When it comes to the olympics never assume.

29 07 2012

When one watches sport one often sees something thrilling, exhilarating or fantastic. In fact one can see something so fantastic that  one cannot find the words to adequately describe what one has just seen.

Sport, by its nature, creates dramatic situations. Sport is free-flowing and unscripted, for example coaches try to plan for success but the smallest detail or mistake can ruin these plans. Sport creates good guys and bad guys and has pressure of time limits so sport becomes dramatic. This “natural drama” is probably the thing that keeps most people interested.

It’s easy to think of dramatic moments from the history of the olympic games; The victories of Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt and Kathy Freeman, Tommie Collins and John Carlos on the podium, the USSR v USA basketball final in 1972, the USSR v Hungary water polo match in 1956. These moments may seem even more memorable because they took place in the olympics.

Drama is not the only attraction of sport; it also provides a chance to see skilled people in action. When skill and drama combine sport is very intoxicating. When you speak of moments like Mark Cavendish sprinting down the Champs Elysee or  Shane Williams finding gaps where there didn’t seem to be any or Usain Bolt finishing 5 metres ahead of his rivals or  Zinedene Zidane connecting with a shoulder-high volley in the European cup final you are speaking of moments that people remember for a long time.

When you see moments of this kind you know you’ve seen something special but you can’t really explain what you saw. All you know is that you’ve seen a supreme moment of skill or bravery, something that doesn’t happen all the time, something that only certain people can manage to do well. This is the kind of moment that only sport produces.

I discovered something yesterday that wanted to convince me that it wasn’t the supreme skill of sports performer or the dramatic potential inherent in sport that made sporting events memorable. A billboard tried to tell me that memorable events are memorable because sainted sponsors make them happen;

So the olympic examples I’ve just mentioned weren’t memorable simply because of what happened, they were memorable because of the sponsors.

The billboard made me doubt everything I knew about sport, I started to wonder if there were actually world cups and olympics before the glorious sponsors got involved. I started to wonder whether athletes were able to show up without the help of sainted sponsors, especially in the olden days of cruise liner travel. I checked through the annals of sports history (wikipedia) and it turns out that sports performers and national teams did actually turn up to the olympic games / world cups and actually performed without sponsors being present.

You really have to admire the gall of the sort of people behind this advert. These “people” shamelessly use the olympics to make vast amounts of money then tell us that it’s because of them that the olympics are so fantastic. Shamefully the IOC, FIFA, UEFA et al have allowed the PR industry and sponsors to take over.

The olympics has ceased to be a simple multi-sports event,  the PR-led people tell us they’re now a “once in a lifetime experience”. The PR-led people also tell us that the champions league is the “biggest club competition in the world” and the premier league is “the greatest league in the world”. PR firms, sponsors and governing bodies are trying to sell events to us as if it’s a service that humanity desperately needs. They have the gall to suggest that we should be following their trail like docile cattle simply because they’ve realised that they can make a lot of money from these events.

I’ve tried to get  interested in London 2012, oh Lord how I’ve tried to become interested. I watched the opening ceremony, I liked Underworld’s soundtrack and loved Danny Boyle’s tribute to the NHS but then they kept showing images of Lord Coe, the Queen, Cameron and Boris Johnson. I want to feel really part of it, I yearn to feel the excitement that everybody else seems to be feeling. I’ve been trying to look forward to London 2012 for months, I really have. I wanted to buy tickets, I wanted to go to the cycling road race and football matches, I want to enjoy it but I can’t.

I can’t enjoy it because a once “noble and pure” multi-sports event has been further polluted by multinational capitalism as a PR exercise. I can’t enjoy it because every time I  feel something positive about the olympics my self-administered Ludovico Technique comes into effect; every time I see Lord Coe’s face I feel sick.

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