Wednesday, August 11, 2004

let the games begin

ok, so I know it might sound a little cynical, but can there truly be any conscious, sentient being left standing on this beautiful blue planet who doesn't believe that the Olympic Games have nothing - nothing whatsoever - to do with sport?
chauvinistic nationalism - yes. monomaniacal egoism - yes. professionally clandestine drug abuse - yes. sport - I don't think so.
unless you happen to agree with the truly cynical consensus that, at that level of game, the winning - at any cost - trumps all other considerations - ethical, medical, or legal - and that the acquisition of a gold medal in itself somehow represents a pinnacle of human achievement rather than the irrelevant apex of a squalid pyramid of cheating, corruption and political chicanery - you surely have to concede that the only 'sport' is in second-guessing the coaches' ever more imaginative methods of pharmaceutically modifying the participants bodies, and even more imaginative methods of evading detection (blood-doping is my current fave).
the point about sport is its glorious pointlessness. it is enormously important that some human activities - such as sport and the arts - should be pointless, if not entirely meaningless. but sport has become invested with meaning - with currency - in the crudest imaginable sense. the glorious thing about a man or woman running incredibly fast in a circle is that it is utterly pointless - a completely meaningless event whose very meaninglessness becomes the empty field that the spectator can populate with mythic significance. once you divert the rationale for that socially inclusive - and supremely important - theatre of struggle from the pointless (the doing it for its own sake) to the aspirational (the doing it for the sponsorship deals, the commercial contracts, the material rewards of celebrity), you reduce the relationship between participant and spectator to the banal rubber-stamping of a trading licence - a credit agreement trading in some egregious futures market of human perfectibility.

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