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Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Olympic Spectacle

So I must admit, as an athlete I have always loved the Olympics. It has always seemed like the universal standard for athletic achievement. To be an Olympian, to walk out during the opening ceremony, to stand on the medal podium, to hear your country’s national anthem – the pride that everyone in your country and in your heart must feel at that victorious moment. Years of hard work, pain, long hours pushing your body and mind. The pinnacle of an athlete’s achievement.

However, there is one thing that has begun to dampen the spirit of it all for me. A realization that the event is really about nothing but blatant nationalism. That is all but what the Olympics have become, especially on the larger scale. It is just another way for a country to exert its national ‘superiority’ (or inferiority). Athletes and the national public simply focus on national pride and root for their countrymen. All this does is reinforce a nationalistic vision of our lives (which of course those in power have no problem with). When even our entertainment and leisure activities are based upon one area of land being ‘better’ or ‘more important’ than another, we as a society are moving in the wrong direction.

I understand that it might be tough to put together any representation scenario that would not instill this same type of stigmatization, and/or whether people would take so much pride or watch so fervently. But I think it’s worth thinking about this. Our lives are designed to keep our focuses on certain things and in certain directions. If our whole gaze is ‘supposed’ to be on our own country/local piece of land, than we won’t spend money or use resources in other places, we won’t force our politicians and companies to spend money in these places or take those places into proper account. We are taught to view other countries and their athletes as our foes – even on a leisure level. Competition may make us ‘better’, but it also makes us see others as adversaries, and is the precursor to conflict. If we are taught to only care about the local, then why would we care about the global or force anyone else to care about the global?

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