Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The 2010 Olympics: Tone Down the Hype and the Flag Waving Already!

 

(Below: Lindsey Von, American skier, in a pose that looks less concerned with respect for women or her prowess as an athlete.)      

Watching the hype played up over the years whenever the Olympic Games come around, it strikes me that the is an uneasy friction between this notion of "one world, coming together"  for the sake of "The Spirit of the Olympics" and the uneasy (perhaps too easy) jumped-up nationalism which seems to infect many people for two weeks of continual coverage. 


If we really are "one world" coming together to celebrate all the greatness that sports offers, then why I wonder do we have an opening ceremonies where everyone dresses in uniforms of national colors and waves flags about?   

How did we get closer as a global community when so much emphasis is placed on sports like hockey, basketball, track relays and other events that are driven by national teams. 

I remember in 1980 with the Olympics in Lake Placid New York and the victory that the United States hockey team had over the heavily-favored Soviet team.  I like seeing the underdog win as much has th next person, but can anyone honestly say that that upset victory brought anyone closer together?   No, it took us further apart.  The game was played just the day after President Jimmy Carter announced that the USA would not be sending athletes to Moscow for the Summer Olympics because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, when the Games were held in Los Angeles, The Kremlin returned the favor and boycotted the American-based Olympics,citing security concerns. Because of the loss of this--a match-up of the two most powerful sporting nations in the world--the games in Los Angeles became a showcase for the large American team to win more gold medals, including some unprecedented success in gymnastic events.

I don't know about you, but I didn't feel like we as humans were coming "closer together" because of all the posturing and chants of "U--S--A!  U--S--A!   U--S--A!"  that rang about all over the country that Summer. 

A lot has happened in the world since of course.  People worry more about terrorism cells and the ebbing economic news than they do The Bomb.  But it seems that its rather cynical of NBC to pretend that we are coming together over this.   No, this is all about profits and headlining a few athletes who every four years come across as convenient conduits for selling us more credit cards and automobiles and chewing gum and cell phones and soup and Snickers Bars and all that "official Olympic" sponsorship stuff we could really live quite well without.

And its not all an American phenomenon either.  If anyone watched the Beijing Olympics two years ago they saw a rather frightening display of thousands of male athletes beating on drums and shouting. in the middle of that giant "birdnest" stadium.    It looked to me like China's government was saying "Don't mess with us!"  The displays of   pomp and power that certain nations present to the world at times like this DO NOT bring us together--they remind me very often of some tribal throwback--something akin to the 1936 Games in Berlin where Hitler banned American Jews from participating in their events and the whole shebang was just a prelude to his plans to awe the world with a lot of Aryan hooey.   

 

Understand I am not against sports.  I love baseball and American football  and I if I wasn't so lousy as a kid playing basketball on the playground I might love that too. And I sincerely hope many people come to Vancouver and see how beautiful that city is--it really is, and the Canadians are such generally nice people that they really make us down here look bad. (They hardly ever shoot their neighbors and relatives and fellow drug dealers with guns, for instance. Baffling, don't you think?)

But let's have no more of this faith in "coming together".  This Olympics in America and I suspect elsewhere is about national competition.  And frankly, with all the pain and suffering caused by nation-states in the last century, we need less, not more, of that.  

                   

   

51 comments:

  1. I could not say it better Doug as it's really a time where we have focused on so many things and this is something that last night while I was on...it hit a thread. It's global. Within the competitions they are grand, I myself love the what goes into the training before the competition. I do wish there was a serious on that. Back when I lived as a kind in Upstate, Lake Placid was so often talked about. It's a very nice change and everyone rooting for there own team - why not - it's all in the manner of the sport. Within the winter olympics I find that I love speed skating - it's my favorite. Yet we shall see how they all go and and this is a different manner that we root for a country. It's not political, it's more about competition in a very different manner. A great one.

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  2. Perhaps if it was not so tied in with this network or corporate grass commercialism would be more palpable. If people want to root for a person or a team in an event, Jack, then fine. But when they ram it down our throats, and then talk about the world coming together then they are misleading us.

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  3. I am a figure skate watcher myself. and like dancing I almost feel the freedom of what they do. Maybe because I can't?

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  4. Yes, its remarkably graceful, Tee. I get pains in my ankles just thinking about those triple lutzes :-)

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  5. ". It's not political, it's more about competition in a very different manner".
    Actually, for the competitors it may not be political, but for the countries it is. And, it's all commercial too. I don't watch the Olympics most of the time, although I do like the opening ceremonies and the lighting of the flame.

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  6. Doug you know that I am all fine with that I find that it's really a different manner to politics to be very honest with you. But I can see what you mean...maybe we have it done in different manners but that is just my take on it I enjoy them for what they are and as far as the media and global affairs I suppose it's always been within our history but it's much different to the usual media we see each and every day - to say the least but I understand what you mean.

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  7. Graceful Tee without the politics definately.

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  8. Very well said,Doug!
    Nationalism gets in the way of the true ideals of the Olympics,and so does the commercialism.

    I've seen an upswing of Canadian pride over this Olympics,which goes to prove that all countries(in Canada you say? Say it ain't so!) get caught up in it.

    There is one difference I've noticed between American(not all,just some) and Canadian athletes.
    Canadians tend to not put as much emphasis on "winning",or being "number 1" ,but more on doing your personal best and enjoying the whole "experience" of the Olympics.
    Probably explains why Canadians don't win as many medals as other countries.

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  9. Here goes the Canada and America thing Doug - as we know...Dear Timelord all most all countries participate within this area not just two countries - may I rememd you. As well I am American and Canadian.

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  10. I was stating the difference between America and Canada because Doug was talking mainly of the Olympics in America,and this Olympics which is in Canada.

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  11. I see and I enjoy Dougs writes literally. I do find that here in Canada as I have lived here for now over 9 years that it is covered and the pride is a different type of pride if I may say. My sincere apologies.
    Timelord.

    Doug if I may I am going to post my url:

    http://initiativestain.multiply.com/journal/item/957/Some_say_the_final_Torchbearer_should_be_a_past_Olympian

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  12. I'd agree the both the commercialism and the nationalism can get to be a bit much...and the nationalism has really always been a part of the "modern" (i.e. not Ancient Greek) Olympics. Commericalism is so much a part of daily life now that it is almost inevitable that all institutions, even the Olympics, must succumb to it (which makes me sad).

    That being said, I do think that competitive games can in fact bring people and countries together. I think the idea is that nations with different cultures, languages, points of view, politics, religions, idealogies--everything that tends to separate nations--can compete and take pride in their own countries while appreciating the victories of other countries without resorting to killing or undermining each other on the world stage. Competition isn't going to instill these values, but it can be used as a tool or an opportunity to allow us to reveal our characters. Of course, this happens far more often with individuals than with nations.

    I think the problem is that so much "other" gets tied into the games. It's not the teams or the athletes but these third parties that use the games to further their agendas (political, economic, etc.).

    Of course, this is all coming from a guy who seldom watches the Olympics (or sports of any kind), so my opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it :>)

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  13. That's my point Jacquie. Its how these games are packaged--the veneer of this being a special coming together is not there for me.

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  14. That's fine Jack. Certainly some like yourself can keep this in perspective. But many cannot, and that's what the advertisers are counting on. Its the dual-track message and the contridictions between unity through sports and the emphasis selling the flag and individual athletes (all mostly from the USA) , that bugs me.

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  15. Yet by choice we can filter that out and really enjoy them for what it's worth. These are the times however I believe that it's not it's something that is within it's own manner and way. We all do have ideologies with everything within life, but when I would think we can enjoy the worth of them. Competition is very instilled within our lives, it's apart of out nature however the regardless of what it may be it's something that we value and the commercialism that goes along with it by way of media - well I think that goes within ever aspect within our very lives. Yet there is that filter that we have the ability to render.

    I would like to think this goes within another categorical area. We still can appreciate certain things yet that is just me. But I do understand what is being said here yet sometimes I think we tend to over analyze than appreciate as it's all within our own way. Regardless of what country we come from. So go teams go! May the teams begin. I guess it's a matter of good choices and the appreciation.

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  16. Understand Timelord I'm really criticizing the American hype on the sport, not the designation city of country. But I do note with interest your statement of a surge in nationistic pride over this. Down here its a relentless drumbeat of "Team America--Gold, Gold, Gold!!!" People can say this is just how it is, but the fact of the matter is The Olymics are on a higher global platform than a hockey game or Blue Jays-Yankees series. This is where we need to overcome hyper-nationalism, not promote it as they do down here.

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  17. The "other" is a good way to sum it up, Shedrick. This only happens once every four years and frankly I'd rather see the Olympics pared down and the emphasis placed on what you're talking about--individual unity and cultural breakthroughs--and less on the biding rights and sponsorships and all this--to me--phony stuff about how America needs to do well in the Olympics so we can feel better about our soft economy or the wars or whatever vibe NBC will play on.

    Yes, I have no doubt commercialism can't be over come easily--but we must strivee to recognize it for what it is---a veneer that has no direct meaning to the idea of international understanding. As long as people understand that, a little more progress against making this just another hype festival can be possible.

    Thanks for putting my message together with fewer words than I ran on with.

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  18. Seperating competition from commercialism is tough in America. (Ex.--While most nations could see the Opening Ceremonies in the last Olympics in China live, we here in America had to wait 13 hours to see them because of the need to have them in prime time. That's part of what I object to here--that makinga a buck overrides the event. I know this is not earth-shaking, but it just seems to get more commercialized each time I really wondered if other people were bugged by this.

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  19. One of the big reasons for the commercialism being rampant is the cost of airing the games! The network will make money hand over fist between what it charges to air the games and what it charges for commercial time. Then of course ,the advertisers need to make their costs and a profit. The athletes need sponsers to be able to compete, so those people also need to make money.
    It's like a never=ending cycle. I'm pretty sure the first games wasn't like this! That's I'd like to see!!

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  20. daughter complains bout that all the time-happened with the Austrailian open to they had to wait for prim time really sick-

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  21. You're right Jacquie. There is this cycle. Imagine if the games could be aired for all the world. (We are "one world" like the commercial says, right?) I don't know how we could raise money for the Olympics but part of that could be done by staging less grandiose ceremonies and maybe having the events in places that are already built. It's a pipe dream I know but I agree th economics drives this higher and higher into a hyper-professional sphere.

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  22. I am not, as it's something that within a write that many will have a difference. I am sure that both you and I remember when watching Nadia from Romania, we were indifferent with the comercialism. We watched her and we were messmerized by what she could do. We really did not pay any attention to the commercial aspects. It simply was the essence of the athletes and what THEY could do. But I have do realize what you have wrote here really it's all good. And at that very time I was living within America as well Doug. Yet things have changed. As what does not make money these days? But regardless of that I still see them within that manner that I have always. This is not negative at all.

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  23. I think Jack that yes now and then you see a brief vision of what the Olympics should be and Nadia was a great example of that. We need a model to shoot for and that would be part of it--encouraging everyone to root for those who give their best and play by the rulkes and raise above the nationalistic blinders we are encouraged to wear by the television networks down here.

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  24. Exactly Heidi--show it at least once as it happens. Tape delay for such a high--profile global event is taking commercialism too far in my book.

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  25. I used to enjoy watching the Summer Olympics. I'm not into the Winter ones so much. But, with all of the bad feelings in this world, maybe it's good that people can still enjoy them.

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  26. Doug the athletes are the essence perhaps we do need one. Television networks will always be there but for myself it's all within a click of the remote and to be honest they are much younger than us now - but literally they are still aspiring. At least for a change it's not going to be on the "bad news" that we always see rather on something that is much different. I think that is a good change for a while.

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  27. The Olympics themselves, the actual events, are an distraction from what is not a great time right now, that's true Jacquie. I'm more of a Summer person myself--less need to shovel snow to get the car out and buy all the stuff on the television ads ;-)

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  28. Anything would be better than reality television. And yes, Jack, we will get to see athletes who will have given their all to get there. That is something.

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  29. I'll be off to bed now gang. Thanks for all the feedback. Will respond to anything else tomorrow.

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  30. I think we can all see the emotion and national pride when each person goes to collect their medal. I don't think we can separate the love of country from these events.

    I blame the media and promotions people who push all the flag waving stuff ad nauseum on the hype. Yes, there is great competition in the opening ceremony and that cost is a huge drain on the expenditure of the host country. It's a cost most countries can't afford, because there are never enough sponsors. A global opening ceremony would be excellent, then each country could pay for their own display. When one looks at the mix of races within each country, where at home part of the old culture of their ancestors are still in place, a global opening would work well. However when the athlete goes to collect the medal there is nothing wrong in national pride.

    Place your bets here as to the first country to do this. I won't run the books, maths isn't my best subject.

    A good debate subject, Doug.

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  31. Bed? Come on Doug, no time for bed, this has to be sorted. ;-)

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  32. Coming together means the head of Homeland Security (US) gets to make the 2010 Olympic closing speech on Canadian soil...... Heh! Other than that, Doug. I think you are right on the money. TX

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  33. Even then Nadia was as much an example of politicism as she was of being the great athlete she surely was. The USSR was putting huge resources into training their stars because they realised (as the US also does) that pouring money and resources into the athletes is how big rich countries amass so many medals especially gold and smaller countries do not. The Olympics are very much an exhibition of political power, money and nationalism and the relentless showing of the "gold medal tables" throughout the competition is proof of that. While we as individuals can and do celebrate the excellence of our athletes and while I as much as anyone will cheer those great people on, I think it is important to remember that your are entirely right and ideas about global unity are but myths and illusions for the gullible.

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  34. I think we can all love our respective nations--if not always our current leaders, Cassandra, and I must admit that athletic competition in itself isn't inherently wrong at all. Certainly not for the individual athletes. But the typical American network coverage over here is often so biased for the USA it rather misses the whole point I think . Individual excellence should matter and national pride should be for the athlete, not so much the "getting over " on another country. That's the feeling I get when network anchorpeople tout up the medal counts for Team USA.

    I think you and I agree here on the most important thing--that hype and promotions and network/corporate flag waving--is over the top. But, yes, its one way to pay for them and you can't disregard that. Perhaps the competition for the rigth to hold the games in different locales every four years is a major reason for all this hype. .
    I often wondered if having the Summer Olympics in the same place, like Greece naturally, would save some of the expedidture costs. Every nation could contribute something to the ceremonies and such. Not likely to happen I know--Greece is having enough problems getting EU nations to chip in to help with its huge deficits. But it would be nice if the biggest moment would be reserved for the athletes themselves and not the place its being held at or the network covering it. (Perhaps this is less of a problem in other nations. I can only judge by what I see via the networks.

    Glad to get so many great responses from people on this.

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  35. Yes, Cassandra, I used to hate people who do a controversial blog on topical matters and then just toddle off to bed with fuzzy socks on as if they just asked about their friends' general health and wished for world peace and such...

    --and, 'zounds, I'm afraid I've become one of "those" types ;-)

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  36. You mean he can't just be deported beforehand Wren?

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  37. Yes, I 'd like to see the national medal counts just swepted aside, Iri Ani. And not only Russia but the old East Germany was guilty of that as well--to the point they were doping up their athletes with dangerous drugs and also using pressure to get their skating and gymnastics judges to lowball the scores of participants from Western nations.

    If people want to keep track of that medal stuff at home, fine, but leave it off. (At least in America--we are quite pleased enough with ourselves if you ask me.)

    Individuals and teams compete--not entire nations. Let the anthems play at the medal ceremonies if that's what the athletes want, but tone down the overall emphasis on it. This isn't a race for nations, and NBC over here seems like they are trying to have it both ways--cheer the USA on--rah,rah, rah-- and then have the sand to talk up "global unity" like in that commercial . National medal counts and such dilute that latter message to me, very badly.

    If there is any rare bit of global unity to be gained from these events, they come in spite of all the hype from the athletes that display sportsmanship and magnaminous behavior as the games progress, not from any corporate sponsor.
    The rub is that the networks over here will say this is how we pay for the games. As I say, we should find ways to lower the need for that by having a single site for the games or just use existing facilities.

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  38. The Olympics is what it is.
    National pride and crass commercialism plays it's part because as a society(all of us),we consider that important.
    I don't personally,but that's because I'm an optimist.

    Enjoy the games,anyway.
    Maybe the rest of the world will learn a few things about Canada,like......we don't live in igloos,and we don't always say,"eh".....eh? :)

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  39. I'll certainly try Timelord.

    No igloos, eh?? Must you shatter all my illusions about New Brunswick?! :-)

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  40. Excellent post Doug, personally I have never been interested in the Olympic Games myself and always ignore them. But I think you are right that the Olympian message of 'togetherness' is just a bit of doublethink. It should be remembered that the original Olympic games was only open to Greek speaking males and was intended to ready them for war.
    However, I would probably take a bit more notice if they were today as in ancient times performed naked, no flags, no symbols just human bodies competing, that is moderately more interesting I think.
    The Greek tradition of athletic nudity was introduced in 720 BC, either by the Spartans or by the Megarian Orsippus and this was adopted early in the Olympics.

    After all as Wkipedia points out..... Gymnasium is a Latin and English derivative of the original Greek noun gymnasion. Gymnasion (γυμνάσιον) is derived from the common Greek adjective gymnos (γυμνός), meaning "naked", by way of the related verb gymnazein (γυμνάζειν), whose meaning is "to do physical exercise".
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnasium_%28ancient_Greece%29

    So if we really want an Empire we should go back to basics and do it in the buff, it would make the Winter Olympics somewhat less spectacular perhaps?..... but it would be a great laugh I think

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  41. Thanks for the link to gymnasiums AA. Who knew they would evolve into "gym" class in schools, a memory of mine that always comes with the smell of sweaty socks and grimy towels in a heap inside giant cloth rollaway hampers. As Woody Allen once said in a movie--"Those who can't do teach--those who can't teach teach gym."

    Those old Greeks would weep over such a development.

    This Neo-Greco Revival you likely purpose would make the athletes most uncomfortable in the Canadian February, especially on the ski slopes I'll wager---but it would guarantee bigger ratings for a variety of events---- women's skating certainly comes to mind. But even curling could draw new adherents.

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  42. Would make bobsledding a lot more interesting...

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  43. LOL. Yes, there would be a big hurry for the pushers to get back in the sled.

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  44. I agree with what you say Doug. I really do think we concentrate so much on pouring money into these events mainly to out-shine the previous country who was host. It's become very materialistic in the push from sponsors which is more about what they have to sell and not the games. We have lost something precious, the love of whatever game we practice.

    Yes, that would be good, take it all back to Greece.

    Indeed, you have a super response here Doug!

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  45. I think that is the crux of the matter Cassandra.

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  46. Doug I am in my glory with watching these games. Today I have not kept up with them but it's a change from all that is going on within the world these days.

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  47. Glad to hear it.
    I watched some of the Canadian women in hockey action last night, Jack ---they look like they will be heading for gold medals.

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  48. I have been watching it on two channels and I find it truly all to great with all countries, I find that it's not about so much anymore about Canada, it was during the opening ceremonies but now within the athletes themselves. What it takes for these to train and dedicate all this time it's athletes at their optimum.

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