Sunday, August 05, 2012

Silver and gold

Since this year's Tour ended my bride and I have taken to making the Summer Olympics our occasional morning or evening tube break. They're sort of perfect for that purpose; you don't have to remember what happened last week, you can tell who's-who because the actors usually have their names somewhere either on their shirts or on the screen, and the entire little episode usually wraps up in less than an hour.
And sometimes you get to enjoy some truly delicious weirdness.

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate many of the sports for the skill and dedication they require. But, honestly? I could probably go to my grave without really caring who wins all those shooting medals (what's the point unless the target gets to shoot back, really?), I can't help but thinking that beach volleyball is sort of ridiculous (what other "sport" has to be played in a bikini, and, if it does, why don't the men have to wear Speedos?), and, really, fucking water polo?

It may be a hell of a sport to play, but it's the most boring sport to watch outside competitive chess if you're willing to count that as a sport and I don't.
But the thing that got me thinking about all this was catching a brief moment of some Yank getting a gold for shooting something - skeet, I believe.

And it was all very nice, but...the relentless homerism of the NBC broadcasting network really grates on me. It's nice that some American boy will take home a medal for shooting clays, about hearing and seeing some of those gajillions of other people who have come all this way to compete?
And the flag-waving and medal counting...

Ugh. I could go on and on, but, why?

The bottom line is, has always been, and always will be that nationalism and patriotic lust for gold and silver drives the Olympic bus. Take away the flags and anthems and uniforms and turn it into a bunch of random people just trying to be the best kayaker or fencer or judo player in the world?

Good luck getting forty or fifty people in a high-school gym for that one, bub.
Aside from all the ridiculous puffery on the one hand and the genuine hard graft and effort on the other the one thing about these Games that sort of fascinates me are the stories of the folks down there at the bottom of the "medal count", the single champions or runners-up from (mostly) the little countries at the south end of the world. The weightlifter from Taiwan, the track cycling gal from Hong Kong, the epee fencer from Venezuela.
What is it like to be these people?

To beat the odds, to beat the weightlifters and cyclists and fencers from the big nations with the big money and the big organizations, to stand there with the broad satin ribbon and the big metal disk on your chest while you listen to the music playing that's telling the world that for the next four years you are the best in the world at your sport (or second best, or all the world!) and that you have done something that no one else - no one - in all your country has done?
How does that feel? How would I feel, if it was me, standing there, knowing that I would probably be the lone Uzbek or Taiwanese to fly home with one of those beribboned trophies?

It must be a very odd feeling, and a very fierce feeling, and a very wonderous feeling, all at the same time.


Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine what it feels like to be an Olympian....but I'd LOVE to be able to play water polo.
It is a kick ass game....I mean their feet NEVER touch bottom, for pity's sake, and they have to keep themselves upright AND move that ball?!

Water sports in general amaze me, since I am a poor swimmer and allergic to the bleachy crap the common pool uses for sanitation.

Leon said...

Canada just won it's first gold in... trampoline. Seriously.

I watched it (was with my relatives who're much more pumped over the Olympics than me) and the women have insane skill levels (and balls in a figurative sense considering the heights they get to) but it's just such a narrow "sport" with little connection to life and is subjective.

Things like this shouldn't be an Olympic event. I think we need to parse out 90% of the events we have to sports that have a "common" touch or connection. How open is epee to the masses versus running? Or else just throw open the gates and include horseshoe toss, egg-and-spoon-races and swing dancing (I'll try out for the latter).

FDChief said...

Labrys: I'm sure it's hella challenging and fun to PLAY. It's like watching paint dry, though; incredibly slow and dull on video.

I'm glad I like the pool - I have two little water babies, and we've spent most of the summer splashing about.

Leon: When you think about it, that pretty much sums up 90% of "sport". My feeling is that if enough people around the world play a game or a sport and love it, why the hell not?

It's the ridiculous level of expense that gets me, though. ISTM that if there was a reason to cut down the sports it'd be to save the cost. Mind you, people would probably find something else silly to spend it on, so, there...

Leon said...

I don't object to building sports complexes that may be useful to local athletes afterwards.

I do object to the vanity projects built at extreme expense that allows a country to show how mighty their 'member' is to others.

I read somewhere that several of China's stadiums/pools, are now disused and gathering dust. Or worse, sucking up millions in maintenance while not being used.

I wonder if London will have the same problem.

If we just ran the Olympics at 20% of the budget, got the politicians and politics banned from attending, cut down to sports that have true metrics (as opposed to judges where you get controversies like ice skating in 2002), and tone down the nationalism where an Olympian's achievement is second to their country winning a medal (and being better than country "A").

FDChief said...

Leon: you might find this fascinating, and a little disheartening:

The Sarejevo sites I understand - the damn place was destroyed in a war. But the rest, and especially the ones from just four years ago in Beijing? Ridiculous, as you point out, to spend all that much, and for so little...