On August 12, after the Spice Girls reunite to close the London Olympics, televisions around the globe will go dark for a while, then spring back to life to showcase more sports mania, reality shows highlighting addiction, infidelity, weight gain and loss, and the endless talking heads reminding viewers of what they already know about the lousy state if the world economy. For “entertainment,” many will try to convince themselves that America [really has] Got Talent while couch potatoes fantasize that they are Dancing with the Stars.
Since the opening of the spectacular London games, however, even those who usually ignore sports admit to occasional eavesdropping on “the games.” Here in Rhode Island, young swimming great Elizabeth Beisel has captured Southern New England’s heart and mind and we are not ashamed to say so. Hundreds of her friends and fans have crammed beachside eateries and bars to watch her win a silver and a bronze medal so far (while local fire marshals have probably turned a blind eye to the capacity limits of those establishments.)
Having visited Olympia in Greece where the games were originally played by the Hellenic gang that gave us this phenomenon, I cannot help but wonder what they—and the gods they were trying to please—would think of what is being offered up today. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine some of the 2012 events taking place on what is now a pile of marble rocks on a huge field where once naked male athletes competed for wreaths to mark their victories. (That’s right—naked—so Italian swimmer Flavia Zoccari need not have wept when she had a “costume malfunction.” Her bare butt was, in fact, more in keeping with Olympic tradition than the jump suits today’s swimmers wear in some races.)
There were no MacDonald concessions, no competing TV camera crews jostling for the best photo op and certainly no digital timers to document the real-time accuracy of close races. There were also no badminton, beach volleyball, basketball or kayaking events under the blazing Greek sun.
Instead, athletes competed in purer shows of athletic prowess—running, jumping, hurling a javelin, throwing a discus, wrestling and the like. One cannot resist the temptation to wonder, “What would Zeus say?” about today’s events and games where urine tests for drug use and speculation about who may be gay are a routine part of the scene. (Hera would probably smile at the female athlete majority, however.)
I celebrate all Olympic athletes and the rise of women in the games. Whatever their gender, color, creed or sexual preference, these contenders deserve our respect for their dedication, discipline and focus. Team USA is also giving its countrymen and women new reasons to be proud in an era when— too often —respect for our nation is fading globally.
Still the question eats away in the minds of some as to what is a “real” sport deserving of Olympic attention and what is not. If the games start to look more like America’s Got Talent, then we should all take a good hard look at what the Greek founders originally intended and rein in some of our 24/7/365 coverage needs to include anything that vaguely resembles “sport.”
Until then, don’t miss the tatting and lumberjack events —only kidding.
(photo: www.thedailytelegraph.au )
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