My wife likes to watch the Olympics. Generally, I could not care less. It seems to be too much pomp and circumstance, too nationalistic, and not much fun for the athletes. I do think we can improve, both as the Olympiads themselves and, more importantly, as spectators.
In my Fantasy Olympics, every participating country would leave with ten medals of varying colors. The field would be that level, that competitive. The overriding priority of the Olympic Committee would be to welcome more new countries every Olympiad, and recruit more diversity for each event. The commentators would shut up and let the performances speak for themselves. Enough nit-picking critiques, please. Explain the rules of rugby, though. How do you stop the other team again? Also, how has no one been killed by the hammer throw?
Those of us television viewers and in-person audiences, should we ever have those again, can up our own game. We can stop taking the games so seriously. We can be “traitors” for a moment and cheer for another country’s representatives. Where is the crime in that? Heck, if belugas were in the swimming events, you can bet your bottom dollar I would be rooting for them.
We need to trust our athletes to do what is best for them, and therefore their comrades. The backlash over Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw says a lot more about our character than it does hers. We have unrealistic expectations and, unfortunately, they are often couched in racism, too. Our white privileged society “values” other ethnicities primarily as servants and entertainers (and I lump athletes in the latter category). Those are the only professions we “allow” them any material affluence, and even then, only if they meet or exceed our grotesquely inflated demands for record-breaking efforts. Disgusting, but we don’t give it a second thought until one of those athletes is brave enough to stand up for themselves.
The Olympics tends to be a missed opportunity to get a glimpse into other cultures, and here in the United States we will never be encouraged to learn the continuing impacts of colonialism and economic expectations on other nations. We want Latin America to keep giving us baseball pitchers and bananas. What do we care about them otherwise? Yes, I am exaggerating (barely) to make the point of our sense of entitlement.
The fact that we demand the Olympics be held at all in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic says enough, does it not? The “world stage,” I keep hearing, but what we need is world parity, not simply in athletics, but in global health and economics. Dominance disgusts me, in any form. It is a reminder of oppression and inequality that comes from privilege and colonialism.
If you want to unfollow this blog because it makes you uncomfortable, because you view the author as a “race traitor,” or a conspiracy theorist, that is your right. However, I suggest instead that you ask why you have the sentiments you do, and whether they are serving you any longer. Stop letting Olympic athletes be proxies for you. Step up your own game and join Team World.