I love the Olympics. No one is more excited than me (except maybe Ian Thorpe and his new best friend Henry Kissinger) about two weeks of physical endurance and deep hatred based on nationality and racial stereotyping.
However, there is time between 2:00 and 6:00am when there are no live events on, to reflect on what sport does to us. As we commence this fortnight of hysteria, we can afford to ask: what are we allowing ourselves to get away with in the name of sport?
Sport saves lives. It gives opportunities to people who grew up without many. It builds confidence, establishes and reinforces a sense of community and it allegedly makes you healthier. Then there is the negative stuff. Riots. Drug use. Sexism. Elitism. Corruption. Sam Newman. I’m not particularly interested in any of these – I’m concerned about sport making us stupid. Sport is letting us drop our standards. Sport is making the unforgivable seem benign.
Said something dumb? That’s okay, you’re an elite athlete. Why does our lexicon now include terms like "110 per cent", "game of two halves" and "crossed the line first to win"?
All sport’s fault.
You may not have heard but this week Michael Vaughan quit as captain of the English cricket team. He said it was the hardest and the easiest decision he had ever made. In the real world this is the equivalent of saying, "Today I stuck a rusty needle in my wang and it was both lovely and searingly painful".
I’m not just picking on inept Pommie batsmen in the twilight of their careers either. Times Sports Columnist of the Year Simon Barnes recently said, "In a week and a bit, Michael Phelps may be the greatest human that ever lived". Either Phelps has a big week ahead solving global warming and facilitating an accord between the IBF, the WBA and the WBC, or this statement is an inexcusable load of pap.
As the biggest sports carnival of them all, the Olympics are renowned for defying reality. This is the competition which made our entire nation stop and worry about Jana "Pitman" Rawlinson and whatever apocalyptic nightmare she was living through at the time. It was the Olympics that made, "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" the national chant our elders died in wars for. And it’s because of sport that we will soon be hearing commentators dropping C-Bombs in the pre-9:30 time slot.
The Beijing Olympics should be remembered as the Games where normal people said enough is enough. You see, when your husband or boyfriend wears his favourite team’s jersey to your parents’ house for a barbecue, he is saying, in his mumbling cry-for-help way, that he doesn’t really care about your parents and – if push came to shove – he actually loves his team more than you. In fact, the only reason he is still with you is because organised sports have seasons, meaning if he was single he would spend a proportion of each year alone. Sport has allowed this to happen and it’s time we all took a stand against it.
So if your loved one likes to wear the team kit, unless he or she is physically going to the game, send a clear message and dump them. Let’s enjoy these Olympics for the trivial pursuit of excellence that they are – and never forget that we’re better than that.
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