2001-08-11 / Sports

Ode to the A-Train by Elio Velez

As I stand on the Broad Channel Station waiting for that darn Shuttle train, I remember looking at NBC and spotting that Olympic logo on the lower right of the TV screen. Then the memories of watching the Summer Olympics rush back to me. Tape delay filled broadcasts, countless hours of showing women’s gymnastics (on tape delay also) and the numerous mentions of our American heroes capturing gold (on tape delay as well).

Tape delays aside, I found out the other day through NBC, that China had won the rights to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. You might ask how relevant is that to us living in America in 2001? And for the many of us who just recovered from that hangover of the (tape delay, all of the time) 2000 Australia Olympics?

Well folks, this time, it’s the political hubbub that surrounds this choice that is somewhat controversial. The choice of China has rankled people and organizations throughout the world in that China has a somewhat hazy record with their justice system and human rights abuses. Some people have said that China should never have been allowed the chance to host the games.

The growing argument that I have heard is that, with China hosting the games, maybe they will change their ways for good and make a positive statement to the world. It’s a load of crap to believe that some amateur games (those two words will be the subject of debate in another rant) can change a political system.

In 1968, the Summer Olympics in Mexico did not stop a brutal dictatorship from hurting and repressing the fair citizens of Mexico. In 1976, the Montreal Olympics did not create peace between the provinces of Quebec and the rest of Canada. Even today, there is still a large movement (sometimes violent) for Quebec to break away from Canada to form their own country.

What the Olympics are, in fact, is a corporate sponsorship between the International Olympic Committee and their close partners at NBC, Nike, McDonalds, Microsoft and other too numerous to mention companies. It’s big money and the real game is played within closed doors from the public. What the IOC tells you that the Olympics is a forum for amateur athletes can sometimes get lost when NBC bombards you with Nike and Mcdonalds commercials that focus on their product and not the athlete.

Whatever the real intent of the games has been lost in time immemorial. It’s not the games that can change the governments and their way of implementing policies. Gymnastics and Basketball cannot change a way of life.

Most people in America and even myself can forget that in 1996, we showed the whole world a view of Atlanta that was clean and beautiful. But we didn’t explain that Atlanta swept out the homeless from television camera views and how that Olympic Park bombing was never solved. Did other people from the rest of the world think we would change our Death Penalty statute if we hosted the games? Did the world and most specifically America, hear that the 2002 Winter Olympic games in Utah has been fraught with accusation and indictments for kickbacks, bribes and other illegal crimes? That people in America gave gifts of money, jewelry and other things to bribe the IOC to come here isn’t much different from other countries have done in the past and will do in the future.

What the Olympic games are supposed to provide are moments where we marvel at the human athletes in single and team competition. When people can admire how Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988 won three gold medals in track and field. How Lithuania in 1992 fielded a basketball team that almost never arrived to the Olympics without some money, uniforms and t-shirts provided by Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. They won a bronze medal for a country that had just become one just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. And let us not forget in 1980 on how those ragtag college kids from America beat the bad, talented and ominous Soviet Union in hockey to capture the gold for America.

Stories such as those are just a few of the many stories that can raise hopeful and joyous spirits from the people competing and the people watching. If, we can concentrate on the sports and push away the political and economic malaise, maybe for a moment the Olympics can help us forget the bad things that are prevalent in our society. And we can try to forget on how many times you can win a free happy meal with that Olympic scratch off game right at your local Mcd’s.

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