Saturday, 4 August 2012

Gold! Gold! Gold!

That's how much it costs to win one of those medal things that the WINNERS proudly dangle around their necks like overblown coins for the cash registers of our empty hearts. Sadly win a silver or bronze and you can see the bean counters sliding the  wrong coloured bean into the wasted side of their counting table.

So, two things.

Is it worth all the money, this mad, four year hunt for gold?

Why are we so disparaging of silver and bronze?

Is the money really well spent. Apart from a euphoric clench of the heart, felt through layers of the obese, quivering flesh gathered from hours spent on the couch, in darkness, depriving oneself of sleep and good food, is this flaming branch of paganistic hollering really worth it?

Why not simply build large bonfires and run through naked, screaming and perhaps drinking some very good wine. Maybe embrace your wife or partner, dance a jig, sing 'Here comes the sun,' and then sleep peacefully in the knowledge the world will continue to spin on its merry way for another year.

Think of the money saved!

It could be spent of education, on health, on public transport, on sport for kids in schools, sport for seniors in cold, dark rooms, sports for the factory worker and the office keyboard warrior, activities and bike paths, roof top gardens in cities and walks and a whole lot of other thing, anything but this relentless and forever unquenchable, thirst for gold.

if history tells us one thing, it's that a thirst for gold always ends in disaster. Perhaps we should rename the Olympics El Dorado?

If we must have this gluttonous feast of sport where winning a medal is so much more important than simply competing and pitting yourself against the best, why must it all be about the gold? Can't we enthusiastically give an applause, a gasp of joy, a rousing slap on the back for those that are the third or second best in the world. For those that have worked so hard and pitted themselves against the very best and reached the heights of their sport?

Why just gold? I'd be proud of a silver, a bronze, a fifth place, heck a ticket to the damn sports is an achievement of the highest order. But no, its all about winning. And if you do not win then you have lost and we, the supporters, have lost, the nation has lost, the universe is lost, we are tumbling into the abyss!

Perspective, that's what is lacking. Atlanta, 16 years ago, a huge billboard prominently displayed in the then Olympic city spruiking the wares of a sneaker company. It  proclaimed: ‘‘Second is the first loser.’’

That says it all about perspective really, or the lack of it. It also captures why there is a bit of a bitter taste with the Olympics nowadays. In the past there was the bitter rivalries between  different ideologies, different religions, or between countries and states feuding in the world of politics - and while that was worrisome, it also showed sometimes how sport can bring us together (if we forget the East/West hatred that used sport, like everything else, to drive us further apart).

Then, for a time, there was hope, and springtime, and all the medals shone and everything seemed to be about the competing, about finding peace also, in this troubled world. It was a short time, perhaps even a mirage, a shimmering glimpse of what could be. Well the weather has changed and the mirage is gone.

Now there is just the money. The product. The endorsement.

I remember a documentary where in 1967 an effigy of a Hippie was carried down the streets of San Francisco (by people who once called themselves Hippies) and then burnt. It was in recognition the the counter culture was dead, bought out by the companies and turned into an advertising gimmick.

Perhaps it is time we carried an effigy of that famous marathon runner back to Greece and held a sacred rite proclaiming, once again, that the buck is far greater than the sword, or running shoe, or pole vault or swimming pool.

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