Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympics Free Zone Declared.

I hereby vow that I will not mention the Games here again after today until the final medal count when I may succumb to national pride.

I have nothing against the Games in general but much against them being forced on me every waking moment by every form of the media. I do not see the Games as an earth stoppingly important event. Yes, it is a good thing to have representatives of many nations and sports come together and if they gain more understanding of other ways of life so much the better but that is only a side aspect to the real business of the Games. The reality is this is a group of driven people who want to succeed whatever the cost to themselves, their families and friends and that's fine if that's their choice. I certainly don't have anything against the pursuit of excellence in any field. That's how we advance in knowledge and skill. What I find hard to understand why this makes makes them "heroes" to use the word that commentators so regularly debase.

I wish all competitors the success they crave - and as the inhabitant of a relatively small nation it is nice to see our fellow countrymen and women bring home a stash of medals way beyond what our population should realistically achieve - but don't expect me to spend the next fortnight glued to the set and don't kid yourselves that you are doing it for your country. I don't doubt that you are truly flattered that you have been chosen to represent your nation but you're doing it for you, not your country. This is the place where you can show you are the best among your peers at a given time. That is a perfectly reasonable objective and I sincerely hope you attain your dreams of sporting and lifetime success.

There is another side to every Games - no, not the big business one where everyone except most of the locals, whose lives are totally disrupted and who can either not afford tickets or are locked out of the process, makes a mint. It's the one where, in a rush akin to air-brushing, all the warts of the host country are no longer visible. I am highly offended by inane remarks by athletes and commentators such as the one who, when asked if she thought the situation in Tibet would have an impact on the way Australians saw the Games, replied along the lines of "They'll forget all about that once the gold medals come rolling in."

That is deeply insulting and, on behalf of myself and the many others across the world who have watched how in the lead up to the Games the Chinese government has continued its heavy handed, authoritarian behaviour in so many areas, Tibet being only one example, with no surprise but much disappointment, I would like to say that we are not all so shallow as to forget these things because of a few Olympic medals.

Rant over for now. Let the Games begin.

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