Sunday, August 21, 2016

Good Bye and Thank You Rio

With Team USA winning Men's Basketball Gold Medal, Americans complete a successful Summer Olympics campaign. American athletes put a great performance by matching London 2012 Gold medal count and exceeding overall London medal count. This has been one of the most dominant performances by USOC team since 1984, even better than home games of Atlanta in 1996. 

Basically American Capitalism keeps the machine of 'glory of stars and stripes' well oiled, decades and after decade. Glowing life stories of these American athletes, genuine in their own rights, endless rendition of American anthem at Olympic venue after venue, unfathomable supply of viral going video clips and completely saturated flood of iconic images of athletes in action; all these are parts of 'stock content and brand creation' to sell 'wares' made by American Corporations to global masses. That is the function of Olympics for American Capitalism, considering that USOC is the unique organization in the world which does not take money from its government but earns all dollars years after year by putting these glittering performances at the top level of global competition, games after game.

Is it right then? Sure, it might not be fully commensurate with the spirit of Olympics. Well, we cannot be sure millennium back what were the political forces which shaped original ancient Greek Olympics. Seems like religious connotations were important and central then. For modern Olympics, 'joy of participation, fairness' are crucial so as any nation - high or low, rich or poor - is equally able to participate and celebrate the spirit under her own flag.

Truth is modern world has not seen any other successful way of ensuring this spirit, athletic success and oh sure 'those bragging rights'; apart from Global Capitalism underwriting contemporary Olympics. Among many attempts to re-interpret Olympics, Nazi regime tried to co-opt Olympics for racial purposes. With African-American victories in those games; Adolf Hitler got his answer then. Soviets tried to exploit Olympics for the glory of State Capitalism and Communism, but alas Olympic exploits did not save the Soviet Union. With Beijing 2008 Olympics, China wanted to give one more spin to the Soviet Model. World felt may be we got a worthy successor to USSR, but when UK successfully hosted 2012 London Olympics at lower cost and put up a strong athletic performance there; the world started to see chinks in the Chinese model of State sponsored athletic success in Olympics. Performances of USA and UK contingents in Rio 2016 confirm that the world does not need State Sponsorship to excel in Olympics, possibly forcing China to go back to drawing boards about how does it prepared for Olympian glory.[1]

Rio also demonstrated that today's Olympics have become prohibitively expensive and un-affordable to most nations, questioning the very model of rotating Olympics to newer places every four years. But Brazil equally proved that it can conduct itself reasonably well amidst a full blown political vacuum. The manifestation of adequate competency at the gargantuan task of organizing the jamboree of contemporary summer Olympics - that should help Brazil to be proud of. It gives Brazil the confidence that despite the mess created by its political class; it has enduring strength to come forward united in front of the world, welcome thousands of top notch athletes from all over world and to put on a competent show without any incident. Given the background of political turmoil and deep recession, Brazil has done a good job of completing Rio Olympics successfully. Athletes and governments all over the world would rightfully thank Brazil for that. Also, I do not know how true Lula's statement is that 'God is Brazilian'[2]; but at least there was a poetic justice in Neymar's Brazil Soccer Team able to defeat Germany for Brazil's first Soccer Gold Medal in Olympics. 

Finally, at home Trump's 'we are not winning anything anymore' political argument got a very strongly rebuttal.[3] Enough erudite commentary has been out there, telling us how game after game American medal winning athletes from all walks of life completely undermined racist and divisive arguments of Donald Trump. It is so true. It was political 101 for President Obama to take summer vacation when Americans are glued to their TV sets while day after day Rio coverage is picking holes in Trump politics. Who knows, may be all that humbling is forcing Donald Trump to revisit his campaign escalations. But for he to change his rhetoric, it is only going to enforce impression of him as a non-serious candidate. No wonder Hillary campaign feels comfortable to look beyond November 8. But then we Americans will not have that easy - as images of Rio Closing Ceremony fades, Trump's divisive rhetoric and his antics will bounce back for wall to wall coverage in American Media. We all will have to endure that few more weeks. [4]

[1] - Hyperventilation and desperation in Indian Media for any Indian athlete to win at least one medal had been sad to watch. If Indians want so desperately these Olympic Medals, may be Indians need to pull together; may be Corporate India needs to take the initiative. Or is it Indian People's own test to measure how far government & politics are ready to let go Indian spirit in winning medals at Olympics? As another disappointing performance comes in, do Indians conclude that their government, meddling Babu's and corruption; all are still constraining India's athletes? Disappointment and frustration of Indian People is understandable. But unless they start demanding let Indian Government stop meddling their own affairs of sports and flourishing of Indian atheletic spirit; things are unlikely to change. 

India is not alone here as Olympic medals are unequally distributed. Rightly or wrongly Olympic Medal Tally is developing as the 'proxy' for nation's ability to get 'organized around a purpose and to achieve that'. India and many other countries seem to have a long way to go.

[2] - Brazilian President Lula is claimed to have said 'God is Brazilian' when a huge, but hard to exploit, oil field was discovered in Southern Atlantic ocean in Brazilian waters. 

[3] - It is true that winning in sports does not commensurate with prosperity. But when Trump and likes of him blame President Obama for economic difficulties of many Americans, one can only say it is the hatred of Obama which prohibits them to see all the recovery over last 8 years.

[4] - I guess as NFL opens next month, Americans will soon have something to go away from the maddening Trump show. 

No comments: