I love sports. I am not built to excel in it, but I learn and do the best I can, and thoroughly enjoy it. I admire people who are born with the gift to excel in sports, and I enjoy watching them. But this Olympics has me disinterested even before it started. Not sure if it is my boredom or my wisdom.
The spectacle of opening and closing ceremonies is always entertaining. I enjoy performance and creativity, and I always enjoy Mr. Bean. The aspect which really warmed my heart though, was the athletes’ march, of all things. Usually boring and routine, I was fascinated this time by how many countries entered, which I did not even know existed in the world! I consider myself rather knowledgeable where it comes to geography, but I was stumped… and delighted. Although these countries have zero chance at a medal, they were invited, and they participated.
Unfortunately that represented a rare remnant of the original Olympic spirit. The spirit of amateurs getting together for a good time, to challenge each other, inspire each other, learn from each other, to move to a natural higher, faster, stronger state in life. The original spirit was about friendship, cooperation, lifting of spirits, and integrity. Today, it is all about medals, about winning versus losing. Pitting professional athletes against amateurs. Showing off government-bred human beings specially trained as machines. Beating out fellow competitors by imperceptable margins and claiming clear victories. Pushing bodies beyond natural breakpoints in the name of glory. And of course the game of beating officials to the discovery of performance-enhancing substances.
It is a complete enigma what the games are even for, in this modern world. What exactly is the application of the world’s fastest man nowadays, when we no longer need him to deliver messages over mountains? What use is a weightlifter, when we have forklifts and carjacks? Why swim so fast, when you know you cannot possibly outdo a V8 on a stick at the back of a sampan? And that was exactly what the Mr. Bean jogging sketch was about. Also the old Indiana Jones move in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where he non-chalantly shot down the village’s martial arts hero with the quickest swords, and instantly became the villagers’ new hero, which always has me rolling on the floor with laughter.
The modern context of the games must evolve with the times. There is no modern physical application to the original Olympic Games, but the original spirit of the Games still applies and needs to thrive. Sports nowadays, like any other work, ought to contribute to the advancement of humanity. In this world of chaos and fear, we can really use models of inspiration, acceptance and cooperation.
A person who loves her sport so much that she works a job to pay the rent, then focuses her physical and mental energies to train beyond the norm, and at the same time, uses all her social and public relations abilities to acquire sponsorship, is a picture of dedication. Athletes from tiny countries in the ceremonial march is a nice picture of acceptance. Please give the rest of us some inspiration, and hope about this world! Perhaps we can toss out the medals, and instead hail any athlete with a good story to bring joy, peace and hope to mankind.
Cheers to Mr. Bean!
You may be interested in Lynn Serafinn’s article too, about other aspects of the Olympic Games that have gone sideways: http://the7gracesofmarketing.com/2012/08/faster-higher-stronger-–-an-olympic-paradox-of-values/