Okay, one more post about the Olympics then…

This post includes some stuff that I might have written about in yesterday’s post if it wasn’t getting late. Plus, I had gone on and on for 1,000 words already which is quite enough for one post.

Chris Applegate said on Twitter:

One thing more tedious than the Olympics is people droning about how tedious the Olympics is. Turn your TV off and go out, you fucking bores

That is a sound principle and one that I agree with in general. The problem with the Olympics is that you can turn off the TV and go out all you want, but unless the place you go out to is an uninhabitable cave, the Olympics are impossible to avoid. Things like Big Brother or even US Presidential elections don’t get this bad.

Shane Richmond gets to the bottom of the problem with the Olympics:

What irritates me is that the media believes that we all subscribe to this fickle frenzy. So the Olympics breaks out of the sport pages and bulletins where it belongs and takes over the actual news too. I appreciate that the Games coincide neatly with silly season but is it really news that the opening ceremony (a) happened and (b) was spectacular? Both things were exactly what was supposed to happen, which probably makes them the precise of opposite of news.

What really gets me depressed is the fact that while this expensive shindig was going on in Beijing, two European countries were on the brink of war. And yet what was the top story in the news? This fucking stupid Stalinist fancy dress party. BBC News 24 had the two stories in split screen! I mean for fuck’s sake! Talk about priorities.

Several months ago I changed my default radio station to the BBC World Service precisely so that I could avoid the stupid “news” stories served up by Radio 5 Live and the other domestic stations. Yet the World Service has been banging on about the Olympics non-stop, 24/7, for the past three months — and that was before the games had even started! I am sick of it.

You see, my real problem with the Olympics is that it is a giant political event masquerading as sport. If it was sport I would probably quite like it. But it’s not sport at all. You can even see this in the BBC’s presentation of the opening ceremony. Who took charge of the broadcast? Sport journalists? Hell no, it was Huw Edwards and Carrie Gracie, two BBC News stalwarts. For me, that just says it all.

The only reason the Olympics opening ceremony should be a legitimate news story is to highlight how much money is wasted by governments on this pathetic political exercise. Do I care that 2008 drummers had fancy drums that lit up? Do I fuck!


  1. I agree that it is impossible to escape any mention of the Olympics at all – but then why should you? It’s the world’s biggest sporting event, it’s only held once every four years and one that allows the world’s smaller countries and minority sports to get a look in once in a while (hence the World Service coverage). It’s not just us who have all attention on it but pretty much every country in the world. Like it or not, it is a big story, not least because of the much wider context of China’s enormous financial and geopolitical success of the past decade or so.

    And all told, it’s fairly easy to filter it out – just as in the same way I filter out stuff that I have no interest in – whether it be Big Brother, Eastenders or (whisper) Formula One. The time difference means at least the evening schedules are kept relatively clear as well.

    Finally, whether it’s more important than a war – what you forget is the Olympics is war, albeit a sanitised version. Writers (most notably Orwell) have long opined on the warlike nature of sport. Many of the events at the Games themselves are based on Ancient Greek war training – from the pole vault (jumping over enemy walls) to the discus (weapon to use on the enemy) – so much so the modern games decided to invent Modern Pentathlon to cover the skills a 20th century warrior might need. In the background you of course have the political controversies, from Berlin 1936 onwards the games have been politicised. Is it a waste of money? Perhaps, but a much more benign waste than the colossal waste of money real wars (especially illegal and unjust ones) are.

  2. Chris, I think in that last paragraph you’ve hit on one of my main points about the Olympics. That guff about it being “non-political” and “peaceful” really is a load of nonsense. It is war.

    You could argue that it is more benign than a genuine war. But given that the Olympics have in the past provided a vital platform to the likes of Hitler, Soviet leaders, international terrorists and now a pretty questionable Chinese regime, I can’t help but think that the Olympics are not so benign after all.

    The point about the Olympics in the context of China’s success economically and politically is an interesting angle, I would agree that this is a valid story to report. But I think people would be talking about it anyway, and it ought not to take Beijing 2008 to realise China’s incredible emergence on the world scene.

  3. Speaking of the connection between sport and war,…
    I don’t know which came first; American Football or American military tactics. Both seem to consist in throwing men into attack willy-nilly and then having an almighty scrap.
    Thinking about it, probably the tactics came first (American civil war.)

  4. I will be watching the Olympics and (particularly) the Paralympics, in the hope that the attitude and behavior of the athletes persuades the Chinese to be less hypocritical than they have been. It is difficult for me to believe that China as a nation is friendly and welcoming when it categorically bars any non-Chinese person with Asperger’s Syndrome from entering the country because they have an outdated view on neurodiversity…

  5. The Olympics of course provide the host country with a means of legitimising or enhancing the existing regime, but it works both ways, it also opens it to greater exposure and awareness. Think of all the Tibet-related protests this year – not that it helps the Tibetans much, but they would never have been on the scale they were had the Olympics not taken place.

    As for it being part of China’s success, you seem to be missing the point – this is an integral stage of China’s move to superpower, not just a cherry on the top. International sporting and cultural events have long been used by countries to affirm their status (for good as well as bad – think Tokyo in 1964 as part of Japan’s rehabilitation as a peaceful & democratic country, or the minor ex-Eastern Bloc nations’ joy at hosting Eurovision to help put themselves on the map). Getting as far as being considered worthy (financially and geopolitically) of hosting an Olympics means you’ve come a long way, but it’s by no means the end. The really interesting story is what happens in China after this is all over.