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The Summer Olympics are almost upon us and I confess, I cannot work up any enthusiasm whatsoever for the event and the fact that they are in London just makes me nervous, which tends to negate the traditional meaning of the business in the first place.
When I was a girl I read a book about the origins of the Olympic games it all seemed terribly poetic and wonderful to me. I was in love with all things ancient Greek anyway, so the concept of all hostilities coming to a halt for the purpose of peaceful athletic competition was almost mythical and magical in a way. The fact that people would cooperate and stop killing each other to serve a greater purpose seemed like a plus vote for humanity. There was a purity in the athletic competition of the games, a kind of connection with childhood and innocence with Olympic champions holding the same status as warriors in a society where war was a pretty much ongoing state of affairs.
To be perfectly honest, I just don't feel that way about the Olympics anymore. Sports in general, which I used to love, have become so much a business that there are times when the actual sporting events themselves are almost completely obliterated by the pile-on of advertisers, business managers, investment bankers, photographers, gossip mongers, lawyers, and agents, both sports and Hollywood. Sometimes I think we should just forget about the athletes and have the rest of the hundreds of folks involved with the business of the sport go out on a field and duke it out. In the end, it might be more genuine a contest.
Professional sports are, after all, a profession, and consequently carry with them all the various accoutrement of any profession, with a bunch more added on. But the Olympics are supposed to be different, although they are really not and possibly never were. The Olympics were a homogeneous event with only male citizens of Greece and Greek states allowed to compete. Women were not allowed to compete or even attend the events, of course. They had their own little mini lady Olympics but the audience probably consisted primarily of the mothers of the girls competing and no one seemed to pay them much attention. In end, the Olympics were a strictly Greek competition, which you might think would eliminate a lot of the animosity until you remember that the independent Greek states were traditionally in a perpetual state of war with each other, playing a musical chairs of changing allegiances over centuries and only coming together long enough to fight off the Persians – twice. Other than those two occasions they were constantly at each other's throats. The fact that they could stop trying to annihilate each other long enough to play some games is actually rather amazing if you think about it. The Greeks were a people who must have been very serious about their athletics. The fact that they all shared the same basic belief system and worshiped the same Gods may have had a lot to do with it since there was a significant religious aspect inherent in the games. Oddly, their Gods seemed to be fine with them attempting to slaughter each other any other time, but once a year they required that they put down their swords and pick up a discus. Go figure.
The Olympics have changed a lot and it often seems as if the fiercest competition is between the countries vying for the right to host the games rather than the actual athletic contests. Personally, why any country or city would want to host the Olympics is a complete mystery to me. When was the last time any host nation made a profit from them? To the best of my knowledge there are cities still carrying Olympic debt from decades ago. Logistically, hosting the Olympics has got to be a total nightmare in the modern world. Although plenty of spectators in the ancient world came to enjoy the games, it is doubtful that any of them showed up with the intent to violently disrupt the occasion because of my real or imagined grudges against the Greek city-states. Nobody hated the Athenians as much as the Persian Empire and although it is recorded that some Persians attended the Olympics, it would appear that they just showed up for the chariot races or something. In the ancient world the guys handling security for the Olympics might have had to break up a few fist fights between rabid fans who had too much to drink, nowadays the security guys for any Olympics must have bleeding ulcers, broken marriages, and anxiety disorders.
This year the Olympics are being held in London, a city which figures largely in the consciousness of the entire world. In London during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. If I were a fanatic with a gripe, a violent, crazy person seeking revenge, or a scheming third party looking to pin a rap on a crazy, violent, rabid, revenge seeking fanatic with a gripe for my own nefarious purposes , I would see this as a golden opportunity for maximum impact. I may have become a little disillusioned with the Olympics since they included synchronized swimming and golf in the events, but now I just feel nervous.
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