Olympic time again! The “sporting” extravaganza that everyone on TV, Hollywood and those who never played games as a child eagerly anticipate. Who will break a world record? Who will look sexiest in their speedos, painted in the colours of the Union Jack? Who will have the longest fingernails in the women’s 100 metre finals? How long is a 100 metres, boy? The Olympic Games are pom-pously called the “Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad” and the president of the IOC in his opening words always refers to it as a gathering of the “youth of the world” coming together in the spirit of respect, friendship and fair play. He should know better than us that there are people competing who are in their sixth or seventh Olympics, if they started as 20-year-olds; they are now hitting 50. He will also know that every gold medal awarded since Hasely Crawford won his in 1976, was almost surely won on the back of a drug suspicion. Most of these “youths” are full-time professional athletes, sponsored by large commercial interests. Many of them eagerly advertise for junk foods that harm and disease the real youth of the world. The corruption of sport into a spectacle, entertainment for the masses, similar in spirit, if not in fact, to the bloody spectacles of the Roman Colosseum, is one of the side-effects of modern life. There is more than a touch of religion attached.
Sportsmen and women are turned into demigods, stadiums into cathedrals and fan clubs into cults. In all this degradation, it is easy to forget that sports still possess a seed of the genuinely sacred. Peek behind the corruption and drugs to see it, and sports still belong to what is pure and good in the stressful and shabby world we inhabit. That’s why the corruption of sports by business interests into empty entertainment is so vastly soul destroying, so corrosive to our lifestyle and ultimately why, for all it’s gorgeous appeal, the Olympics are so distasteful. Not that it needs to be that way. The Games themselves are more than a gathering of the “youth of the world,” however many there may be. It is a gathering of the peoples of the world, the only time we do get together in one place at one time. That is real and exciting. It is also the drama of great crowds of people, personalities, minds, emotions. In Sydney in 2000, it was like a combination of early Carnival Tuesday on Ariapita Avenue before the rum and wining come out, and Christmas morning, for two weeks. It’s a chance to see the different flags of the countries, na-tional costumes (if asked to design one, Tribe could use its computer skills here) and the fascinating mélange of different faces, but all, with the same expressions, our common humanity. London is also the opportunity to see the British put on one of their unsurpassable extravaganzas, which they duly did in the opening ceremony. For me the highlights of that ceremony were: the Olympic bell, a wonderful idea stolen from the Baptists and another symbol of the religiosity of the spectacle; the bicycle doves a la Minshall; the Olympic flame and even hotter, the queen’s knickers.
The low points:
The cheapening of the queen—the Brits fell down here—by seemingly having her jumping out of a helicopter.
Whoever came up with that idea should be forced to sing Sparrow’s calypso, Phillip My Dear, to her every day for the rest of her life.
Ban Ki-Moon in a white suit and shoes, carrying the Olympic flag. Shouldn’t he have been in Syria where people are dying every day or is he leaving that to Kofi?
Muhammad Ali. Oh gosh, leave the man alone nuh?
Whatever the sheep left behind. Everyone wipe your shoes before coming into the palace.
The Olympics is the wonder of seeing what the human body and mind can do when properly focused, so for the next two weeks we’ll be properly attentive to what’s going on in London, most of us in the hope of seeing a world record or a spectacular feat of athletics, while forgetting the also-rans. The media will make sure of that. We’ll be inundated with stories of Bolt, the eater of cassava. Among those abnormally steroid-pumped male sprinters and the masculine looking women, doesn’t he stand out? Who else makes the Games interesting? One is Oscar Pistorius, who is running the 400-metre race on prosthetic lower legs; make them a bit longer or better and he will beat Bolt. The other big attraction is also from South Africa— Caster Semenya who, for a time, was rumoured to be a man. As one writer has said, “The woman without a womb, the man without legs and the sprinter without limits; they’re all competing in the London Olympics. It’s the biggest circus of the day, and these are the star attractions.”
At least we are spared American commentary on the TV.