Anyone who’s been out of touch with the world for the last few days, I have news. The Olympics have started.
Yep, that ritual athletic testing that started in an ancient foreign land as a way of challenging soldiers has returned once again. (Which, by the way, means that I’ve been away over 8 years. I arrived in the UK before Sydney 2000. Egads!) The best of the world have gathered in Bejing for two weeks of testing before their peers and the world.
Talk about your stage-fright – estimated 4 billion people watching the opening ceremony? Bloody Hell! But from what I could see there was only one stuff up – and I imagine some poor little Chinese guy getting a slap around the ear for letting the torch-bearing air-runner guy catch up with the unravelling scroll.
All the athletes look lean & hungry. That’s how they’re supposed to look, right? Lean & hungry? Are we not feeding these people regularly? They all look ready to defend their country and themselves from repeated embarrassment of failing dismally. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over my 30something years on the earth, there’s always someone better than you. Sorry.. Maybe I’m feeling a little too reflective today.
But along with the lean & hungry come the joys of a fiercely patriotic crowd, and billions of televiewers everywhere, screaming and shouting, clapping, laughing, crying along with their team. The Olympics is the only time people can be most vehemently patriotic with no fear of recrimination, verbal abuse or attack. It is expected at the Olympics, encouraged. Over two hundred countries coming together to wage mini battles with each other.
Question: Have the Olympics become our pseudo world war? Instead of taking out your emeny with bullets and bombs, you take them out with skill and expertise, with a fine throw or blistering speed. You take them out honestly and directly, with no cheating or sly actions, no backstabbing or sabotage. You do it directly in front of them, to their face, and you wait for the words ‘bad sport’ to start fizzing about between their ears, at which point they’ll come and congratulate you on a good match/race/battle.
And I even understand why it’s being held in China, despite their air quality and human rights record, despite their environmental and foreign policy. It’s being held there because the IOC reached a point where it had to say yes for to be seen as being influenced by politics. See, China is the most populated country in earth, they send ridiculous amounts of althletes to each and every games, they do very well in each and every games, and they haven’t hosted in over 100 years. The IOC proclaims itself a non-political animal, and under that guise had reached a point where they could no longer refuse China’s application to host. They had no choice. To do otherwise was to rebuke China, which no-one seems willing to do. I mean, geez, Moscow hosted in the middle of the cold war. Germany hosted, Hitler opened their games. The IOC had to do it to stay apolitical. I’ll stop there, I don’t want this post to be an anti-China rant.
I realise from the above that it may seem I sneer at the Olympics. But I don’t. Honestly. I’ve got nothing but admiration for the athletes who can devote themselves so completely to their sport. I don’t think I could do it. And I’ve nothing but admiration for the medalists themselves. To be the acknowledged best in the world at anything must be a fantastic feeing and worth every second of that seemingly endless training.
And, of course, there’s the fact that I’m Australian and we love and respect sportsmen and women. We’re a sporting nation. Comes with the sunshine and being able to go outside. The Australian press are whipping up a patriotic frenzy, I find myself trying to program my tele-watching to times when there’ll be coverage of Aussies (and I understand totally that the UK coverage is all about the UK team, I just wish they’d interview a winner every now and again! Oh, but they did interview that Zimbabwe swimmer with the american accent, thought I’m not sure why..)
I find myself digging my wee aussie flag out of the box and drapiing it proudly around the house. I find myself suddenly shouting “Go Aussie!” at the screen, freaking out cat and flatmate. But I can’t help it. And gorram it, I shouldn’t have to!
So GO AUSSIE! Go, you good things! Enjoy yourselves and bring us back some neckwear, huh?
Oh, and.. ahem.. good luck to everyone else too. :)