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Our modern Olympics

Written By: - Date published: 7:46 am, July 26th, 2021 - 7 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Japan, sport - Tags:

The Olympics is an opera that runs on one orchestrated symbol after another, and this Tokyo Olympics is a superabundant tragedy.

From the earliest edges of each person’s living memory, we can pull out moments where ‘our’ person won against all the odds, and for deep inchoate limbic reasons it means we collectively shone a little brighter, dreamed a little grander, affirm that we belonged to our country a little more than we did before seeing what we saw.

That’s still there, in the same way a dim star still pulses its flicker for us in the early morning sky.

For a tiny country such as ourselves, our gold medal successes are rare and feature in our collective being as a kind of national surprise that we are more capable and competent than we expected. The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, for example, in which Ian Ferguson and Paul McDonald won multiple golds between them, became an important bookend of a long social crisis and economic depression in New Zealand. From the stasis of Muldoonism into the chaos and change and social revolution of the Lange Government, the 1984 Olympics were by a long gumboot throw our most successful Olympics.

Each little specialisation gets us cheering for the weirdest stuff like we knew it all along as a cosmic inevitability of our collective greatness. Like the gold in the individual mixed horse eventing. I mean WTF. But it was a gold and the horse’s name was Charisma, so in your eye cynics.

People work their lives to the bone over years to achieve such a moment.

Some  such moments can still ring through history as a little shining bell of idealism.

But it’s getting harder. Since 1984, the number of events held at the Summer Olympics has increased by 50%, the number of athletes and countries participating has nearly doubled, and the number of people needing to operate the games has tripled. The London Olympics, where more than 10,000 athletes competed, required a support staff of 350,000 people.

The London Olympics were also intentionally organised to develop East London, and it has as planned left a massive legacy of regeneration in its wake.

Because the Queen and James Bond are English confections of one fiction over another, the global public got to understand them as simply a core of Englishness when rolled down the red carpet simultaneously.

Who knows what triumph of the patriotic imagination will explode in Brisbane as it plans to revive itself in 2032.

The Olympics are events that accelerate not only athletes and teams, but also whole cities and countries together.

The Beijing Olympics will certainly be remembered as an expression of collective will, as massed calisthenics are intended …

Somewhere the whole thing has started to slide away, however, with not all hosts capable of generating this collective event also able to promote the core ideals of the Olympics of promoting world peace and basic human rights through sport. It would be difficult to make the argument that Vladimir Putin’s Russia was a good site to host the Winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi. The 2022 winter games in Beijing and the Hebei Province will be held within the increasingly repressive regime of Xi Jinping. The alternative in that bidding was Kasakhstan, no shining torch of woke joy itself.

Perhaps, like the America’s Cup, the summer Olympics will finally eat itself like a kind of Akira moment …

and get supplanted by the stripped back version in Sail GP.

Perhaps each of the sports needs to just go on the road and be a permanent circuit like a jacked-up Diamond League. Forget the one-city-one-time approach.

But the Brisbane win is about as perfect a global signal of reward that Australia is one of the richest and most successful nations on earth and one of a handful who has managed the 2020-2021 pandemic very well. Some, like the Athens games, don’t age quite so well, shall we say.

But for this pandemic year of death and mayhem, for each participant nation these Tokyo Olympics are unlikely to be read as tragedy. Or farce. Or comedy.

They will remain their greatest moment.

Even if nation-states that held modern Olympics fall finally like ancient Ur …

and this current century is the apogee of human development after which thermodynamic decline really kicks in,

even if future archaeologists will try to figure out the use of Mark Todd’s top hat in New Zealand culture like it had a function in Gobekle Tepe …

the Olympics is the thing we get to project all kinds of human hope and common development upon like the greatest screen of our projected imagination we’ve ever invented. Which, if it hadn’t been invented already, it would need to be.

7 comments on “Our modern Olympics ”

  1. Ad 1

    Bronze in the Triathalon!

  2. Sanctuary 2

    Ratings are down 33% for the Olympics in the USA. I don’t know if anyone is that interested at the moment.

    Ratings for all professional sports have been in decline for a while now, and the Olympics are no exception. In the US in particular the decline has been precipitous since the onset of covid. The drop in viewership is being led by young people, who express almost zero interest in watching paywalled professional sport.

    I guess rugby is a microcosm of this. I am old enough to remember when rugby was basically the only winter sport, and my high school of 450 or so boys fielded 15+ rugby teams of well drilled but variable quality young men every weekend in winter. We also had two soccer teams for the suspiciously different and the occasional hold outs with British parents (we also a hockey team which for some reason was where the toughest kids went to be suitably armed and trained for their future lives of crime). It was basically opt out only if you had a note from the Queen. We were coached by teachers on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school and parents provided oranges and zambuks to bear those rendered hors de combat from the field of battle (I'll never forget a huge fifth form post match punch up against a grudge opponent, the parents of both sides discretely withdrew to the other side of the schools buildings whilst we blew off some testosterone fuelled steam before coming to collect their kids and furiously telling us all off).

    The point was we all played the game and developed an esprit de corps of a shared experience, which even if you hated it gave you a point of reference for later life and an interest in watching it on the telly (which was free to air in those days).

    Nowadays kids are discouraged from team sports unless they can contribute to the schools elite program and anyway, their parents are terrified they'll get hurt and would much prefer taking their time getting them to maths crammer class at an after school education centre than taking them to rugby practice, and anyway no one wants to be part of a shared team experience it's all about individuality.

    So people who have never participated in rugby, or watched in played on TV cos it is behind a paywall have no interest in it. No surprise there.

    The same experience, IMHO is happening everywhere to pro sports. Expensive to watch and watched mainly by an aging audience. Professional sport everywhere is now eating itself.

    • tc 2.1

      Good points along with alot more of every sport available now to watch and annual champs in everything devalues the 4 yearly held Olympics.

      The IOC have devalued it themselves with extra activities like skateboarding, golf, dancing soon etc and nationally backed drugging regimes they do SFA about.

      Then there's the jingoistic talking heads making inane comments and chewing up the airtime rather than showing the actual competitors doing what they've sacrificed years to do.

  3. woodart 3

    modern olympics stand or fall on sponsors $$. this olympics are destined to be a huge financial white elephant for most of those sponsors. much like the recent america's cup. its interesting to see how hard mainstream media are pushing the olympics. most people I know arent interested, so the question I ask is, does media reflect the populations interests, or does media reflect sponsors interests, and try to sway population to be interested?(I already know the answer). knew an american woman who worked for socog(sydney olympics) and it was illuminating to see how the games were an american corporate marketing exercise, with some sport thrown in. most of the paid employees were americans who moved around the planet , living the good life .

    • tc 3.1

      Nailed it. Follow the money as always and enjoy the laughs John Clarke created at socog's expense with his 'The games' comedy.

      Worth a re-watch, ran here in 2007 as part of TVNZ6 launch…remember that channel ?

  4. Follow the money, if you do not think the IOC is corrupt (extremely).

    Find the money trail (good luck).

    Sport is sport, that is playing competitively for fun and enjoyment.

    I happily contribute to local community recreational groups.

    The olympic games are a non event.

    Unfortunately our (as usual) fawning media think otherwise, sigh. (Oh I forgot the fearless defenders of democracy ALSO sell advertising space

    We adore watching professional physical performers.

    It is hollywood on steroids.

    Watching porn, watching sport, what is the difference? OK, OK. It is all physical activity.

    The og promote international rivalry. Is that a good thing?

  5. Sabine 5

    give the people some bread and some circus entertainment and they care little that rome is burning. Or something to that tune.

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