It's entirely predictable that the Olympics have become mostly about politics. In fact, it seems to me they've become a touchstone for who we are.
To take four (maybe five) nations, it seems clear the Olympics tell us a lot.
China's been face-spending from the start (normally they try and save face - this time they're spending it). All the chicanery with the opening ceremony (something I never, ever watch but heard about this time), and all the kerfuffles about their gymnasts, speak volumes about the nature of the Dragon, weaving a spell of invincibility through aggressive trickery.
Then there's Russia- who simply aren't trying to win the Olympics, but find them convenient for invading other people's lands. A country who've had enough lean times to know you can't eat, drink and be merry on old Gold medals from fixed events past.
The USA meanwhile, are taking it easy while sizing up the Bear. Not straining to beat the little yellow people they are just strolling along through the endeavours of their nuclear threat (Phelps) and their excellent missile defense (the entire basketball team). The trickery of the Chinese doesn't bother them none (well, they're not admitting it), and they can see that the Chinese mainly do well when there are judges involved in awarding medals.
Just a little aside now to look at the Australians. As ever their culture is defined by the glance sideways at Britain- and they never get much beyond that; part envious, part contemptuous, part lustful, part (maybe) affectionate.
Finally the Brits. It's golden time for the British competitors. Evidently we concentrated out lottery cash and made it worth people's while to stay in training continuously. And then the advertising revenue follows... But somehow it gives me only that instinctive pleasure I get from British success in anything, and sporting success from anyone, combined. Pleasurable yes, but... it's this hilarious success built on gambling which is so unreal. Truth be told, not many countries sail wondrous varieties of boats, or row in crews, or invest in all the cycling gear, or care about the Olympics the way we do. Not that it's wrong- it's actually good. Yet to build self-esteem on this flimsy and fake international festival seems to be so much bullshit. Is it me, or do things seem to be falling apart? The center apparently is partying in Peking, and cannot hold. The Russians are in Georgia, the Taliban is rising, the Pakistanis revolting, the economies on which we are founded dissolving in debt. Only Iraq is good- and they were nearly banned.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008