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Tony Grist

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Loosely Connected Thoughts On The Olympics [Aug. 7th, 2008|10:26 am]
Tony Grist
1. Once every four years we take the temperature of planet Earth.

Every nation turns up. Every nation is watching. 

It's too big an event for governments to control, though- God knows- they try.

Interesting things- horrible and inspiring- will happen in spite of the wishes of government.


2. All governments are horrid. Some are more horrid than others. 

The Chinese government is almost certainly less horrid than it was in the days of Chairman Mao.

There's no way the governments of the USA and the UK can lecture China about Tibet while they still have troops in Iraq, etc, etc...

The Beijing Olympics has opened China up to the rest of world. This is almost certainly a good thing.


3. My Radio Times contains a guide to the Olympics. In every event it gives me the name of a "Brit to Watch". What a ugly phrase! What an ugly idea!

How lovely if it were all about youth, beauty, speed, strength, grace- but it's not. It's mainly about nationalism.

Those American athletes turning up in Beijing wearing face masks- what rank bad manners!

Flags and national anthems should be banned and athletes should compete as individuals. Fat chance!


4. The Bird's Nest stadium is really pretty. 

This icon of the new China was designed by Swiss architects. 

Lots of homes were demolished to free up the site. The displaced people say they have received no compensation. 

Ach- the moral complexity...
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: wolfshift
2008-08-07 11:51 am (UTC)
In Canada, at every Olympics, we are subjected beforehand to predictions of how many medals Canadian athletes will "bring home", and afterward analysis of why they didn't do better. No matter how many times the athletes and coaches and a few commentators argue that the number of medals isn't the point and it's not a constructive attitude toward the Olympics and sport in general, the journalism media do it every time. And, inevitably, the analysis of why "our" athletes didn't bring home more gold medals comes down to insufficient funding, and then the country vows to fund amateur athletics better, and then promptly forgets about it until the next Olympic Games with the same analysis comes along.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 12:57 pm (UTC)
It's exactly the same in Britain.

I read this morning that the British Olympic effort is costing the taxpayer £7,000,000. Of course the cost of the 2012 Games- which we're hosting (more fool us)- is running into billions.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-08-07 11:54 am (UTC)
And rice farmers nearby were told not to grow rice for awhile, due to the need for water in Bejing, which uses much water and will need more for the olympics tourists.

I think the US team wearing masks is being provocative and tacky.

As for nationalism, our reptilian brains are still in control. "It's us against them," said Carl Sagan, "right down to the amoeba." I guess we'll have to be patient until we evolve. It was pointed out on a science program I saw that, if the period of time that life has been on earth could be condensed to a single year, then invertebrate life appeared in January and not until November did vertebrate life, in the form of fish with backbones, appear. Humans, of course, came even after that. We are still very young, but unfortunately we are primitive and violent and too smart--we know how to smelt and blow things up.

If Jesus wants to come back, now might be a good time.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 12:59 pm (UTC)
But if he did, we'd put him right back there on the cross.

Or else ignore him as a crank.

We're very primitive beasts, aren't we?
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-08-07 01:04 pm (UTC)
It amazes me that we reptilian brains, born in the eleventh hour on earth, have somehow managed to land a probe on Titan, Saturn's moon, and discover its ethane seas.

If we are so primitive and so young and yet do so much, maybe there is still hope for us.

If not, if there is sentient life everywhere (which is my hope), then we will fade and something else somewhere else will still evolve.

Maybe part of my own primitive makeup makes me yearn for a goal--Teilhard's Omega Point will do in the long view of things--but Evolve! Seems to be the message of the universe.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 02:39 pm (UTC)
I'm sure there are other civilisations out there. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were monitoring us.

Michael Newton suggests that planet Earth is one of the more interesting places in the universe. I don't find that hard to believe.

I think we are evolving- and doing so very fast. We've gone from the Ptomelaic universe and the invention of printing to space travel and the Internet in something like half a Millennium. Yes, we're primitive, but we also have this quite amazing ability to learn.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-08-07 02:55 pm (UTC)
I've begun to wish that telepathy might be next for us in our evolution, and perhaps an opening to other dimensions, because we are so isolated in our own heads. Maybe that's part of the early reptilian us-against-them place where we are. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Noosphere would be available to our minds, and we would be less alone?

Why not? Who knows anything about this stuff?

IF Jesus did come here to try to explain things, then what he said was mostly that we don't have a clue about the invisible and more significant realm--kingdom--all around us.

Maybe that's our next frontier, and much much more interesting than Mars.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 03:13 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about telepathy. I was watching this episode of STTNG the other day where this poor telepath was suffering terribly from all the voices in his head.

Who knows what comes next- maybe something utterly unexpected. First Contact, for example.



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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-08-07 03:33 pm (UTC)
I am totally in with First Contact.

As long as it happens to somebody else.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 01:20 pm (UTC)
3. Well, I don't suppose Olympic cyclists are the sharpest pencils in the box. Maybe they didn't realise the stunt would cause offence, but someone higher up should have done. Actually, I reckon they knew exactly what they were doing- and hadn't thought it through.

2. I don't want to seem to be apologising for the Chinese occupation of Tibet, but China has a claim on Tibet that goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. Chinese propagandists argue the invasion liberated the Tibetan people from a corrupt, feudal theocracy.

I don't buy the propaganda, but then I don't buy American and British excuses for the occupation of Iraq either. I believe both invasions were morally wrong.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 01:21 pm (UTC)
That's probably true.

I'm not a big fan of Hauptmann's Paris.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-08-07 01:16 pm (UTC)
I always used to love the Olympics as a child. Then, when I was in High School, one of my best friends won 3 gold medals. In fact, she was (and still is) a swimmer, and she was the person who taught me to swim!

In my 20s, the Olympics came to L.A. and I was very excited. However, sadly, the I didn't get to go to a single event. I had a partner then that didn't work who had a small child. Basically, I was "married with children". I wanted so badly to go, and I wanted so badly to take her son, but, even though I had a good job and worked like 60 hours a week, there was no way I could even come close to swinging it.

At that point, a lot of the shine of it got tarnished. Suddenly, all I could see was all the money that everyone was making on the deal, and how the experience is totally untouchable by most of the world. That kind of ruined it for me.

I still get excited about it, though, but I always feel like I am being seduced by a false lover whenever I do.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 01:29 pm (UTC)
I've never been any good at any sport. Athletics has never greatly appelaed to me. The two sports I sort of pay attention to are tennis and cricket.

I loved the Sydney Olympics. Partly because they seemed to be so good-natured and partly because the scenery and weather were so glorious.

I've always thought the Olympics should be tied down to a permanent site. Preferably in a small country that doesn't greatly abuse human rights- and which isn't going to use them to indulge in political posturing.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-08-07 01:32 pm (UTC)
I think the Olympics may be where I got my love of weight lifting.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2008-08-07 01:18 pm (UTC)
The Olympics ARE political. They have always been, and are more so since the Hitler/Jesse Owens fiasco.

And you know, I am offended by your comment about bad manners. Perhaps it would have been better if the American contingent hadn't GONE to the Olympics, but since they did they have every right to draw attention to the air pollution. Pollution in China doesn't just STAY in China, you know.

I do agree with you about the Tibet/Iraq thing, though. And don't you believe for ONE SINGLE MOMENT that China is opened up to the rest of the world. We - the world, the press, whomever - will see exactly what 'they' want us to see. No more.

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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-08-07 01:23 pm (UTC)
I, too, thought that the American team ought to have stayed at home. After all, during Jimmy Carter's term of office Russia invaded Afghanistan and Carter boycotted the Moscow games. Yet in the face of China's flagrant human rights violations we send an Olympic team to Beijing, then suffer censorship because our team protects itself from air pollution. What a crazy world!
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From: nostoi
2008-08-07 01:32 pm (UTC)
I don't think a government that operates a place such as Guantanamo Bay can really criticize any other country's government for the violation of human rights.

Governments in general are only ever concerned about human rights when they have another motive entirely which they wish to exploit.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-08-07 01:50 pm (UTC)
I am really upset about the whole Tibet thing, too, and that is only one of a long list of complaints that I have with China. So, yes, I suppose it would have been better if we had stayed home.

The only thing is, one of my best friends from high school was an Olympic swimmer. She trained for that all her life, and when she was 16, she was at her peak and won 3 gold medals. It would have been a shame if some political squabble had taken that away from her. So, even though I have stern reservations, I am glad athletes are getting the chance.

But, if I were there, I would probably wear a mask, too. China's unabashed consumerism is apparently the reason why gas is so expensive now (at least that is what we are being told), and there attitudes about pollution are totally unacceptable. If they want to play in the global market, they need to learn to follow the rules.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 01:55 pm (UTC)
I applaud the team who ran the Tibetan flag up a lamp post in Tianamen Square. That took courage.

The same goes for the people- in many different countries- who attacked the Olympic torch as it was paraded round the world.

But the stunt with the masks struck me as a childish insult- aimed not so much at the Chinese government as at the Chinese people. Also the athletes who did it weren't really risking anything.

I've been watching reports from inside China on both the main British networks. They've dealt with corruption, repression, human rights abuses and government high-handedness. The Chinese government promised free access and can't deny it now without losing face. The journalists were certainly hindered by government agents, but- on the whole- incompetently and ineffectually. In one instance, wanting an interview with farmers who had been impoverished and then abandoned by government, they simply gave their minders the slip.
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From: nostoi
2008-08-07 01:19 pm (UTC)
I skipped through the pages relating to the Olympics in the Radio Times, was much more interested in Boris Johnson's Turkish antecedents!

For the 2012 (or the 20 R as I read the awful logo!) allotments were cleared for some reason or other and the allotment holders were "compensated" very badly with a substandard area which is just about impossible to till.

Dead right about the UK and US lecturing others as if we were pure and innocent ourselves. Ack. Government's are pretty sickening things in the main, all about power masquerading as concern for the people. Bah.

If I were remotely interested in the Games I would be more into seeing other countries efforts than my own. There's so much to learn about other nations, why not take the opportunity to look outwards for a change.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 02:04 pm (UTC)
Yes indeed, fancy Boris being a Turk!

I'm not looking forward to the 2012 Olympics. I regard them as a fraud that's being perpetrated on the British people.

I don't suppose I'll be watching much of the Games, but you never know. There's been so much hype about the opening ceremony I reckon I'm going to have to tune in.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-08-09 03:15 pm (UTC)
I protest human rights violations wherever they occur, but especially in my own country, where such violations fly in the face of the "American Way".
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-08-07 01:20 pm (UTC)
Why the brouhaha about American athletes wishing to breathe?
If a person smokes a cigarette anywhere in the vicinity of a non-smoker, it is almost a subject for litigation. Therefore, with the filthy air of Beijing, why not masks? It was not so long ago that Japanese were wearing masks in the streets of Tokyo because of air pollution.
In my opinion, the Olympic Games ought not to be held in Beijing at all!
I am well aware of the sins of my country, but I do not for one moment consider this to be one of them.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 02:11 pm (UTC)
I think the Olympics should have a fixed venue- preferably in some small, relatively non-controversial country- like Greece.

I think the thing with the face masks was ill-mannered. And I suspect it was calculatedly so. I'm not against political protest- I applaud the American Christian couple who staged a demonstration in Tianamen square and the Brits and Americans who ran the Tibetan flag up a lamp post- but this particular gesture struck me as petty and chauvinistic.

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From: manfalling
2008-08-07 01:53 pm (UTC)
Baiting China serves no purpose at all. It's bad enough to so blatantly draw attention to something China is clearly sensitive about by wearing face-masks, but to actually suggest the US team should have stayed home?

China is desperate for respect- massively so. For the US to snub them so blatantly would severely damage Chinese-American relations, and either force China back into its protective shroud of dictatorial communism, or push America way out of the international limelight- allowing other countries to get on with networking while the US sits this round out.

Stamping on China now will do no good at all. They're getting better- isn't that obvious? They're trying. But you can't expect everything to change overnight. That's like going on a first date then getting into a fight about who'll do the washing up. First you have to build the relationship, build shared experience, and most of all build trust.

Stunts like face-masks, and even making a lot of noise about Tibet- will only serve to keep that trust from happening, keep the relationship from building, and ultimately destroy any chance the US and others will have to influence China away from the policies of theirs we disapprove of.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-08-07 02:26 pm (UTC)
Exactly.

These Games are likely to prove a very important historical milestone. China is opening up- and is a far better place than it was in Mao's time- which is only a few decades ago- and which I remember vividly.

Every nation has dirty laundry. If Beijing should have been boycotted over Tibet, then London 2012 should be boycotted over Iraq.
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