Letter from Canada No. X

Ozay Mehmet,

Ottawa, Ontario



The world is glued to TV, watching the biggest sport celebration in the world, the London 2012 Olympics. The spectacle is at once a sport competition, glorifying champions like Bolt, Phelps and other gold medalists who achieve superhuman excellence in their chosen field.

Olympics are also a shameless display of nationalism, flag waving and individualism, with women athletes (in the words of one Turkish pundit), “looking like men”.

From North Korea to the USA, governments spend huge sums to win medals to demonstrate superiority of their regime. It is, perhaps, not as bad as the Berlin Olympics of 1936 when Hitler sought to prove the superiority of the Aryan race!

Maybe it is not even so bad as the US-boycott of the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics for political reasons.

Yet, there are troubling paradoxes: When there are starving people in the Horn of Africa, and Syria is embroiled in civil war; when even the once- rich countries of Europe are suffering from debt crisis and economic distress, the London Olympics must be qualified as surreal, and a costly diversion staged by a British government hell-bent on throwing a huge party to give the masses a few weeks of respite from the ugliness of unemployment and recession.

The games themselves, from the organizing committees to the podiums, have farcical elements. The “Winner take it all” premise is nothing else than glorification of individualism, of the selfish gene!

Does it really matter if Usain Bolt chops another second off the 100-metre dash? Will humanity be materially better off, world peace more secure, if some Russian weightlifter lifted another 5 lbs?

When Communist China wins more gold medals than the USA, does that prove the superiority of one ideology over the other? Clearly, gold medals, or indeed success in Olympics, are a function of national expenditure invested years before by a government or party for its own image?

The Montreal Olympics in 1976, stage-managed by Mayor Drapeau, bankrupted the city of Montreal. Greece is still paying for the Athens Olympics of 2004. Taxpayers always end picking up the tab.

And, the real winners? Besides ruling politicians, surely they are the corporate sponsors, the TV& PR media selling, distributing and marketing the spectacle of the sporting events. They pocket the huge revenues selling TV time, sport equipment, clothing and other consumer goods and, of course, the huge recreation/tourism industry.

Lets face it: The Olympic spirit, the underlying philosophy of these events, is INDIVIDUALISM captured by materialist interests atop our capitalist world. There is the other side of the coin as well: For every winner, there are several other worthy competitors who fail. Who shares in their agony and loss?

One wishes for perhaps the impossible remedy: A system which glorified not ONE, but ALL who simply participated for the love of sports, regardless of politics. Away from all that ugly politics that, for example, disqualifies Turkish Cypriots simply because they are what they are!