You may have gathered that I’ve just been to the dentist. Which I have. And got a filling. Which is by itself not newsworthy (although those dear readers who have been keeping up with this blog will know all about my wisdom teeth drama almost exactly a year ago, which is why it is most definitely not on my list of favourite things to do).
But no, that is not really the main subject of this post. Although it is the catalyst that caused this post to be written. And the event that caused this post to be written was the realization that right now, there is no way to escape the Olympics. Not for me, at least.
I get in the car – and am regaled by commentary of (I think) the Women’s Water Polo match on the radio. I go to the dentist – the Women’s Gymnastics are on the television in the waiting area. I get into the chair and am almost grateful that I’m there, because it means I don’t have to hear or see anything remotely to do with Medal Tallies or how our swimmers are doing in the pool or hear rude remarks about Togo winning a Bronze medal and “does anyone even know where that country is?” (It’s in Africa, you smarmy, condescending idiots!) or inane comments about how all our gold medallists are such “normal girls/boys from ‘insert name of any small Australian town here'” and how great it is that they’re setting such an inspirational example for the youth of our nation. (Yeah, they are, but they’re not normal – not just anyone becomes an Olympian – it takes years of hard work and commitment to get there in the first place – and that goes for ANY Olympian, not just the medallists).
It might seem strange for the daughter of an Olympian to be spouting these thoughts. It might also seem strange that the daughter of an Olympian hasn’t commented on the current Olympics until now and isn’t glued to the television with her mother (the aforementioned Olympian) watching every event unfold. I suppose it is. But my problem isn’t really with the Olympics per se. It’s more with the fact that a symbol of peace and fair play, which the Olympics are, has been handed to the capital city of a country that has an atrocious human rights record and is documented as regularly oppressing, imprisoning (and worse) their own citizens on a fairly regular basis.
I won’t go into the politics and the whys and wherefores of the situation. We all know or have heard the reports that come out of that country. I understand why the IOC thought it was a good idea to give the Olympics to Beijing (and by the way, the Olympics are given to a city, not a country – just to clarify THAT bit of misconception). I just don’t know whether it will achieve what they are hoping it will. It certainly won’t make the Government change their ways. If anything, I suspect they will take it as an endorsement of the way they run things. And let’s not forget, no matter how many trappings of Commercialism are displayed, it’s still a Communist country and so the people really DON’T have a say – no matter how much they may feel inspired to change things. Communist governments just don’t work that way, as history, including China’s history, has already proved.
Putting aside the fact that there are hardly any people attending the events, despite the organizers announcing that they were sold out a week ahead of the Games commencing (which has been put down to a myriad of reasons by Chinese officials – none of which sound plausible – which does make me wonder how true their “100% sold out” statement really was), and that some of the fireworks shown on television for the opening ceremony were actually fake – they were digitally added while the footage beamed out to more than a billion people worldwide – which is kind of ironic, considering that China is the home of the firework.
And moving beyond the controversy surrounding nine year old Lin Miaoke who performed the role of the Chinese equivalent to Nikki Webster (who was the child star of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony) in the Beijing Opening Ceremony (Lin mimed to the stirring rendition of Hymn to the Motherland, which had actually been recorded by another child who was replaced by Lin for the performance because “she wasn’t as pretty and had uneven teeth” – charming), not to mention the questionable refereeing by various Chinese officials that have resulted in Chinese athletes achieving medals in certain sports …
Actually … what am I saying? All of the above perfectly illustrates the point I’m trying to make. The Olympics are supposed to be about transparency, fair play, the HONEST pursuit of excellence and the celebration of the human spirit.
It’s NOT about saving face, how many medals you win and only showing the perfect moments, performances and people.
This is why I’m uncomfortable with the current Olympic coverage and how it’s being presented to the world. It’s proving to be the exact opposite of the Olympic ideal.
And that’s not good for anyone.
I just told my mother what I’d written here and she made a very salient point:
Ultimately, it’s not about the politics. The Olympic Games should be, and usually is, above politics. It is about the athletes. It is about the triumph and the tragedy – the races run, the goals achieved and always doing your personal best, no matter where you place on the day. It’s about celebrating the beauty and the glory of the human spirit. It’s about cheering on the youth of the world who are out there, chasing their dreams on the world stage and inspiring us to be the best we can be as well. While many Olympians do not agree with what’s happened in China, and many have chosen to not be there for the Games (like my mother), when it comes down to it – no matter where it is being held – when that first race or match or swim takes place – from that moment, it’s about the people for whom the Games exist – the athletes.
And I agree with her … in principle. But I still don’t agree with the rest of the world ignoring the much darker side of life in China – just because one of it’s major cities is currently hosting the Olympics.