One World, One Nightmare
Am I the only person in the world who is completely indifferent to the Olympics and thinks it is vitally important to not forget the hypocrisy that hums in the background?
First there was the news that Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of the men’s volleyball team's coach, was stabbed to death at the ancient Drum Tower the night of the opening ceremonies. Bachman’s wife and their translator were also stabbed before the man who carried out the attack committed suicide by jumping off the second story.
For an idea of how much responsibility China is taking for this wanton act of murder, read this article from the Peoples’ Daily Online and tell me how many times you read the words “fault”, “responsibility” or even “guilt.” Sure, they’re expressing “condolences” and “sympathy” but most of that seems to be reserved for George W. Bush, who at least had the common decency to address the murder the day the Olympics started.
True, this is an isolated incident and this lone maniac who’d attacked the Bachmans for no apparent reason is not connected to the Chinese government. Yet this attack is symptomatic of the porous nature of the much-ballyhooed “security” of which we’ve been hearing all summer. Further proof of this is the fact that a small group of protesters also managed to slip security and stage a brief pro-Tibet protest in Tiananmen Square, the scene of 1989's student pro-democracy protests and a highly symbolic place that, one would think, would be heavily monitored to suppress and prevent such dissident activity.
This followed on the heels of the slaughter of 16 Chinese policemen, which has been followed up by a string of bombings in the Xinjiang region that have claimed at least another five lives. So not only can China not handle Muslim extremist terrorists, they can’t even seem to protect or prevent minor problems like peaceful protesters. To their credit, however, they were able to hose down the streets and dispose of the blood days before the opening ceremonies.
Technologically, we’ve come full circle from the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, to which these Olympics have been fairly compared. Back in 1936, there was no television and people had to wait weeks and even months before seeing the exploits of Jesse Owens in newsreels shown in movie theaters. Today’s Olympics, as with the Sydney Olympics of 2000, features no live footage whatsoever on the west coast and even footage shown in the east coast is mostly canned, narrated by “sportscasters” who merely loop in dialogue and desperately trying to make their “commentary” sound spontaneous.
We’re also seeing the return of the corruption that ended the ancient Olympics, which was also overtaken with ringers. We’re sending more and more tycoons to the Olympics, athletes who already make millions of dollars a year in NBA salaries, tennis purses and highly lucrative commercial endorsements. If I’d bothered to watch the Opening ceremonies, it would’ve made me sick to see Kobe Bryant, fresh from an NBA championship final, walking with our delegation knowing that a college player should’ve been marching in his place.
From the time basketball entered the Olympics until the rigged finals at the Munich Games in 1972, the US featured only college players, amateurs who never failed to bring home the gold. After 1996, when we began sending mercenaries already covered with money and honors, the Dream Team has brought home one gold medal (in Greece we won a bronze) and our chances of winning a gold this year are suspect, at best. Meanwhile, men like Jim Thorpe and Paul Anderson can’t get back their gold medals because they made twenty or thirty bucks on the side.
The mantra we’re hearing is that politics and sports don’t mix yet it’s this tension that made the 1936 Berlin Olympics so compelling. It’s become part of American historical folklore that Jesse Owens and the rest of the American delegation so infuriated Hitler that he stood up and walked out of the stadium (which isn’t true- Hitler’s advisors informed him he had two choices: Either congratulate all the gold medalists or none. Hitler chose to congratulate none).
However, this time around, there’s no major America-China matchup in any sport, no Democracy vs. Communist rivalry because the mantra is “One World, One Dream”, the best marketing gimmick and slogan that money can buy by those who are salivating at the thought of a single global union that would surely spell the end of individual freedom across the planet.
In 1936, only Prescott Bush and a handful of other right wing industrialists were financing Hitler’s war machine but this time around the world’s premier dictatorship is being subsidized by not only American industry as a whole but the government itself. It’s already common knowledge that the US borrows two billion dollars a day from Red China just to temporarily fill the hole created by Prescott Bush's grandson’s neverending tax cuts for the wealthy and the equally endless war in Iraq.
Back in 1936, America was still between two world wars, battling a depression and was in no shape whatsoever to be entering another major military campaign as it would have to in five and a half years. Still, we had no problem standing up to Nazi aggression. This time around, American politicians starting with George W. Bush seem to be so jittery about China calling in the massive note that they already hold over our heads that one suspects Bush will apologize to Hu Jintao for every gold meal we win.
People are still dying in China through terrorist bombings, Tibet is still occupied, Georgia is still under attack from Russia, Musharraf is avoiding Beijing under threat of impeachment, we're now losing more troops in Afghanistan than anywhere else, Iraq will still be occupied come 2013, our trade imbalance with China was $256 billion as of last year and Todd Bachman is still dead. The massive dog and pony show of the Opening ceremonies, around which the Bird’s Nest was actually built, now lives on only in videotape. Before we know it, the Olympics will be over in two weeks. It would be nice to think that the world can take a 16 day-long vacation from senseless murders and endless occupations of small nations by brutal dictatorships such as China’s and our own.
But don't be fooled by Bush and Hu Jintao kicking back in Beijing. If nothing else, Berlin taught us that oppression and despotism doesn't take a break even for the Olympics.