Olympic voyeurism drags humans to an incredible low

Humankind is going to hell in an 18-wheeler, laughing and cheering all the way.

Need a proof?

How about everybody and their dog watching the shameful spectacle a.k.a. Olympic Games?

That’s how low we’ve sunk.

It’s become a regular, continuing pastime to list the many scandals the Olympic movement has gone through since its inception in ancient Greece. For a comprehensive list, check out the works by Scottish reporter Andrew Jennings (The Lords of the Rings: Power, Money & Drugs in the Modern Olympics, 1992; The New Lords of the Rings, 1996; The Great Olympic Swindle, 2000). To get closer to home, to Vancouver 2010, that is, here’s another well-researched documentary book: Christopher Shaw’s Five-Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, 2008).

To sum up: greed, bald-faced lies, cheating, abuse of taxpayer money for private gain, turning blind eyes on all kinds of human rights abuses while awarding the games to the worst of dictators and authoritarian governments, the list is almost endless, and it keeps getting longer with each passing day.

A sampling: the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Not only is the event taking place in a region whose ownership is under violent dispute (and has been for a couple of centuries), thus sending costs for security skyrocketing. That would be peanuts compared to the fact staging of the Games in Sochi cost at least $51 billion (all amounts in U.S. currency). For comparison: not only has it exceeded the budgeted amount five-fold, it is also $10 billion more than the Summer Olympic Games of Beijing, China, 2008, and about three times as much as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games of London, England. A note: summer events are somewhat larger than their winter siblings. There are more sports taking place in environments other than on snow or ice. And there are more countries taking part in the summer games, too.

Olympic help? Don’t be funny

All the talk about helping the host communities are bald-faced lies. The number of people displaced because the Olympics take precedence keeps growing with each passing Olympic cycle.

And the environmental concerns are covered just beautifully. Another perfect example: when it seemed snow on the slopes might begin to melt (Sochi is a sub-tropical city, after all), Russian organizers used all kinds of chemicals to accommodate the athletes. HUH? Ever tried to salt your driveway and then push the resulting mix off it all the way on the lawn? No? Try it. Once spring and summer come, there will be no grass in the area where you put contaminated snow.

Olympian supporters keep talking ad nauseam about sports promoting peace.

Here’s a definitive answer: “I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved. It is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused. Anyone who has played even in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe — at any rate for short periods — that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue.

Thus George Orwell in his 1945 The Sporting Spirit. He was commenting on a series of football (soccer to North Americans) matches between the Soviet club Dynamo and several British clubs shortly after the Second World War.

Orwell didn’t mention in his fine commentary that both nations had suffered enormously during the war that was barely over by the time the games were staged, and that the money spent on these events would have been better spent elsewhere. But you do get the point.

Whose money is it, anyway?

Meanwhile, to get back to the here and now, Russian megalomaniacs, obviously, have no issues with starving their nation white. They are staging their games in their traditional Black Sea playground, and the cost be blasted.

Why, by the way, in Sochi? Ah, but that’s simple: because Vladimir Putin loves the place. And because his friends, a.k.a. Russian oligarchs, love the place, too, besides having all kinds of commercial interests there.

But these are NOT the real issues.

The real issues are much more simple. How is it possible that this shameless and scandalous abuse of human curiosity not only still exists, but that it also shows all signs of continuing?

Many will say it’s the good old voyeurism in all of us. Well, they may have a point. After all, history tells us people in the Middle Ages loved attending public executions. In fact, there have been entries in all kinds of chronicles mentioning that women would succumb to the excitement so much they would indulge sexually while the convicted criminal was drawn and quartered.

Yes, but haven’t we moved ahead from the Middle Ages?

No, it seems we haven’t. We only have better means of spreading the nonsense, and there are more of us available (and willing) to watch.

Canada’s CBC television trots out Ron James with his take. He is a comedian but even so, some of his stuff is perfectly unacceptable. Especially when he aligns the Olympic torch and its relay with the ancient Greek games. Not so fast, old boy, not so fast: the entire torch and relay idea comes from Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

And millions of Canadians watch this drivel and come to think of it as gospel.

But, speaking of history, where did the sporting spectacles get those who’d indulged the most in the past? Ancient Greece ended up in ruins whence it hasn’t recovered till now. Good old Romans with their gladiators fell to barbarians before you could say (in proper Latin) Veni, vidi, vici (I went, I saw, I won). The only thing we’ve got to remind ourselves of those glorious times are the ruins of the arenas and the gladiators’ cry (again, in proper Latin): Morituri te salutant, Caesar (Those who are about to die greet you, Emperor). Come to think of it, even the proud Latin language has suffered. It’s the generally accepted language of physicians and some legal terms come from the Roman legal code, too.

But that’s about it.

That was then, this is now.

Dirty deals all over the place

Even if we forget about the criminality of it all, we still ought to be in shock.

Criminality? Absolutely. Organization of bidding for the right to apply for the right to stage the Olympic Games, then the bidding itself, then the construction of venues most of which would be left to decay once the Olympic flame is extinguished, and the actual operation of the event, all of these stages of the process are so riddled with wink-wink, nudge-nudge, I’ll-scratch-your-back-you’ll-scratch-mine shenanigans, it would take scores of forensic accountants to untangle the web. But were it to happen, prisons would be bursting at their seams.

How about the promise British Columbians received? It won’t cost you a penny. Indeed, it’s not costing them a penny. It’s costing them (and the rest of Canadians) billions.

Some of the more moderate critics say they would have no issue with staging such extravaganzas and with entrepreneurs behind them raking in profits as if there’s no tomorrow if only those entrepreneurs invested their own money into it, rather than the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.

Fine, except that’s not how it works. Governments of all political shades (left- or right-wing), linked in one way or another to those who stand to gain, appeal to our patriotism and whatnot, just so we can gape in excitement over feats nobody not on some kind of stimulants would be able to achieve.

Besides, and that’s one of the major points, it’s worse than shocking to see people, some of them well-educated, too, who spend time watching slick marketing shows called Olympic Games coverage. This or that event is brought to you by McDonald’s, official restaurant of the Olympic movement. Now, there’s a symbol of healthy eating for you! And how about Coca-Cola, another major sponsor? We should rather die of thirst than consume their products. But the message we get is perfectly straightforward: look at all these healthy and fit-looking people, performing such incredible feats. They wouldn’t come close if they didn’t drive Chevrolet cars, munching on whatever they call the substitutes for meat at McDonald’s these days, washing it all down with Coke.

Yes, Olympic boosters and most of the participating athletes will say, but then again, Olympic Games is one of the few occasions where the best can compete with the best.

Questionable, at best, this sentiment. Perhaps the only sport in which regular tournaments and world championships do not pit the best against the best is hockey: the best are still in Stanley Cup playoffs when world championships are taking place. Neither the NHL nor the International Hockey Federation (IIHF) would agree to adjust their schedule. Thus, as it is, the Olympics are, indeed, the only chance to see the best playing the best.

Besides, just looking at the most recent games at Sochi, one Canadian speed skater relinquishes his position in a race to another, because that another skater has a better chance of winning. The relinquishee made the team because he had been better at races where Olympic positions were decided. It doesn’t matter that the other guy was generally better at that particular distance. He didn’t earn his spot. If the relinquishee did not give his spot to the other guy, would we have seen the best against the best?

Do these athletes and their supporters have a point?

Not really. Yes, it’s all about competing. In fact, life is a competition, too.

Nobody’s denying professional athletes their existence and their livelihoods. If someone insists they want to see the best so they can take up this or that particular sport and they want to know how to get better at it, fine.

But would that minuscule number sell an arena out? Would these athletes be just as famous if only those keenly interested in taking part themselves came to see them? Here’s the clincher: if ordinary people abstained from watching sports and, instead, indulged themselves, would these athletes be famous enough to help sell products they’ve signed up to help sell?

Ignoring reality

A recent news item mentioned that while some Canadian employers encourage their employees to watch Olympic coverage on television on company time, others ban such entertainment outright.

The story didn’t say so, but its tone suggested its writer was surprised that anyone can be Grinch enough to deny their employees such an opportunity.

That the cruel employers might have felt they’re paying their employees to show up at work on time and do their jobs, providing services or manufacturing products that they can sell, using that income to pay their employees, that, it seems, never crossed that writer’s mind.

But that’s nothing compared to the following story: years ago, in 1972, the British film director John Schlesinger (Far From the Madding Crowd, Midnight Cowboy, The Marathon Man, etc.) was invited to join a group of outstanding filmmakers to help make a movie about the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. The film was called Seen by Eight, and Schlesinger chose to concentrate on the marathon.

Just as he was getting ready to tell his camera guys to start their equipment rolling, Arab terrorists attacked the athletic village. A pitched battle took place. It would cost several Israeli athletes their lives, and the terrorists would pay dearly, with their lives, too. Schlesinger asked the athlete he was about to film what he thought of the events. The answer was telling: the athlete has never thought about the tragedy, he told Schlesinger, and he meant it. If he did think about it, he wouldn’t be able to compete.

That, by the way, was that athlete’s own explanation.

And that about sums it all up.

Top-notch athletes, Olympians and sundry champions, world or otherwise, live in an artificial bubble. And humankind is moronic enough to not only watch them living in that artificial bubble, but to get exercised about watching them living there, to boot.

This is called terminal stupidity.

And most of us are stupid enough to cheer and laugh about it.

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One thought on “Olympic voyeurism drags humans to an incredible low

  1. Werner February 17, 2014 at 03:17 Reply

    Peter.my thinking is in line with yours. I haven’t been watching any of the events taking place, lately. Over the past years I had the pleasure of increasing my, or widening my knowledge in various sport events. You said it all so very well. Nothing to add.
    Werner

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