Posted by: haro1d
We’re now well into the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and we’re deep into the groove of events. Medals are being won and lost, international goodwill is being fostered and the announcers are as annoying as ever.
These Olympics have made their impression in numerous ways — some expected, some not. Take those undeniably awe-inspiring opening ceremonies. We knew that China was going to pull out all of the stops for this particular event, that it was going to be massive in scale and scope, and that we could expect a message from it, as the opportunity would be far too big for the Chinese government to miss.
In the days following the opening ceremonies, what I consistently heard from people who had watched them was that they found it impressive, but also a little scary — and that they felt that that fear was deliberately programmed into the proceedings. To my thinking, this was a natural response to seeing 15,000 people drumming in unison as the event featured. There’s something about drumming that’s primal, of course, but when you have large numbers of people pounding out the same rhythm on skins, the effect becomes equal parts savage and military, a combination that’s bound to strike a chord of fear in any observer. Overall, the statement could not have been clearer: We are China — we are huge, and we are the future. I think they said it very succinctly.
There was no way that politics possibly could have been removed from these Olympic Games in particular, but if there’s been anything that’s been disappointing to see, it’s been how easily NBC (and subsequently, the American media at large) has been so consistently focused on contrasting the successes of China versus the U.S. It hasn’t been meanspirited, of course, but it’s not what we’d call a friendly, sporting rivalry, either. “China in lane two, trying their best to pull out a victory over the U.S.” — yes, and so are six other nations, some of them successful a good percentage of the time.
What’s most discouraging out of everything, though, isn’t even what’s going on in Beijing, but what’s happening between Georgia and Russia. Of course, it isn’t the first time the Olympics have taken place in front of a backdrop of international bloodshed, and it won’t be the last. In 1992, Sarajevo — home to the 1984 Winter Olympics — had become a war zone and the site of one of the darkest chapters in 20th-century history as the torch was being lit in Lillehammer. But as tempting as it is to point to the Games and say that it doesn’t make a difference, think about this: The first modern Olympics was held in 1896, and they’ve been held more or less consistently ever since. It’s very unlikely that anyone living in the world can truly remember a time at which they weren’t around, illustrating the underlying humanity that tramples the borders between nations and transcends political strife as easily and often as it punctuates it. Try to imagine a world without them.