Wednesday 13 August 2008

Geoff Kidder’s Olympic blog - part two

The Institute of Ideas' Geoff Kidder on the Beijing Olympics

‘Then the Games begin, and suddenly the great machine that is sport rolls over all those boring human rights activists and tedious democracy nay-sayers, covering them all in lap-time statistics and pictures of people heroically pushing the boundaries of Lycra garment design’. So writes the ironic and avowedly cynical Andrew Gilligan, reporting from Beijing in the London Evening Standard.

I could not disagree more. The way I see it, every Olympic Games is used by the home nation to its own advantage. China is no different, and is using the games to flag up its tremendous economic development, and to declare itself as a major player on the world stage. There are many problems in China, and as a strong advocate of free speech and democracy, I have no time for the current Chinese regime, but to me these problems will only be solved by the people of China themselves. Protests regularly occur in China, especially organised by migrant workers, and hopefully over time the Chinese people will also become players on the world stage. For now, groups of self appointed Western activists lecturing the Chinese can only have the effect of angering people in China and giving Western nations, responsible for the destruction of Iraq, a spurious moral authority.

Gilligan goes on to say that ‘What’s supposed to be a celebration of humanity [the Olympics] often looks to me more like a perversion of it’. He then singles out the cyclists for scorn - ‘in their funny helmets and all-over condoms’. In one article he manages to aggrandise the self-righteous Western campaigners and ridicule the pinnacle of physical achievement that is the Olympics itself. What a waste of a ticket to Beijing.

British cyclist Victoria Pendleton

So Andy Murray got knocked out of the first round of the men’s singles tennis by an unfancied Taiwanese player. Big deal. It is a blow to his pride, but sandwiched between Wimbledon and the US Open, the Olympic tennis tournament is very much a second string event. Roger Federer has let it be known that he is keen to win, but the roll call of previous winners shows that it is a chance for the lesser lights to shine. Nicolas Massu of Chile is the reigning gold medallist.
The tournament does not have the prestige of a Grand Slam and is not about to. Like the Olympic football tournament, which resembles a mini youth World Cup, it is a chance to showcase the sport but not much else. Golf now wants Olympic status and a piece of the action. In my view tennis should keep its Grand Slams, football its World Cup and golf its Majors. These are the pinnacle of these sports and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Including these established professional sports in the Olympics does no favours to them or to the Olympic Games itself.

geoffkidder@instituteofideas.com

Read on: part three


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