One World, One Dream? Oh China, you had me at One.
Not because I love the Peoples Republic, per se. But because I love the Olympics. Anywhere. Anytime.
Ive got a 100-percent buy-in with the touchy-feely, smushy-wooshy, shiny-happy-people vibe the modern games sell. I get verklempt just thinking about the opening ceremonies. Björk in that crazy-trained dress that unfurled to cover all the athletes at the 2004 opener in Greece? Im all over that shit.
And theres no irony here, in case youre looking at these words with narrowed eyes. I love that sentimental, it-takes-a-village, Parade-of-Nations stuff. It just gets to me. When Halifax was vying for the Commonwealth Games, this was my take: how much money? Bah! Whatever. Well find it somewhere. Now, you, old white guy in the suit, hand me one of those flags to wave!
So it pains me to admit it, but I have to tell you: this will be the last Olympic torch run.
China is red phosphorus when it comes to controversy, but the world has problems with England too, where the 2012 games are scheduled. The Olympic torch barely made its way through London April 6; 2,000 on-foot, airborne, bike and river cops protected the flame and still it was grabbed by one protester and almost extinguished by two others.
The International Olympic Committee says it will review the torch relay and the London Games organizers, whose successful bid included plans for an international journey of hope and reconciliation, are now talking about a domestic-only torch relay.
See, everyone knows now how much attention screwing with the torch run can garner. Get a banner and hurl yourself in the way of the flame and youve got automatic exposure. The torch marathon is dead in the water.
But dont think of this as the demise of an ancient tradition. As Gwynne Dyer reminded readers in his syndicated column last week, the first torch run only dates to 1936. It was a Nazi invention, designed for 3,442 racially pure Aryan joggers to help celebrate Hitlers Olympic debutante ball.
Make-believe history or not, I hate to see the torch relay go. Remember Muhammad Ali as the surprise final torch bearer in 1996, running in to Atlantas Olympic Stadium to light the cauldron? Thatll never happen again. But as much as I will miss the spectacle of the relay, I love that the Olympic flame has come into its political own.
Because everything---everything---is political.
Buying Alberta beef for Sunday dinner is political.
Riding the bus to work is political.
Enrolling your kids in private school is political.
Buying birth control pills is political.
And the Olympic Games, by virtue of its dealings with so many national political entities, may be the most political enterprise on planet Earth.
Athletes dont agree, of course. We hear their pleas every time theres mention of an Olympic boycott or a planned protest: dont punish us. For gods sake dont politicize the games.
And I sympathize. I really do. Because I can only imagine what it must be like to train eight hours a day for a decade to reach the Olympics, going to school or holding down a day job at the same time (because Sport Canadas Athlete Assistance Program can only give top-level athletes $18K a year) only to have your lifes ambitions overshadowed by some foaming-at-the-mouth protester with a made-in-China I HATE CHINA t-shirt.
But no matter the strain of training, no matter the Olympic Charter designation of the games as existing to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace, no matter those yet-to-be-aired Nike commercials that are bound to all that is holy and global (and will, guaranteed, have me welling up and sniffling even on their 100th repeat over the 17 days of play), the games are political.
Because politics imbibes every choice we make. It is our living and our breathing. And thats precisely because we dont live and breathe in vacuums. But more than that. It was a deeply political choice for the IOC to award the games to China in the first place.
Kevan Gosper, Deputy Chair of the IOC, wrote in an editorial in the Melbourne Herald Sun on the weekend that, By awarding China the Games in 2001 the IOC showed it believed the Olympic Games could contribute to Chinas process of opening up and engaging with the world.
And if thats not political, I dont know what is.