Exactly two minutes from the time I began to write this sentence, the opening ceremonies for the Games of the XXX Olympiad will begin in London. And, for the first time that I can remember, I find that I could not care less. It’s strange because I like sports. Quite a lot, in fact. But so far, I have precisely zero interest in this ceremony or these Olympic Games.
I’m not exactly sure why this is the case. Perhaps I am finding it more difficult than usual to muster up anything resembling enthusiasm for sports like fencing and synchronized diving and archery (even if they are in stunning HD!). Perhaps it is because adding my tacit approval to the big (and often corrupt) business of sports is increasingly problematic for me. Perhaps I am inwardly chafing at the untold millions of dollars that are spent on these types of events in a world where so many still do not have even the most basic of necessities. Perhaps this is just a thinly veiled attempt to hide my envy of all the lean, hard, über-talented bodies that will be paddling and leaping and kicking and shooting and pedaling across hundreds of millions of screens over the next two weeks. Perhaps I didn’t get enough coffee today and am simply being an insufferable grouch. Who knows…
Mainly, though, I think I am simply growing weary of “the spectacle.” In a world where anything and everything is available to our greedy eyes and ears at the click of a mouse or a button on our remotes, we are becoming harder and harder creatures to impress. The spectacle has to be increasingly spectacular or it won’t elicit our “ooohs” and “aaahs” and it won’t spur us to flood to social media to report on said “ooohs” and “aaahs” to others. The only thing better than an impressive spectacle, after all, is being able to blog, tweet, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, Google+, or Instagram the depth of our amazement to others! Now!!
And so, the organizers of this ceremony and these Olympics will dutifully attempt to impress us. And we wait… and we wonder… Will the fireworks be as impressive as Beijing? Will the choreography rival Vancouver’s? Will there be a larger TV audience than… well, ever (because only the biggest ever will do!)? Which celebrities will be there? What will they think? Will they—gasp!—tell us? What will the Queen and William and Kate be wearing? Will the athletes be providing live updates during the ceremony? Will Twitter overheat and explode due to the astonishing amount and variety of tedious and banal commentary that will no doubt be pouring through the ether during each of the next seventeen days? Stay tuned…
I don’t doubt that there will be a few truly memorable, inspirational, and heroic moments over the next two and a half weeks or so. There always are. I may even be watching when they occur. I am, after all, an entirely hypocritical grouch when it comes to these matters and I will probably be watching by tomorrow! And there really is something remarkable about events like Olympic Games and World Cups that only come around every four years.
But I know that there will also be plenty that is entirely unremarkable. There will be the specter of performance-enhancing drugs and the lure of exorbitant corporate sponsorship deals for the winners. There will be endless transparent attempts at bolstering flagging patriotism by TV networks along with the predictable deluge of mindless advertising. And there will be altogether too many meticulously engineered feel-good vignettes to make us all weep and marvel at how the Olympics embody the human spirit and diverse people coming together and the power of sport to unite us all and everything else that is deemed to be virtuous, inspirational, and profitable by the high-powered executives who shape and craft these events for the paying public.
And then we will all go back to the real world and think about how we will pay for what we just watched. Or, more precisely, who will pay for what we just watched (and for how long) and who will busy themselves with counting their millions.
The spectacle has started by now. I hope people are suitably amazed. I’m going for a walk. Maybe I’ll be less irritable (and more willing and ready to be impressed) when I return.
I’m with you Ryan, as time goes I am becoming ever less impressed with spectacle of any kind. I’m even offended by it at times. Maybe event planners will come to understand that simple can be just as powerful as spectacle, and much more elegant.
Having little interest in watching sports has always come quite naturally to me. Firstly, I’ve always asked the question, “How does the result of this game/competition affect me?” And since I don’t gamble, and have no immediate relatives engaged in professional sports, the answer is invariably a “no.”
Secondly, I have always considered sports from a philosophical perspective as an endless repetition of competition: someone wins, someone loses, the end. Where is the surprise? There is none. Kind of boring.
These points, in conjunction with yours, make it difficult for me to watch sports. And all this from a dad who takes all three boys to soccer and who just coached mites’ softball.
You are much more consistent than me, Russ :). Even though it doesn’t affect me at all, and even though I don’t gamble, and even though it really is an endless repetition of predictable events (“someone wins, someone loses, the end”), I still watch… I suppose I can’t resist the lure of who wins and how they do so… Or, I am just as easily manipulable by the bloated, superficial, advertising-fuelled machine of sports broadcasting as everyone else.
You are grumpier than usual Ryan. I hope you ended that walk with a cup of coffee…
Having said that, I agree with a lot of what you said. However, when I do get the chance to watch a bit of the Olympics I must admit my eyes well up every once in awhile as I watch someone achieve their personal best and imagine all the training and perseverance that went in to that moment. I often wish I could be as dedicated or have that much passion for something. There is definitely a grimy side but there is also something amazing about what the human spirit and body is able to do.
I hope your get to enjoy a little bit of the spectacle. 🙂
Ha! I guess I was having one of those days…
Despite my grouchiness, I am watching the Olympics off and on. I agree—there is something remarkable about what some of these people can accomplish and the amount of effort and desire they have put into getting to this stage. It is remarkable. And I am enjoying bits of the spectacle, here and there.
But, there’s always stories like this to keep me good and cynical :).