Every two years, like clockwork, the same thing happens. Two weeks are set aside for a bunch of people from around the world to gather in one city, chosen seven years before the event actually takes place, and compete in a series of athletic events. Because…why the fuck not?
The Olympics have their history set in ancient Greece, where athletes from the various city-states would gather in Olympia to compete in a series of events every Olympiad (a period of four years) and all hostilities would cease during this time so all the athletes could safely gather. The games were held in honor of the Olympic Gods, and it symbolized the fact that no matter what, Greece was one land, united. They had their internal strifes, but it was still one land. These games ended when Olympia was destroyed by an earthquake, and such a good time to do so. At that point you’re like, yeeeah-fuck it.
Anyway, today’s Olympics represent only inefficiency and in some cases, stupidity. Starting with the torch run, which has always been a load of crap. It began in ancient Greek days, symbolizing the theft of fire by Prometheus, who ended up getting his eyes plucked out for all eternity because of it but they always omit that part.
The modern torch run started during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, you know, the one that was run by the Nazis. Such a good idea by the way. The torch run begins with the lighting at what’s left of the Temple of Hera, at what used to be Olympia, Greece, using a parabolic reflector. Ingenious! But it’s important to note why the torch was lit in Olympia during the days of Ancient Greece, because the games were held in Olympia! The torch really did not have far to go.
Now a days, since the flame has to get from Athens to whatever city they decide to host the games, there is a massive relay planned with a metric shit-ton of security and redundancy. Olympic officials keep a constant eye on the flame as it goes across the land, primarily on foot, and in case it goes out, they have at least two or three extra flames ready to go as backup. But of course the flame needs to get to the games safely. Ignore the fact that it’s just a simple flame that could be easily reproduced by a cigarette lighter. Now as you may or may not know the 2004 Games took place in Athens. A hop, skip and a jump away from where the flame was lit, so you would have expected the 2004 relay to be the shortest in Olympic history, and you would be right, if the IOC wasn’t full of idiots. They had the bright idea to circumnavigate the fucking planet. Look at this route:
Were they insane!? I gotta imagine that the only thing they were thinking was: “How can we make this event as inefficient as possible.” Now in the end, the relay worked out and there were no major incidents, people actually liked the idea; in spite of the fact they were probably taking the local police away from, you know, doing their jobs. So the IOC had the even more brilliant idea to do it again for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. You know Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, well known as a communist dictatorship that oppresses their citizens by censoring the Internet, imprisoning dissenters and protesters, and threatening the nearby island of Taiwan (ruled by the Republic of China, what’s left of China’s old government). Oh yeah! That was a great idea. The torch was met with protesters at every venue. It was actually kind of sad, I mean the Olympics are supposed to be apolitical, put it away for one day.
Then there is the torch itself. Every Olympics has a unique torch design that, in recent years, has been designed by a firm in the host country, and each design has been a monument of technological advancement. The most recent torch design even has a backup flame stored within it, in case the primary flame goes out the backup flame relights it. Now if only we devoted the same amount of energy to, oh…I don’t know, curing cancer…or AIDS…and you know we still don’t have a warp drive. Then, after it’s designed, it needs to be manufactured, up to 15,000 times. You don’t think those resources could go to something more important, like feeding starving children? You know there was an earthquake recently in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere! Maybe donate some money to them instead? No, a symbol has to be maintained, no matter what the cost.
The resources for such an endeavor seem to be unreasonable. Like I said, the Olympic flame can be reproduced using a cigarette lighter. Which is what an Olympic official did once during the 1976 Montreal Olympics when a rainstorm extinguished the flame at the Olympic stadium. The response: organizers doused it again and re-lit it using the official flame like it made any difference. Is there some supernatural spirit embodying the flame? NO! So it doesn’t matter what the flame’s source is.
Then there are the events themselves. Throughout the Olympics, athletes compete in various events. If you watch the events on TV each of the competitors are identified with their home country, and except for the early days of the Olympics, each team for the team-based competitions is required to all be from the same country, and is identified as such. Now why is this? …I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t care that Patrick Chan is Canadian whether he wins or not. I think it’s so the idiot viewers know who to root for, after all, you are required to root for the athletes from your own country for some arbitrary reason, and if they win, your whole country wins…why? The only thing winning Olympic gold means is: you have a larger population. Because let’s face it, if you have a large population you have more people to choose from to compete in the Olympics, meaning there’s a better chance they will be the best. Don’t believe me? In the last Olympics the gold medal count for the top three countries was as follows: China with 51 and a population of a billion, United States with 36 and a population of 300 million, and Russia with 23 and a population of 100 million. It really is arbitrary, and unless it means I win a free cookie or something I really don’t care. McDonald’s tried that once, during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics…yeah, they lost money.
Besides, the definitions of our borders are arbitrary. Ninety per cent of Canada’s population are within 100 miles of the US border, and in my case, I was born less than five miles from the border. If I was born five miles south or at a different time of day when my mom just happened to be in the US…perhaps shopping; I would be an American with shitty health care, and I would have been able to vote in the last election…I’m not sure who for, but that’s irrelevant, and I would be rooting for the American team instead. It’s arbitrary, it always has been.
But my biggest complaint is so simple: It preempts my stories! Because of the Olympics I will need to wait until March to watch V, FlashForward and Stargate Universe. All three are on hiatus right now because they don’t want to compete against the Olympics. BULL SHIT!! All three ended on cliffhangers…kinda…and I want to know what happens next goddammit!!! They are being preempted by a two week sporting event, and to be quite frank I hate all sports. I don’t see the point. A few people compete against each other to win either a cup, or a ring or a medal, and what do we get out of it!? NOTHING! In fact in some cases we lose, either because we waste money on tickets to a hockey game and end up seeing a boxing match, or, in the case of the Olympics, the government spends millions of taxpayer money on these “amateur” athletes so they can focus on their training instead of getting a real job, all so they can earn bragging rights for us, which, again, is ridiculous because it’s not the country that won, it’s someone in the country that won. I never really complained in the past because in Canada they used to air the Olympics on CBC, and I don’t watch CBC. Now it’s on CTV, you know, a good station.
But one thing I do like about the Olympics is that it has always remained apolitical. For two weeks we put aside our politics, disputes and differences for some friendly competition…or at least that’s what’s supposed to happen. The first time the Olympics were politicized was during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Some wanted to boycott it because of the Nazis, however that didn’t happen, then the next two Olympics were canceled because of World War II. So much for putting aside our differences, then again, it was an actual fucking war with people dying, the costs were higher then in ancient Greece. Anyway, then there was the 1980 Olympics which were boycotted by 50 different countries because they were held in Moscow, and this was during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This was followed in 1984 when 14 communist countries boycotted the Los Angeles games, which some believe was in retaliation for the 1980 boycott. Then there is China, who didn’t like Taiwan participating in the Olympics under the name Republic of China, under the ROC flag and with the ROC National Anthem. So they boycotted the games for 28 years!!! Until the IOC had the fantastic idea of restricting the Republic of China from competing in the Olympics under their own name (either ROC or Taiwan), flag or national anthem. So the People’s Republic returned to the Olympics, and Taiwan boycotted the 1980 games out of principle, which I kinda get. They returned for the 1984 Games under the name “Chinese Taipei” flying the flag on the right instead of their actual flag on the left.
Oh yeah, that’s dignified. Thanks a lot China. Speaking of which, when they hosted in 2008, they had the bright idea of trying to get their domestic torch relay through Taiwan (which I keep on calling Thailand for some odd, possibly racist reason). It didn’t happen because the ROC said if they were to participate in the torch relay they wanted to receive the torch from not-China and hand the torch off to another not-China. Probably because they didn’t want to give the PRC any fodder for their “Taiwan is part of China” argument.
Then you got the protesters. AH, the protesters. What would the Olympics be without you? Two years ago it was the human rights violations in China, and I thought you actually had something there, but I really didn’t care. This time, it’s the Royal Bank is sponsoring the Olympics and they also invested in some tar sands projects, which the protesters hate for some reason. Oh yeah, I totally see the connection.
As with most protesters, I don’t know what they are really protesting. What the real issue is. The environment? You talking about Global Warming? Okay, I see where you’re coming from. But unless the Olympic Stadium runs on diesel I don’t see why you are protesting the Olympics. Maybe the athletes should plant some trees, when they aren’t competing, or getting drunk. Make it part of their training regimen. Although I guess I’m being kind of hypocritical, saying they shouldn’t politicize the Olympics when that’s kind of what I’m proposing.
Next, I’d like to complain about semantics. Did you know the term Olympian refers to the Greek gods of Olympus? Yet I continue to hear the athletes who go to the Olympic games referred to as Olympians…sorry, you do not have supernatural powers, you are just a person, mortal and human. Yeah, I know I’m nit-picking.
Next, there are the mascots…which are awesome. The mascot for the 2008 Paralympics was a gay cow! Awesome! They are the only thing I can honestly say I like about the Olympics.
But in spite of all my complaints, I must say: please stop opposing the Olympics! Overall they are a good thing, I just don’t like them personally. Currently, Vancouver is getting a phenomenal amount of tourism and their economy is getting the worlds greatest stimulus package right about now. Their investment of…money…I don’t know…will definitely be returned and then some. Plus they get an iconic stadium out of it for cheap, I just hope it lasts longer than Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Last I heard it was falling apart. They literally don’t make ’em like they used to. I mean it, Berlin’s is still standing. …You know I stand corrected, they actually don’t get an iconic stadium, apparently Vancouver is using one of its old stadiums. But they do get cheap housing in the form of the Olympic Village which currently houses the athletes. All I’m saying is overall, it’s a good thing, and my only real worthwhile complaint is the politicization of the event. So stop it!
Wow, that was cathartic.