Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The OlympXXX

The Olympics begin on the eighth. Delight: it is one of the few times that the anachronistic takes center stage. Yet, the political posture of the world suggests that, as much as anything, sport is war rather than a vehicle for camaraderie amidst fair play. I think of New Zealand’s All Blacks with their haka; I reflect for a moment on Escobar’s fluke goal and subsequent murder related to World Cup play in 1994. These are fairly straightforward games: a ball, a goal, and populated factions. Sounds much like two flanks, a field, and some bullets. Maybe Manassas would be appropriate for the next round. No, rugby is not an Olympic sport (anymore), but soccer is, and the collective sentiment is still relevant.

For me, the games of mastery of apparatus or terrain always stand out as noblest: running, swimming, javelin, hammer throw. I am not discounting team sports, but I find great interest in translating competitive ambition toward an apolitical challenge, rather than fostering animosity among individuals and nations. This is tough, in that I would love to see lacrosse and croquet fielded again. Just the same, as a spectator, I feel the pressure of nationalistic fervor as medals are counted, or discounted, in both team and individual games.

Preceding these Olympic games was the somewhat less acknowledged X Games 14. In this, the Year of the Rat and dawning age of do-it-yourself, I feel great hope and admiration for those athletes who have taken to the streets and perhaps the parking lots of idle stadia to find a game and a place. Seeing people on skateboards, taking flights off stairs, makes me think that the effort in forcing an environment for play diminishes some of the perceived Olympic spirit. Despite Joni Mitchell’s feeling to the contrary, maybe the parking lot is a minor solution or at least a place of common ground. I can imagine that just as the unsettled here take to rails and curbs in the shadow of signs to the contrary, so too may others in Beijing and around the world.

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