Friday, August 10, 2012

The positive legacy of the London 2012 Olympics

Now I was quite curmudgeonly about the Olympics in advance, for reasons I've already written about.  That being the economic disaster they are proving and will prove to be, and the overweening authoritarianism both written into legislation and enforced by the Police, indeed, such reasons continue to pop up, such as the man arrested by Police for not appearing to enjoy the event he was watching (he has Parkinsons' Disease).   

Kiwiwit has a good post about reasons to dislike the games as well.  

In almost sickening cliche terms there is constant talk of "legacy" from the Olympics.  Part of this is attributed to the construction of venues, although these will be grossly underutilised and the stadium itself is likely to be leased at below a return on capital to some soccer club.   Part of it comes from handing over the athletes' village as new housing, some of which is the awful cliche "affordable housing" (I didn't know I lived in unaffordable housing - except it would be before long if I lost my job).  Part of it is the claim that the record British medals' haul will inspire lazy kids to take up sports.  It might do a little, but that tends to be over exagerrated.

Yet for all these negatives, there is a single overwhelmingly fantastic element to the Olympics.

It is a display and celebration of personal achievement.

People who to a man and woman, tried their hardest, spent months or years training and practicing and giving it their commitment to pursue their own goals.  

They are not altruists.  The medals were not won so that Britain could feel great.  They were not won to boost the economy or to encourage others to take up the sport.  

They were won by people who wanted to win as their individual achievement - including those in teams.  It was a desire to be the best.

This in a world where the word "elite" is taken as a sneer that success comes only from privilege, this in a world where individual success in so many fields is taken as a chance to demand a pound of flesh for everyone else.  A world where those who make things happens by applying their mind and energy to ideas are simply seen as obliged to carry everyone else along with themselves.  A world where so many see those as succeed as hosts to suck the blood from.  

Further to this has been the unashamed joy of those winning, with justified personal pride that their own effort and skill have paid off.  However, also delightful has been the joy of many of those who did not get gold.  Why?  Because they gave it their all, they blamed nobody else for not getting gold, if they did blame someone it was themselves.   Total responsibility for their actions and result.   This one year after London was beset by riots from those expressing the antithesis of this.  Nihilistic parasites destroying, invading, stealing, blaming it on the Police, blaming it on society, blaming it on the government, when their motivation was a combination of euphoria from destruction and personal gain directly at the expense of others.  

Yet those celebrating and enjoying the Olympics have not just been those competing and their team mates, families and coaches, but the spectators both in person and on television.  Much of that has been a patriotic joy at seeing British men and women succeed, particularly as the story of so many of them is one of coming from an average background, deciding to pick a sport, finding they do well and wanting to do better.   However, it isn't just some blind nationalism.  Usain Bolt's success has captured the imagination of millions, many of whom have no connection to Jamaica.  Michael Phelps likewise.   Indeed one of the great points noticed by many athletes have been the spectators, predominantly British, cheering on the winners, regardless of nationality.

This celebration of success, achievement, personal, is overwhelmingly positive.  

It's been noted that this is the antithesis of the recent celebrity culture of attention seeking of non-achievers.  The world that of the likes of Piers Morgan, who dared slam Team GB athletes who stood on the podium with gold medals and didn't sing "God Save the Queen".  This overpaid unachieving tabloid media hack whose life has been to invade the privacy of others to sell pap populist bullshit almost epitomises the leadership of the attention seeking vacuousness of mass culture, most notably seen in the nobodies called the Kardashians.

Gold medal athletes are so far above and beyond parasites like Morgan that they shouldn't give him the oxygen of their attention.

Meanwhile, almost a complete sideshow during this time has been the politics of it all.  Those who themselves want to suck popularity and publicity from the achievement of others and gloat or point score around the games - or rather, those who gleefully spent other people's money for the event under the cover of, at best, non-evidence based wishful thinking about the benefits of the games.

So, if the one thing that is taken away from the games is a sense of joy, awe and respect for those who achieved the pinnacle of their chosen sports, then that IS the positive legacy.  A legacy that shows children and adults that people can achieve great things if they show determination, discipline and responsibility.   A legacy that also shows that for most athletes, achievement is not seen in medals, but in getting to personal bests, participating with world champions with the chance of success, and almost none of them blame others for not getting gold. 

It is an antidote to the culture of equality worship, the years of opposition to competitive sports, the idea that someone succeeding "makes the losers feel bad", that those who succeed must always bear in mind the effect of their success on those who don't.

This corrosive attitude that those who succeed shouldn't celebrate their achievement, and that there should be celebration of those who come last may have a place in encouraging young children (or the intellectually disabled) to try things and learn to get better, has permeated its way into cultures with a "tall poppy syndrome".  It's perhaps New Zealand's worst cultural trait - the willingness to sneer and think someone who is proud of having done well and keeps doing well "thinks he is better than the rest of us".  So what if he is, he's probably right.

Usain Bolt shows the antithesis of this attitude. "Fastest man in the world" who knows he is, is glad he is, and is unashamed about it, and millions of people share the joy of seeing him do just that. He did not think for a moment to give his team mate Yohan Blake a chance to "be equal" by getting a Gold Medal, and Blake would never have wanted him to.

The Olympics doesn't see the competition getting retarded or limited just to allow someone else to have a chance at winning.

As such, despite it being a grand taxpayer funded display of state celebration (which it is, and which more than a few countries use it for), it is an antidote to the culture of our times.

Who of the Marxists who demand that the people at the lowest level jobs in businesses be considered the creators of the true wealth of those businesses would stand up and say "Usain Bolt didn't do that" because there were others who washed his laundry, drove him to the venue, cooked his meals or made his shoes.

Did the people in the factories in Asia producing his running gear win his gold medal?  No.

Indeed the BBC tried desperately hard to push a Marxist criticism of the games on Newsnight a few nights ago, claiming some Team GB medals came from "elite sports" that only the wealthy could pursue, and the Olympics were "out of reach" because so many sports were not mass events.  The argument is so absurd as to be barely worthy of a response, when the Olympics is full of track and field events, team ball events, swimming and others that are accessible.  How many children get inspired by Usain Bolt running like a champion?  The Marxist MP Dianne Abbott talked of a lack of ethnic diversity among those benefiting from the games, denying the remarkably multi-ethnic backgrounds of the medallist (and indeed both her and the BBC's hypothesis were swatted down within 24 hours when Jade Jones (from a small Welsh village) and Nicola Adams (from Leeds of Afro-Caribbean descent) won gold for taekwondo and boxing respectively.

So the equality bullies, the people who always want to point out how unfair life is because not everyone everywhere can win gold, not everyone everywhere can get the time or money to become elite athletes, have been overwhelmed by a tide of enthusiasm, warmth and joy from those who DO succeed.

That, despite all that has been wrong about these Olympics, is quite beautiful.

Finally, to almost epitomise this sheer joy and delight at success, is one of my favourite moments from the Olympics.  The absolutely unalloyed expression of love, pride and emotion from Bert le Clos.  This interview was on the BBC minutes after his son, Chad le Clos, won the 200m butterfly in swimming  beating his hero Michael Phelps.

1 comment:

Jeremy Harris said...

The Chinese's programme is just as bad as the DPRK's or the old Soviet and Soviet inspired eastern bloc ones. Sun Yang, the swimmer, who won 2 golds, received $18 million in endorsement deals from big western companies after his performance. $6 million he must give to the others swimmers on the team, and $6 million to the Chinese Swimming Programme to develop "future talent". Communism at it's worst. I've always wondered why the so called believers in "each according to his need" believe in athletic success.

For me the best highlight of the games was when a reporter asked Sally Pearson, the Australian gold medallist in the 110m hurdles, who she was going to share her medal with (presumably to get some patriotic twaddle). Pearson replied, "Absolutely nobody! Maybe my coach can have a look". It was brilliant.