The Olympics and everything else behind them
It’s been 116 years since the revival of the Olympic Games in Greece in 1896 and very much has changed since then. Not only social, political, cultural and economic developments, but also in the world of sports. Of course the athletes are still the protagonists of the Games, as they well should be. And London 2012 Olympics have provided the world with many memorable moments – including the feat of US swimmer Michael Phelps who became most celebrated Olympian with 22 medals, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt retained the title of fastest man in the world, while South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius proved that even with two artificial limbs he can still compete with the elite in the 400m. There is quite a lot to remember from these Games. And surely each country has its own moments. Greek swimmer Spyridon Gianniotis missed out on the bronze medal in the 10-kilometer open water swimming event by just five seconds. Austria laments its worse games in 50 years as its 70 athletes in 21 sports failed to bring home a medal. On the other hand, Team GB, playing on home turf, managed to gather 65 medals (of which 25 gold) – one of their best ever Olympic performances. While even Cypriot sailor Pavlos Kontides won silver at the Laser dinghy category – the island’s first ever Olympic medal. In total 79 out of the 193 nations won an Olympic medal in the London 2012 Games that just ended yesterday.
However, the Games are no longer just about sportsmanship or the glory of being an Olympian. It’s also about the business behind it all. As almost everything is nowadays, it’s all about the money. It’s about the effort that goes into organizing “the best Games in history” as each hosting nation aspires to have. It’s in investing into the infrastructure, the facilities, the courts, the Olympic village, the transport, and the organization in general. It’s the hosting city’s and nation’s chance to promote itself to the world. To advertise its culture, its history, its beauty in order to draw in tourism. The most usual and expected place to see a demonstration of culture, history and generally of what the country is about is of course during the opening and closing ceremonies. Critics globally hailed the London 2012 ceremonies as “spectacular”. I’m sorry, but I just didn’t see that. The opening ceremony was boring. Of course Londoners were trying to highlight their history, short as it may be, with the industrial revolution etc., but what did the NHS have to do with anything? And two weeks later does anyone really remember what the opening ceremony involved? To me, one of the most memorable moments was actually Mr. Bean and his one-of-a-kind facial expressions during the “Chariots of Fire” music by Vangelis. Oh, and of course, James Bond receiving the Queen and accompanying her on a parachute jump above the Olympic Stadium. Other than that, however, there was hardly anything to remember. And I am not being biased by saying this. It was too long, too loud, and too…British. As a reviewer said, “it was a ceremony by the British for the British”. And I actually wonder how much the millions of viewers around the world (who are not British) could actually understand or even relate to any of it. Similarly, the closing ceremony was equally uninteresting. It was simply a huge rock party. Nothing more and nothing less. The 10-minute performance by next hosting city Rio de Janeiro was actually more spectacular than the 4-hour show presented by London. At least they had rhythm and fancy costumes and synchronized performances that would appear as an image even to the spectator seating at the highest row of the stadium. Either way, the ceremonies were nothing impressive and had nothing much to offer. At least that’s my opinion. And for the Brits who are challenging Rio to “beat that” in what they can show, well, the Brazilians won’t really have any trouble doing that. We’re talking about the party capital of the world with the carnival and the Samba. Really? At least give them a challenge…
Well, the 16 days of the Olympic Games however did provide a lot of emotion sports-wise. The successes, the achievements, the losses, and the sorrows were all part of the most important sporting event in the world. What, unfortunately was not, was the Olympic Truce. For while the 10960 athletes were competing in London with crowds enthusiastically cheering them on, in Syria the conflict continued, with the death toll rising during ruthlessly suppressed anti-government protests.