20 February 2010

And Another ...

Great Britain's Amy Williams celebrates her gold medal.
Photograph © Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters.

Well, I suppose I should be happy that it is not just US medalists [1] [2] who are trained well. I just came across this rarity - a gold medalist from Great Britain at the Winter games - at The Guardian.

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Blogger Matt said...

I was thinking about your post while watching the USA-Canada hockey game last night. On two levels I found myself disagreeing with both your basic premise: either that the Olympics shouldn't be politicized, or that flag waving on the podium is a political act.

In the first instance, the games are politicized from the competition for host city to the decision that Taiwan enters under the banner of Chinese Taipei. I have difficulty imagining how to disentangle the state from the games. It could work on an individual level - simply admit the world's top athletes regardless of ethnic or state affiliation. For team sports, maybe you just admit the Detroit Red Wings to play the Pittsburgh Penguins. Obviously that falls short of Olympic expectations and aspirations.

For the podium flag waving, is it the same as flag waving in the audience (or for that matter, flag 'wearing'?). Was the "Let's Go Canada!" crowd in the hockey arena engaging in political speech? I don't think so and I reference the Molson-esque "I am Canadian" poet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRI-A3vakVg) from the opening ceremony (http://www.vancouversun.com/More+Transcript+opening+ceremony+poem+Shane+Koyczan/2558526/story.html). This seemed a much more cultural distinction paraphrased by Canadians are nice and our neighbors to the south are not. Certainly this derives in part from differences on political issues, but if asked about their support I'd bet that Canadian hockey fans don't answer "I cheer for Canada because I disagree with America's lack of universal health care."

Where does this leave me? Thinking that the Olympics is an inherently political event. But for the athletes, states and their distinctively political flags are used at the Olympics for lack of any better way to identify and group themselves rather than as an act of political speech.

22 February, 2010 10:01  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


I clearly have not communicated well. - obviously my sarcasm nisfired. I agree that the games are political all the way down. I linked ot earlier posts (re: Beijing) that make that clear. The only time we hear complaints about politicizing them is when someone makes a 'political' statement (think Mexico City 1968).

I think flag waving is political. The problem is that we miss that to the extent that it also is thoroughly commercialized. You will see Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn on Wheaties boxes draped int he flag. I'm surprised they are not on the shelves already! That sort of politics is OK. Complaining about rights violations is not.

As for Olympic ideals - we send NBA all-stars and professional hockey players already. They simply play for teams defined by political identity instead of their pro contracts. There are no Olympic ideals that are not bought and paid for in political-economic currency.

22 February, 2010 11:31  

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