At the risk of exposing my great age... let's call that extensive experience... I have a question. Does anyone else remember the Olympics in the cold war? Dang folks, that's what I call sport! It was nothing to do with individual skill or... what do they call it... sportsmanship - it was all My Political Paradigm Wipes the Wrestling Mat With Your Political Paradigm (eat that Lenin!).
I have early memories of terrifying East German swim team women who could not only bend my wispy young body into a pretzel but weave a tasteful and decorative basket from their excess facial hair. My neighbor's kid kept a frighteningly detailed chart of one winter Olympics not because it showed how a particular sport was evolving but because Our Bi-athletes Can Out Shoot/Ski Your Commie Bi-athletes goddammit! (only probably those terrifying Danes would show up and make mince meat out of both of them...) [also I'm not sure how Eddie the Eagle fitted into those charts. If that was the right Olympics] No matter what the spin imposed by the cheery commenters each night, we all knew the truth. If we didn't come out tops in the medal charts then some way, some how, democracy (okay, let's be honest, capitalism) was inferior to those baby eating, apple pie shunning communist bastards from the USSR (heck, they even insisted on wearing CCCP on their track suits just out of spite). I knew boys who wanted to sleep with Mary Lou Retton simply because she had showed those Romanian nationalization-of-property-is-viable bastards just what was what. (okay. That and she was really cute and had a great smile)
I haven't paid a lot of attention to the Olympics lately. I assume it went on while my family was in Alaska (yes, I am aware the world goes on turning even though my children are engaged in epic battles with salmon). I think there might have been one... or two... since then, but sadly I haven't had the time or energy to pay much attention. Until this year.
Where I find myself a little bemused. It seems that no one's political knickers will get in a twist if the one remaining significant (apologies for the egregious over simplification here) communist nation racks up a substantial medal count. I don't see anyone fretting over whether China's fantastic coup of gold medals means that really, truly we should all overthrow the oppression of Wall Street and comrade Bill Gates and join the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. In the vast number of Americans I've polled (my Children plus at LEAST two other friends... I tell a lie, four) no one has expressed any nationalistic pride in the achievements of our beach volleyball teams, our swimmers, our gymnasts etc. In other words, I can't find one single person who gives a damn about the political ramifications of our athletic efforts AT ALL.
Isn't that marvelous?
I mean, I recognize the effort of the Chinese. I've seen news blurbs about armies of workers scouring off the chewing gum from the public square. I've read with interest, and a little disbelief, the new stories about the decision to replace the seven year old (amazing voice, sweet face) visually with the nine year old (cute as a button, pony tails) and simply thought, wow - two little girls got to be part of a really amazing opening ceremonies (don't send me the emails, honestly, don't because I totally agree it was silly and pointless and that singer child was gorgeous). But at the end of the day? I think it's amazing that I can be thrilled at the achievements of Michael Phelps and just as thrilled about those unbelievable Chinese divers.
They totally rock my world.