Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pre-Olympic Thoughts

Originally published on My Life Is Like A Song on August 7, 2008

The Olympics are starting Friday. In the past, I have (almost) been counting down the days. I have studied the television schedule. I have checked out my favourite events and can't wait for the opening ceremonies. So this time why am I not excited?

I will start by saying that the following thoughts are how I feel. My arguments are not necessarily all rational or accurate.

I think part of my lack of enthusiasm for these Olympics started when Beijing were awarded the games in the first place. My city also had a bid, so part of the reason is that they won over us, but it's not that simple (we also lost to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and I was excited about those). The time difference is also a factor (but I was excited about Sydney).

I sometimes live in a rose-coloured world. I (like to) believe that good wins out in the end. I (want to) believe that the Olympics is an event where the best (on the day) wins the gold medal. Yes there are upsets. The favourites have a bad day. There are Cinderella stories, but in the end I (want to) believe that those who have trained hard and believe in themselves put themselves in the position to excel on that day.

Unfortunately, as I grew older, I have learned that this is not the case. Did it start with Ben Johnson? I could not believe the news when I heard of his positive drug test at the 1988 Olympics. There had always been rumours about how East Germany and Russia managed to cheat to win the medals they did, but nothing ever substantiated - well nothing as huge as a Canadian getting caught (in a Canadian's eyes).

So drugs in sports has dampened my excitement for the Olympics.

The other thing that has dampened my excitement is politics. After Beijing won the Olympics I didn't trust Juan Antonio Samarach (IOC President). I didn't believe that he was doing what was best for the Olympics or the athletes. I believed the rumours that China did not win the bid honestly.

My trust for Mr. Samarach decreased even more six months later during the figure skating judging controversy in 2002 (and how it was handled afterwards).

My favourite athlete at the Olympics (Alexandre Despatie) will be competing in a judged competition (diving) against Chinese athletes... in China. The cards are stacked against him. His broken foot a couple of months ago are not helping his chances. I want to believe that the event will be judged fairly but past experiences tell me that this may not be the case.

I also can not get excited about a country who would take young children who have the physical attribute for a sport away from their family to train whether they like it or not (whether they love the sport or not). I have also read about the government forcing top athletes to procreate in order to manufacture superstar athletes. Whether these stories are true or not, these are thoughts that remain in my head.

I am also quite suspicious of the surprising results by the Chinese in the past decade in sports where they had not been competitive in the past. Perhaps the above tactics are what have made these changes come about (as well as increased spending - but don't they have more important issues to support?). If the stories are true, I guess it works, but is Olympic success more important than the happiness of your citizens? I guess coming from a democratic country, it's difficult to understand the communist ways.

I had hoped that with China hosting the Olympics, things were going to improve with regards to human rights and citizens rights (I perhaps could have gotten excited if I had seen this), but unfortunately that does not seem to be the case. My opinion of China did not improve with the Made in China fiasco of kids toys and reading about sweat shops. I don't believe that this is completely caused by China. North American consumers are demanding (and loving) lower prices which is causing companies to make their products cheaper in places like China.

Another thing with these Olympics which has annoyed me is the Canadian Olympic gear. I normally love seeing what the athletes will wear. I loved when Roots did the outfits. This year I am dreading to see what the athletes will be wearing when they march out during the opening ceremonies (or medal ceremonies) after seeing the horrendous pyjama looking outfits HBC released.

I also read that the gear is made in China.

Remember when we (Roots) were the envy of the Olympic gear world?

I apologize for the negativity of this post. I can't always be cheery and hopeful. It's not as well written as I would like, but I'll leave it like that so that I can go spend some time looking at the upcoming Olympics schedule...see when my favourite athletes are competing and when my favourite events are on. Hopefully my pessimism will leave me by tomorrow, my love of sport will prevail and I will be happily saying...Let the games begin!!

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