Early this morning, the Beijing National Stadium played host to the 300 million $ opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. 91000 attendees and surely billions watching at home, outside the US of course, with NBC continuing there tradition of pretending the games always happen at primetime, where witness to a fantastic light show, and the classic parade of nations. Being held in the worlds largest country, these Olympics should go down as one of the biggest ever, then why dont i and many others dont care?
1. Politics? No politics here...
During the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Hitler wanted to use the games as a showcase of the superiority of the white "race", yet he was forced to eat crow as Jesse Owens stole the show by winning 4 gold medals, including the prized 100m dash. Mexico City, in 1968, was the scene of another great Olympic moment as Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium with lowered heads and raised black-gloved fists in symbol of the American Civil Rights movement. The 72 games in Munich will always go down in infamy not as the year Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals, but as the Munich Massacre as terrorists stormed the Village and killed 11 Israeli athletes.
China has become a legitimate contender to being considered the second Superpower in this world, behind the United States. It has done this in part by being an oppressive commuist regime, shutting down protesters who dare talk against the government. With Tibet and the Sudan Genocide being news stories this past year, the Olympics would have been a good ground to show defiance, but the Organising Committee, Chinese Government, and the Olympic Organisation have sworn to punish any descent during these games.
2. Drugs are rampant
In the past year, Baseball has been rocked by the Mitchell Report, Floyd Landis finally exhausted his appeals, the Tour de France was once again rocked by drug scandals, and Marion Jones confessed to being a cheat. In the 2004 games in Athens, Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou where famously expulsed from the Olympics by staging an accident to avoid a drug test, in Sydney almst a fourth of the medalists in weightlifting were stripped of medals, and in 1988 the beginning of the Modern Steroid Era began with Ben Johnson being kicked out of the games.
The Olympic are suppose to be a spectacle of the greatest amateur athletes in the world, when in fact these days it has become a spectacle of how far science can take a humans body, be it by illicit performance-enhancing drugs to space age swimsuits. How are we as parents, to allow our children to idolise cheaters.
3. Amateur athlete? Where?
Michael Phelps stands to make 1 million $ from Speedo if he equals Spitz's record haul of 7 Gold Medals in Beijing. The American mens Basketball team makes close to 200 million a year combined in endorsements and contracts, sprinters like Rudy Gay and Usain Bolt are major stars in Europe, while divers like Alexandre Despatie are revered as gods in China.
As stated in the previous paragraphs, the Olympics used to be a show of the worlds greatest amateur athletes, when now it has become nothing more then a chance for athletes to polish there international marketing appeal. Sure the lesser known sports like wrestling, fencing and pentathlon still field mostly amateurs, the meal ticket events included only rich professional athletes.
4. The 2008 Coca-Cola Olympic games
In 1976, Montreal hosted the Olympic summer games and suffered a $1.5 Billion deficit, while in Athens 28 years later, the comittee scored a 130 million euro surplus. You cannot put on NBC during the Olympics without spending half your time watching sponsors such as McDonalds show sappy commercials of how there product is so much like the Olympics.
Two weeks of friendly sporting events between nations, regardless of conflicts, has become a two week long commercial for multi-national corporations.
Should we care?
Regardless of what happens, we will still wake up early in the morning to see how our country has fared in the medal counts, to see if an athlete crushed world records, to feel that the world is not such a bad place, even if in the back of our minds we know that the show we are watching on our televisions is not what it used to be.