Thursday, August 26, 2004


Overall, I've been very unsatisfied with the coverage of the Olympics this year. I generally don't like my patriotiasm in suppository form, and that's what the coverage has felt like: I have to cheer for the Americans, or else I'm - perhaps traitor is too strong a word, but certainly, that something is wrong with me.

I've never felt this way in the past. Of course, after the fall of the USSR, the networks needed a new angle for their coverage, and switched over to the whole "human interest" thing, featuring the trials each athlete had to go through (recovering from cancer, growing a new limb, etc.) But this year is different - if I could take screenshots from some of the races, it's almost pathetic how they keep the camera focused entirely on the American runner and ignore the others.

I can contrast that with the coverage on the Canadian Broadcasting Channel, which we get down here thanks to our proximity to our neighbors in the Great White North. Their coverage is what I remember the Olympics being when I was a kid; still nationalistic (after all, it is a time to be proud of your country), but at the same time, celebrating the spirit of unity that brings the athletes together. That, to me, has always symbolized what the Olympics should be - not the glory of one nation over all other nations, but the sense of community that develops from shared experience and competition.

Allow me to digress slightly for one moment. While I was at GenCon, I read about an ad the Bush administration was running about Afghanistan and Iraq being able to compete in the Olympics as democracies. The ad featured the Iraqi soccer team (that's footie to non-American readers), who are in a position to earn a bronze medal this year. Of course, the ad was intended to support the Bush administration's re-election campaign.

The article also mentioned that the Iraqi soccer team was non too happy with this development. In fact, in an interview that appeared in Sports Illustrated, the Iraqi soccer coach told Bush to, essentially, go to hell. That Uday Hussein used to use the Iraqi soccer team (in between torturing them) as a politcal tool, and the right to be allowed to compete without being a political tool was supposedly the reason the Bush administration liberated Iraq in the first place - not to serve its own self-interest, as it has repeatedly done since the invasion.

Which brings me back to the Olympic coverage. The kind of blind flag-waving, the cameras not focusing on the other athletes, seems like something the Soviet Union would broadcast on its networks - forcing its citizens to see only one aspect of the games, using the athletes as political pawns rather than in the spirit of the games.

And honestly, I don't know what's scarier - the Bush administration using athletes as political pawns like Hitler or Stalin (harsh comparisons, but apt in this case), or the American television networks' complacency - even eagerness - to indulge this nonsense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know, this is exactly why I sometimes watch the CBC coverage instead. Because if they are glorifying Canadian athletes, they are doing it very, very modestly.