I don’t dislike the Olympics. The array of sports, the human stories, the exhibition of excellence are all something to behold.
But then there are the Opening Ceremonies. David Brooks, actually praising the opening festivities, writes: “In Friday’s ceremony, there’ll be musical tributes to the global community and the Olympic spirit. There will be Pepsi commercial-type images of the people from different backgrounds joyfully coming together. There will be pious speeches about our common humanity and universal ideals.” Blech.
This is Busby Berkeley meets the United Nations. The canard that if we just shot put together we’ll have a more peaceful world grows more cloying, if not galling, every four years. It perpetuates the patently false notions that there is a “global community” and that our problems are the result of misunderstanding or “fear of the ‘other.’” Sorry, but a Pepsi commercial featuring teams from the Syrian, Iranian, North Korean and Cuban regimes as representatives of simply three more frolicking countries in good standing with the “family of nations” is false advertising. (By the way, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s apology for the flag mix-up to the Great Leader’s gulag should give the American press a clue about this guy’s view of the world.)
The refusal to halt the self-glorification of the “Olympic ideal” (there is a special place in hell for the ad man who came up with that phrase) for 11 slaughtered Israeli athletes drives home how vapid is the mentality that permeates the Opening Ceremonies. During the competition, the claptrap recedes and we can enjoy the Olympics for what they are — a great smorgasbord of sports.
However, especially in turbulent and chaotic times, when nations are choosing whether to pursue freedom or religious zealotry, civil war or reconciliation and respect for human rights or inhumanity, I wish we’d stop perpetrating the idea that all you have to do to be part of the “international community” is to show up. No, to be part of the “global community” and to encourage “common humanity and universal ideals” countries must foster liberty, abhor violence, practice tolerance and defend human rights. We shouldn’t blur the distinction between those who uphold those values and those who threaten them.