Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Once more on the Pseudo Olympics

The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation paper, just published an editorial about Canada’s worst Olympic Team in 52 years. Their argument was nonsense.

They said that the key to solving the “problem” is to throw more money at it.

Here is what they said: “The reality is that if Canadians want to see better showings by our athletes in Beijing in 2008, we had better be ready to spend a lot more money on amateur sports than we do now. Ottawa now gives Sport Canada $90 million a year, a figure that was augmented in May with a $30 million one-time grant. Already, Ottawa is looking at an extra $10 million annually. The money would be used to hire more coaches, improve training facilities and develop grassroots amateur athletic programs across Canada. How much more, though, is a question for a national debate. We must set priorities for funding dreams of shot putters and synchronized swimmers, while dealing with the needs of cash-strapped hospitals or schools. It's a debate that is needed now, because unless we make major changes in how we support and train our athletes, we will likely be suffering through the same national angst after the 2008 Games as we are today.”

This is really pathetic. We already gave $120 million to our performers for this Olympics. The bad performances were not, and never are, a question of money. What a waste of money it is even if we do win medals! In any case, the answer to athletes who cannot perform despite huge amounts of money being given to them is to take money away, not to reward them. In fact, as recently argued here in this space, we ought to completely delete support for athletes from our national priorities. Athletics should be about amateurism and making the best of what one can on a local level, not about buying into the drug fest that we still dignify by calling it Olympian.

The Toronto Star is close to the correct answer but close doesn’t win medals - - money should be spent on where it is most needed for citizens. Sports, throwing balls, rowing boats, running, jumping and shooting (not to mention a host of other things) should be way down the list of what a national government does with its money.

These are, and it seems trite to state it - - games.

Let athletes who take their sport seriously do their own training, fund their own equipment (or ask local groups for help) and show up on their own to the Olympics and we can all sit back and watch the performances without the distraction of silly uniforms and even sillier anthems, ceremonies and corrupt judging along national lines.

We should do with the current pseudo-Olympics what was done with those sorry horses that had broken legs - - shoot them and bury them quietly somewhere nice.

Scrap the national Olympic team and scrap its funding. Then start educating children about the proper approach to what the ethics of sports (and life) entail. One of the really important things that happened in these games was that the richest team, (per capita) the American men’s basketball team, the so-called “dream team” (which the French comics called the “frime” team, from the French word “frimeur” meaning “boaster”), were beaten - - not once, but several times and by world-beaters such as Lithuania. Lithuania! It sounds like something off the periodic table and it beat the dream team! Now that was worth watching.

In their defeat a glimmer of real sports peeked through the hype.

Was that basketball loss due to lack of funds? Hardly. In the defeat of the “big guys” by the “little guys” we got a glimpse of the limits of money in sport. The problem was that the “big guys”, the professional athletes and all the hangers on that have pumped the Olympics up to Rambo-like proportions, should be banned completely from anything that purports to be what real Olympic sports are about. This hope may seem unrealistic given the money signs that dance in people’s eyes when super-sized spectacles are involved, but perhaps, if the Campaign for a Real (or alternative) Olympics succeeds, then it may not be impossible.

Should these changes occur, then we could let the games begin. I’ll be there to cheer on the athletes for the sake of genuine sport and the spirit of the games themselves. Until then, we shall teach our children (good athletes all) that the current version is largely crazy and that the mania about athletics is only pseudo-athletics in much the same sort of way that a food-eating contest is only partly related to food.
Stuffing the self with hotdogs to see who can hold the most is the eating equivalent of overdoing it with respect to sports. The mass gorging that contemporary athletes have adopted as acceptable is really quite obscene and represents the extent to which societies have given in to sloth by supporting such human imbalance. Sloth, after all, is not lack of busy-ness but failure to attend to things in the right manner. Too much sport is slothful and that is at the root of all the hoopla that needs to be downsized. It used to be common to refer to a show-off sportsperson as a “hotdog”: now you know why.

Iain T. Benson ©