Apr. 7, 2008

Flickering Flame

When I was a teenager in the seventies, swimming with one of Canada's top teams, the Olympics had a lot of relevance to me. I knew people who had qualified and there had even been a remote chance that I could make the cut myself. But the Olympics haven't aged very well...

The IOC has long struck me as largely a collection of corrupt self-interested politicians, in some cases "reformed" fascists, with every host city selection seeming to be a back-room deal. The IOC's decisions seem to be made in the interests of the bureaucracy, not the athletes, and are often breathtakingly hypocritical. The expense of hosting the Games is massive, frequently with serious and negative consequences for ordinary citizens.

Part of me thinks the whole mess should go back to naked men wrestling in the sand. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

When Beijing was "awarded" the 2008 Summer Games, my doubts were redoubled. China strikes me as a ruthless and deeply regimented society, the opposite of the alleged Olympic political and environmental ideals. Watching the latest round of political repression in Tibet and reading about China's attempt to momentarily reduce pollution during the coming Games brought home to me how the IOC had betrayed the athletes it professes to exalt. Now every ceremonial event has become a flash-point for protest, and the symbolic Olympic flame has actually been extinguished several times already along its route to Beijing.

The "Olympic ideal" is going to face six months of critical scrutiny and intense political protest. This is probably an excellent thing, but it leaves me thinking of the athletes who have dedicated years of their lives to compete at these Games. Personally, I'm torn over my own response. I want to boycott the entire business, but want to recognise and see the legitimate athletic competition, particularly the swimming and triathlon events. I may weaken and only refuse to watch the opening and closing ceremonies. I would also support the athletic events if the Canadian contingent refused to attend the ceremonies.

Moving on to other controversial international sports, I watched the Bahrain Grand Prix last night. A good result for Ferrari, starting second and fourth but finishing first and second. BMW did well, with Robert Kubica on his first ever pole position and a third place finish. McLaren struggled, with Hamilton nearly stalling at the start, dropping back from third to tenth. A collision with his past team mate Alonso dropped Hamilton even further back. An interesting race on an excellent track.

All that is a bit overshadowed by some off-track developments. Max Mosley, President of the FIA has been at the center of a sex scandal involving a "nazi-style orgy in a torture dungeon"! Max's position seems to be "none of your business" but I don't that's likely to stick...

Listening to: Blue Sky Mine by Midnight Oil from Blue Sky Mining.

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