my complicated relationship with the olympics.

As I’ve said before, I really do love the Olympics. (Kathleen does too.) It’s one of those things that you can’t help but anticipate, even if you’re not a die-hard Olympic fan (which I surely am not). It’s like the Superbowl, or Christmas: whether or not you really care about the event, and even if the event is sort of a letdown because you don’t follow football or your relatives are crazy, it’s still great to look forward to it and then eat lots of appropriately themed foods.

In honor of my excitement for the Opening Ceremonies this Friday, I have proposed a Beer Olympics with my nearest and dearest New Jersey friends. We’ll see if it actually works out. I’ve always wanted to participate in some sort of drinking Olympics, and until now, I’d never gotten the chance. Then again, things like that always sound good in theory, and then are kind of miserable in practice (read: case races). But I digress.

What I wanted to tell you is that things like this MSN slideshow make me even more excited for the Olympics. I mean, who doesn’t get all jazzed about pictures like this:

But then I read articles like Sally Jenkins’ “Partners in Grime” (WashPo), and I get all depressed. In the article, she first talks about the terrible pollution in Beijing, which is so bad that some athletes have even had to drop out of the Games:

Athletes are threatening to skip the Opening Ceremonies because they’re afraid the environment of the host city will sicken them or compromise their medal chances, and distance runner Haile Gebrselassie dropped out of the marathon because the fumes are too heavy for him to run that distance.

How awful is that? Can you imagine waiting FOUR YEARS for your Olympic shot and then not getting to compete because of the polluted air? I would not be happy.

On top of the International Olympic Committee’s disregard for the health of its athletes, it appears the Olympics are just one big money-making scheme, just like everything else in this world. And I guess if I thought about it, I knew that, but it’s so much more fun to pretend that it’s still all about the love of the game (which, hopefully it still is for most of the athletes). Here’s Jenkins’ take:

So what is this Olympics really about? It’s about 12 major corporations and their panting ambitions to tap into China’s 1.3 billion consumers, the world’s third-largest economy. Understand this: The International Olympic Committee is nothing more than a puppet for its corporate “partners,” without whom there would be no Games. These major sponsors pay the IOC’s bills for staging the Olympics to the tune of $7 billion per cycle. Without them, and their designs on the China market, Beijing probably would not have won the right to host the Summer Games.

Plus, there are all sorts of human rights violations going on, with people being jailed unnecessarily and generally treated like crap so that Beijing can “look good” for the Olympics. (And this NY Times article unearths a pretty sad truth: that literal walls are being put up to block homes and shops that aren’t deemed appropriate for Olympic visitors to see.) Depressing, right? It’s upsetting that an event which was supposed to be about a pretty pure thing has become more about politics and business, and has often led to a good amount of protests and violence.

Sigh. Enough Debbie Downer-ing for one day, eh?

[Posted by Mallory]

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1 Comment

Filed under drinks, sports

One response to “my complicated relationship with the olympics.

  1. Hannah

    I am obsessed with the Olympics. Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps… do me on it.

    On 8/8/08, I sat in front of the TV at 6pm waiting for 8:00 to come. Then I sat through the entire Opening Ceremony. Today I have found a new appreciation for badminton (clearly I am still unemployed).

    The triumphs and success stories that are documented on the “Beijing 2008” channel (yes, they have their own cable channel!) make me tear up with pride or cheer out loud. “You go, Shawn Johnson!”

    I love the USA.

    Miss you Mal!

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