. But everyone at home (and it doesn’t matter if that home is in the US, Britain, China, Australia or wherever) gets the Olympics only through that veneer, no matter how schmaltzy the coverage might get in bragging about heroes, moms, dreams and apple pie.

Truth be told, I expect there to be scandal at the Olympic Games. I look back at 2002, when the Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is so squeaky-clean in the eyes of many that no one could believe the organizers were involved in that old game of bribery and glad-handing and general monkey-shining. When you’re talking about money and sports and national prestige, there will come the flies to the ointment.

So the US media gets all self-righteous about the overall medal count. So the British media gets all self-righteous about the self-righteous Americans. The birds still sing, the brooks still babble, and the King is still a fink.

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