Saturday, February 11, 2006

Winter Olympics

Ah! The Winter Olympics are here at last. While these Games will be tainted with some sort of scandal, they will be most entertaining. The Winter Games have become more important than the Summer Games. The events garner more interest simply because so many recreational athletes participate in them. Skiing, skating, cross-country skiing, and others are no longer relegated to their countries of origin. This also explains why there are now so many different nations putting teams forward. What used to be the almost exclusive province of the Europeans is now a true world competition.

The medal count will certainly be more diverse and the results more interesting due to the suspense created by the appearance of well conditioned athletes world wide. So far there is no appearance of the financial scandal of Salt Lake City, and we can hope that the figure skating will not be marred by corrupt judging. There will be cheating, there always is.

The need for approbation is so great in human nature that winning by cheating is often tried. The problem of course is that winning in this fashion is not winning at all. The most famous examples, once revealed, have left ashes in the mouths of the victors and stained their national honor. They can no longer be taken seriously in competition, which is undoubtedly one of the worst things that can happen to the human psyche.

The East German transformation of women athletes to quasi men, the Russian victory in the 1972 basketball final, the South Korean silver medal in boxing, are all examples of national interest taking the place of sportsmanship and true achievement. These incidents may be favorably compared to Islamic violence. In both cases the actions are predicated on weakness, fear, and the feeling of being powerless in the world at large and specifically at home. All these hopes and fears are exposed under the pressure of the international spotlight. I hope these games will offer us an insight in the true meaning of sport, which is that hard work and discipline will be rewarded in the marketplace of competition. The best, like the truth, will out.

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