Shocking! Just shocking! In reality, as someone who considers himself at least moderately intelligent, I take pride in the fact that I'm capable of reassessing things and changing my mind from time to time. Having said that, it still comes as a shock to me every time it happens. It's usually some variation on the theme of "OMG, I've been wrong about this for as long as I've been thinking about it." So what's my epiphany today? The Olympics.
About a week ago, Scalzice was answering questions from the riff raff and was asked his opinion about boycotting the Olympics "because China is mean to Tibet." My "pull it out of my ass" comment was:
I completely understand the urge to boycott an Olympics, but I’m against it anyway. The original Olympics were meant to be played by people who were actually at war with each other. They were meant as a brief cease-fire aimed at showing how peaceful competition could trump the biggest animosities. The spirit of the Olympics is supposed to be about putting aside differences.
It’s not about saying the differences don’t exist. It’s about saying that for this brief period, we’re going to ignore our differences and remind ourselves that we all have more in common than what separates us.And, so, in hindsight, I was being a stupid ass. My premise couldn't have been more wrong. Why? Well, first of all, the Ancient Olympics weren't really all they're cracked up to be to begin with. The only people permitted to compete were free men who spoke Greek. It's long been stated that wars between Greek City-states were temporarily halted during the competition, but there's some evidence that the wars went on while certain soldiers were permitted to leave so they could compete in the games. Another sign of how wonderful the original games were, is that in the chariot races, the charioteer was not considered the competitor; the owner of the team and the chariot was. Yeah, this was all about idealizing sport.
What else was wrong with my premise? The modern games may have been resurrected with the idea of living up to the myth, but they haven't lived up to that for a long time now. The games are awarded in a highly suspect manner where the biggest bribes get the games. (Yeah, I know they've supposedly cleaned up the awarding process, but I don't buy it.) For years now, various governments have enlisted athletes into their armies and then made their sole duty to be training in their sport...thus maintaining the fiction of amateur status. Not to be outdone, Americans have dreamed up means of sponsorship that aren't sponsorship. I wouldn't want to be accused of perpetuating a stereotype, but, c'mon, the East German women were all men.
The IOC finally knuckled under and let snowboarding into the Winter Games when they realized that their target audience was more likely to tune in to see somebody getting some wicked air than they were to watch the biathalon. The whole thing is about money and for countries to present some spruced up image of themselves to the rest of the world. Oh, and there's ticket sales for the events and a week's worth of having tourism go through the roof and (for the intelligent countries), a bunch of infrastructure you can put to other uses when the games are over.
The bad behavior we're seeing from people as the torch is run through various cities around the world is regrettable but understandable. I say forget about boycotting the games. Just stop having them. I'm sure there are plenty of athletes who really are amateurs and really are living up to the "ideals of the competition", but they're just being used by the IOC as product.
The games are a sham. If they provide an excuse to scream about China's mistreatment of Tibet, so be it. I can live with that.
P.S. I'm not one of those bloggers who are going to present exhaustive footnotes to back up every single statement I made. This is my opinion. Feel free to argue with me, but don't expect me to spend a whole lot of time finding sources to refute you. I don't care that much. Besides, as soon as I hit "Publish Post", this will be on the internet. Therefore, it will be true. Hah! Argue with that logic.