I am experiencing conflicted feelings concerning the Olympics. While I admire the display of talent and ability by gifted and dedicated athletes I wonder at the huge expense of staging this kind of spectacle when austerity is de rigueur throughout much of the world these days, with of course Europe its poster child. Yet, every couple of years governments manage to find the enormous sums of money to build the venues and generally tart the place up, even as they chip away at social programs. Let’s not forget the IOC and its financial scandals and gold-plated perks for the sports aristocracy, but perhaps, for the sake of my health I should put that aside until my blood pressure drops back to normal. Then along comes a moment of drama and excitement and I lose my critical stance for a moment. The men’s eights in the rowing competition is an example, with a stirring Canadian finish as they edged out Great Britain for a silver medal. It’s always easy to slip back into being a fan again, particularly for sports that haven’t been tainted by scandal, at least as yet. And then during a commercial break, I’ll have a moment to reflect on other Olympic irritants, like the chest-beating displays of jingoism in the opening ceremonies both in London and yes, also in Vancouver in 2010. The nationalism and super patriotism has really gone overboard during the past few decades. What happened to the pure celebration of sport, and global fellowship that the Olympics first aspired to showcase? Can’t we admire great feats of strength and endurance by the world’s best, regardless of which nation they come from? Can’t we welcome the world instead of just riffing on the theme of “we’re wonderful” over and over? But against long odds, we do manage to find small pieces of that ideal, witness the global interest that the blind Korean archer received right at the beginning of the games. But for every heartwarming story, there seems to be some ugly truth around the corner, such as the badminton debacle that resulted in four teams getting the boot for attempting to throw their matches. So I remain in a curious state where my cynicism and criticism are counterbalanced by my appreciation for the high performance athletes and the level of play they achieve. Rather than watching a lot of TV coverage I catch brief reports on the news, and pay attention elsewhere; print or online. And so I celebrate the individual successes but grieve for the excessive cost spent on frills and puffery.
David Trudel © 2012