Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Inappropriate is that??

The other night we watched the opening of the Olympic Games. If I had been alone, I would not have turned on the TV because I have such ambivalent feelings about holding the Games in China. My ambivalence gave way to out and out disgust the longer the ceremony went on. Granted, it was beautiful. The costumes, music and dance were gorgeous. That opening sequence with the LED screen and the dancers painting with their bodies was spine-tingling. And all that.

My problem with the whole thing was that China is a country that can't feed its people and yet it spent what must have been billions on constructing the Olympic Village and putting on that (too) spectacular opening ceremony. I understand that China viewed this as its "coming out" party and it wanted to show the world the best China has to offer. Okay. But, it seemed to be a bit excessive. Then again, looking at the pictures around Beijing during the bicycle race, it occurred to me that perhaps Chinese culture, or at least Chinese architecture, tends toward excess.

Anyway I have a bad taste in my mouth about China, dating back to the Cultural Revolution [I may be a liberal wacko, but I'm also not a fan of Communism], so perhaps I was predisposed to being a little averse to the athletes of the world making a pilgrimage to the Heart of Darkness. It seems to me that when the IOC has to get involved to persuade a country to unblock the Internet so the athletes can use it, something is wrong! And let's not even get into the business about China forbidding its people to drive cars during the Games to alleviate the air pollution (or the danger to the athletes from said pollution which still looks pretty bad just from the video).

That said, the Olympics are in Beijing and I'll just have to deal with it. I was all set to watch the drama over the next couple of weeks. I root for the USA, but I also root for the Underdogs. I like the countries who only have one or two athletes who overcame adversity to be there. I'm a sucker for that kind of story.

So there I am, sitting in my living room watching the opening ceremony and trying to build up some enthusiasm for this Event, when the cameras start panning around the arena. There's President and Mrs. Bush ... President Sarkosy (sans Mme. Sarkosy, I noticed) ... President Putin ...

WTF???? What the hell were a bunch of heads of state doing at the opening of the Olympic Games?? This is supposed to be a non-political, non-sectarian gathering of the world's greatest athletes [yeah, I know there's that Dream World thing again]. I can see the wife of a head of state or some junior official or cultural attache attending, but the presidents? That struck me inappropriate on many levels.

First of all, while we know the Olympics are highly political, I at least like it when everybody pretends that this is merely a sports event and an opportunity for the young people of the world to get to know each other, and, thereby, foster cultural understanding and yada yada. Having heads of state in attendance robbed it of event the pretence of it being merely a sporting event.

To make matters even worse, some of the countries whose presidents were in attendance (i. e. the United States of America and Russia to name two) are at war right now in various parts of the world. If I'm some poor grunt American or Russian soldier in Iraq, Afghanistan or Georgia and I happen to have a moment to glance at the news, I want to see my president sitting at his desk trying to figure out how to get me the fuck home. I do not want to see him half way around the world from his desk, watching a sporting event!

But that could just be me.

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