OUT OF LEFT FIELD
OLYMPIAD XXX BEGINS
QUEEN ELIZABETH II
...should she smile more often?
The Olympics Games
For Better or Worse
By SIR STAN ISAACS
Lets consider two views of sport and the Olympics.
In 1945 the eminent author George (1984) Orwell called sports at the international level mimic warfare. He wrote in The Sporting Spirit, Im always amazed when I hear people saying that sport created good will between the nations, and if only the common people of the worlds could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didnt know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games for example) that international sporting contest lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.
Sebastian Coe, the eminent British miler who won four gold medals, including the 1500 meter races in the 1980 and 1984 Games, extolled sport and the Olympics in welcoming the world to these Olympics.
Coe said, The Olympics bring together the people of the world in harmony and friendship and peace to celebrate what is best about mankind. All my life I have loved sport. There is truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity that make it irresistible to take part and irresistible to watch.
London 2012 seeks to capture all of this In every Olympic sport there is all that matters in life; humans stretch to the limit of their abilities, inspired by what they can achieve, driven by their talents to work harder than they can believe possible and living for the moment, but making an indelible mark upon history. To the athletes gathered on the eve of this great endeavor I say that to you has been given something precious and irreplaceable-to run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.
I agree with Orwell, but I was moved and touched by the idealism of Coe. It was one of the highlights of the opening ceremony.
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Some idle thoughts while being alternately bored and impressed by the three-hour and 45-minute opening ceremonies--and the competitions that started to dominate the TV screen over the weekend:
One of the admirable things about the Olympics is that it triumphs the winner-take-all mentality of most sports. For most Olympians it is an honor just to make their countrys teams. Most athletes are delighted, not only to win a gold medal, but to earn silver for second or bronze for third.
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The opening ceremony, directed by the liberal filmmaker Danny Boyle, had a leftist slant that irritated Conservatives. It included dancing nurses in a tribute to the National Health Service, a not-so-subtle dig at the United States health care policies. Trade union members, suffragettes, immigrants who fought for minority rights and political agitators were among those who paraded on the stadium floor in a pageant of the past leading to the present.
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When the Israeli team marched onto the screen, NBC host Bob Costas leveled a broadside at the International Olympic Committee for not including on the program some kind of memorial to the Israelis slaughtered at the 1972 Games in Munich. Costas promise to do this probably spurred the Olympic people to at least hold a quiet ceremony at the Olympic Village a few days before the opening.
Its difficult to be providing commentary for so long without making gaffes, but Costas intelligence shined through. His partner, Matt Lauer, was more the pitchman. He talked about the Queens enthusiasm for the activity when a dour Elizabeth II popped up on screen. The lady needs smiling lessons.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney roiled the Brits by questioning their capacity to host the games. This inspired a number of tabloid headlines decrying him. The best: Mitt the Twit. British Prime Minister David Cameron twitted Romney by saying, We are holding the Olympic Games in one of the busiest most active bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course its easier if you hold an Olympics in the middle of nowhere The last referred to Romney running a successful winter 1960 Olympics in the boondocks of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he has boasted he saved the Olympics. Should Romney somehow manage to insult the Israelis, his European tour might be the magic that wins the election for President Obama.
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The International Olympic Committee is intent on stopping ambush marketers --companies that use an Olympic cover though they have not paid the small fortune required to be official sponsors. This leads to idiocies: A butcher in Weymouth was threatened with a $30,000 fine for putting five sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings in his window. Coe shook people up by suggesting that spectators would not be allowed into stadiums wearing Pepsi T-shirts because Coke was the official soft drink sponsor. Eleven multinational corporations pay about $100 million each over a four-year period as sponsors.
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I am not rushing to watch women boxing. And do we need sports like soccer, basketball and tennis, which have more significant championships in their own sports?
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I root for Denmark because on the basis of medals won to total population Denmark usually beats the powerhouse countries Fascinating note: Pigeon shooting was one of the sports in the 1900 Olympics And women this year outnumbered men on the U.S. team-268 to 261 Muhammad Ali has deteriorated so much I did not recognize him at first when he came on screen as a flag bearer.
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English bookies are notorious for taking bets on anything. Ladbrokes won some kind of medal by quoting a price of 7 to 2 on the chances the Olympic Village will run out of condoms.
©2012 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted July 30, 2012.
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