Just As I Thought

We slipped past 1984 without a whimper

Do you think this year’s Olympics is the beginning of the end for that sporting tradition? I can’t help but wonder what bizarre set of circumstances led the IOC to actually pick a totalitarian regime to host the games, knowing — as they had to know — that controversy, protest and the like were bound to follow. On top of this, you’d have expected them to be realistic. The huge sums of money and prestige involved with hosting the games were not likely to make China straighten up and fly right as far as human rights go; any reasonable person would have expected China to crack down even more on its citizens, forcing them into yet more slave-style labor; bulldozing them and their homes under to try to put on a veneer for the world.
The IOC’s response is that the Olympics are not political, which is particularly demented of them considering that it involves most nations around the world. “Think of the athletes!” they cry. In fact, the athletes are simply the expendable cast members of a huge ensemble television show.
What the Olympics are really about, and I’m sure that everyone agrees these days, is advertising. Pure and simple.
The reason the IOC sues anyone who uses the word “Olympics” or the rings is because they are worth big money, licensing those trademarks to advertisers for big fat exclusive fees. And the fact that this year’s games take place in China is just another example of how we are willing to look the other way when there is cheap crap to be had at Wal-Mart. And with the vast numbers of corporate sponsors, it’s pretty much impossible to boycott them all. I mean, even Steven Spielberg was signed up one of the producers of the opening ceremonies. He pulled out recently, but not because of China’s treatment of its own citizens. He did it because China wasn’t doing enough to end suffering in Sudan.
And we are?
I’m certain that some people still believe that this is all being done with the best of intentions — that we are somehow helping the Chinese people by purchasing their $5 DVD players. That’s been the argument all along, but is there any evidence of change for the better other than the emergence of a wealthy Chinese upper class, who nonetheless are good party members and who still can’t read news on the internet?
Watching today’s protests in London around the torch relay was striking. As I watched Konnie Huq carry the torch and have it almost snatched from her, I noticed that she was surrounded by a phalanx of Chinese “flame attendants”. Of course, we live in an era of euphemism and misdirection; it certainly seemed to be that she was surrounded by the same kind of Chinese police that one sees in any footage of Chinese crackdowns. We’ve seen the same scene in all those sci-fi movies that predict a dark future; the innocent presumed collaborator surrounded by guards while the populace screams and protests.
But this time, it’s real. And this is the world we’re living in now. Once again, the sci-fi writers were correct.

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