Friday, August 03, 2012

Olympic Soapbox

Ahhh Japan. What a country it is. Beautiful mountains everywhere you go, a land that's constantly shifting and moving. Open to the elements, resolute as well. And it needs to be at times! Think of what this country has survived in the past 70 years. It's darned impressive!
Then the curiosities. Last week I saw a man pedalling around on his bike in his dressing gown with a cigarette in his mouth. Bikes cross the roads, use the footpaths and often can be found riding on the right-hand side of the road too. They're a law unto themselves. BUT try to organise something like a money transfer and every little thing has to be perfect! Cross you i's and dot your t's. Hmmm wait no..... Anything involving a form generally also involves a team of people looking at it and working out exactly what should be done. It's paperwork galore here. I'm trying to hire a room. It doesn't have a dvd but it does have a video player. Yet go shopping for electronics and you can ONLY find the absolute latest models. Contradictions galore!
On Sunday I head off to Yamagata-ken, starting a slow, west coast journey before swinging back to Yokohama. It hopefully will make for some good blogs. But today I thought I would depart from standard blogging and get all opinionated!

The Olympics. I'm not a huge fan to be honest. I really like the idea of all nations getting together - I think that's fantastic. But this year especially I think in Australia we are seeing what I don't like about the games.
Last I looked Australia, after four days, had won 13 medals, but only one gold. The media and public are going nuts about it. It's not good enough apparently! I read an article about how the athletes were only concerned about partying, having a good time. FOR SHAME! If we don't win enough gold medals the country will dissolve I expect. The British press were on the back of their team even more after a very bad start for the first three days, it has since improved.
After kicking up such a fuss, The Age (a Melbourne newspaper) also printed an article about how the sportsmen were bad losers. Huh? That's the pot calling the kettle black ain't it? Who's at fault for these 'not quite as good as we hoped' results? For pete's sake.....
This is a world celebration. Let's remember this. We can all get together for two weeks and in that time blow no-one's heads off. Speaking of which things are very bad in Syria right now, but that's hardly as important as Emily Seebolm only getting silver is it?

What is swimming anyway? I went swimming four times this week. No-one gave me a medal. Is it a personal validation for being able to go .001 of a second faster over 100 metres? Are you a worthwhile human being now? Don't get me wrong, people like Michael Phelps are amazing athletes. Of course they are. I just don't understand the obsession with being faster than other people. And then one person in the whole bloody world is faster than you and you are a failure? What? It makes no sense to me at all.

Then you have the fact of such an uneven playing field. If we can learn anything from the cold war it's that money makes all the difference when it comes to taking a good athlete and making them the best. For decades the USSR and USA spent fortunes so that as countries they could feel validated that they took the most gold medals home. What sort of priority is this? Are the populations so secretly insecure. Now China is in on the act. This time the UK is too, but they are hosting and maybe next time it will be less so.

Who remembers Eric the Eel? Eric the Eel was a swimmer from the small country of Equatorial Guinea in West Africa at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He had to swim his heat on his own because the other two swimmers in it were disqualified after false starts. Eric swam and swam and swam. He'd never even been in a pool until he arrived in Sydney! He broke the Equatorial Guinea record. The crowd went wild cheering this guy going a lot slower than most other swimmers, on his own, from a country I doubt they could find on a map. Now THAT was a fine Olympic moment in my mind. Not the US dreamteam winning the basketball.

There are so many athletes there with probably amazing stories but if they don't come from Australia, the USA or the UK we won't hear about them. Especially if they don't win anything. People from every country on Earth in one place, and every country's broadcast is only concerned with their country's performance. It's only natural you say. Well then what is the Olympics about? People coming together in celebration, or a whole bunch of athletes just wanting to win? And if it is the later, maybe that's okay. I don't know. But it seems countries - like Australia - throw money at any athlete with a chance to medal.
Then ask yourself. Is that a good way to spend your money? The world ain't in the best economic shape right now. Governments get criticised for spending too much money on international aid. I know the Australian opposition would cut it back if in power. Never heard it suggest cutting back money for sports training.
I'm not anti-sport, every so called 'developed' country does it. Look at China today. Didn't win a huge amount prior to the Beijing Games, now they lead the table because the government decided to put the money there. It makes a huge difference.

So that's the world today. That's how we rate achievements. Winning an Olympic medal is something to be very proud of. Not just for the athlete, but for the patriot in his arm chair.
Wouldn't it be nice to be proud of saying 'my country sent money to Bangladesh and helped out a village destroyed by floods rebuild. Gave it water to drink, built homes, repaired the road so they could get medical supplies.

Why do we feel more proud about an athlete, given an almighty leg-up to win a gold medal, than THAT?

sorry for the soapbox thing. Normal service will be resumed as of next blog.

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