Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Citius, at least

I've been an Olympics buff ever since I can remember. ABC's Wide World Of Sports, with its frequent broadcasts of international sporting events, was a weekend staple on our TV growing up. I loved the pageantry and exoticism of the unfamiliar sports, and the international cast of characters. The Olympics were like a two-week smorgasbord of that feeling, and I gorged myself every four years.

In 1984, my family went to several events at the Los Angeles summer games. When Atlanta got the bid for the 1996 Centennial games, I celebrated by geeking out at the Olympic stores that opened around town, stocking up on memorabilia featuring Barcelona's superbly cute mascot, Cobi. Noel and I attended the games in '96, too. I always look forward to sixteen days of round-the-clock Olympic broadcasting glory on the TV -- heck, I wish they'd bring back the Triplecast.

So it's with deep fascination and ambivalence that I watch the massive turmoil surrounding this year's torch relay. In one sense, it's thrilling to see such a large population come together in solidarity to protest the world's collusion in China's Olympic farce. The country does not deserve a free propaganda platform in light of its regime's disregard for the Olympic ideals of peace, equality, and brotherhood. You can feel the excitement of activists sensing that for once, they have the upper hand -- that they control the message of this moment, not the managers who sought to carefully orchestrate it.

I even look forward to seeing how NBC handles the touchy political and publicity issues of the Beijing games -- how much attention will they give to the controversies and contradictions, and how much will they seek to downplay the conflict in favor of Wheaties-ready stars in waiting? It would delight me to no end to see an opening ceremony pockmarked by boycotting teams, a spectacle crippled by the refusal of the world to collude in its lies.

But of course, I want my Olympic drama, too. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. The up close and personals. The unlikely heroes and tragic falls from grace.

The Olympic torch has now been extinguished and rerouted to keep it from falling into the hands of the people it is supposed to inspire. How much of my Olympic idealism will follow suit?


Adam Villani said...

As long as Bob Costas is involved I have no fear.

Also, I too am a total Olympic junkie.

the secret knitter said...

We could be in for a very newsworthy Olympics, especially if the Chinese government doesn't like what gets reported. Will networks start "losing" their signals? In an ideal world the protests affect change, and we still get the athletic drama and splendor that has captivated me since childhood. Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

It's like you're in my head reading my thoughts. I went through this same conflict this morning. I'm trying to figure out if watching the Olympics would be promoting human rights violations. But I really feel for the athletes who have no control over where the Olympics are held, and who have worked for so much.

I need to know who will win my "Best Guy" award. Viktor Petrenko has yet to be unseated.

Also related to the (Winter) Olympics: you should have Adam Villani explain why biathalon is the greatest sport ever. He made a believer out of me.