What’s In My Craw About the Olympics

 

In the comments, Single Malt Monkey gave me a good opportunity to share more about what has me hot and bothered about the Olympics:

 

C’mon, Chris. You write better stuff than this. Brits don’t universally worship the Queen. She was there as top Royal and any country holding an opening ceremony with an in-situ monarchy would have done the same. The ceremony wasn’t about Empire either. And when did the USA stop exalting the Stars and Stripes ? …….and for good measure, Russell Brand is an idiot with a platform. Methinks you might have a been a bit huffy (pun intended). :)

 

My response:

 

I’ll admit to being huffy. :)

 

A few years after I graduated from college, the guest speaker at commencement at my alma mater was Queen Noor. One of my mentors (I majored in political philosophy) noted how ashamed he was to have a monarch speak at commencement. That really struck me.

 

I’m glad you commented, because I’ve been kicking this around for a few days. I know that not all Brits worship the Queen, but the image of the children signing “God Save The Queen” struck me in a negative way. I’ve never thought much about the political narratives inherent to the Olympics, but the London ceremonies opened that up for me.

 

You’re right: we’ve never stopped exalting the stars and stripes, the Union Flag, etc. What I’ve found myself thinking very seriously about over the past few days is this: whether we’re British, American, Chinese, South Sudanese…what, exactly, are we celebrating in London? What are we cheering? I try to imagine how I might feel if I lived in squalor and watched, from my shanty tent, these (or any) Olympic ceremonies. When 2/3 of the world’s population faces very real threats to survival every day, I wonder what we, as a global community, have to celebrate. I mean that sincerely, and I don’t just mean it about London or Beijing or Salt Lake City or wherever the games are hosted.

 

Then I wonder how all of this might look to God. I think about Bono’s statement 8 years ago about the AIDS crisis…that if the First World had the means to help the poorest nations in the world in the AIDS pandemic, but just refused to, that wouldn’t be acceptable to history or to God. So with themes like Jubilee on my mind, I wonder what God thinks about spending so much treasure on exalting each other when so much of the world is suffering in ways we can’t even begin to understand.

 

I also want to say this, which is really unrelated to the conversation. I’m a total Anglophile and love British culture, history, literature. I thought the Glastonbury Tor was great, I loved the children’s literature motifs. I loved the tour of British music. But I was really put off by the things that echoed the injustices of empire. For me, that includes any kind of monarchy (which I know is a given here), and my Irish, Welsh, and Scottish blood does, indeed, get huffy.

 

In general, I find myself wondering what the Olympics actually mean, and, in the case of staging games in places like China, is the IOC’s refusal to “be political” acceptable? Is it even possible to be non political in the global community or in private life?

 

As far as Brand goes, the quote is from an episode of Conan. I took him to not be speaking about the UK or the US specifically, but about our global situation. I agree with him. But maybe I’m inclined to.

 

I appreciate your comments!  Blessings to you across the pond!

 

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2 comments

  1. Why not celebrate? I think God does. What about his character suggests that the event of the Olympics and the Olympians competing are any less significant then children in Swaziland, South Africa dying of malnutrition or AIDS? I think we as a world are constantly faced with the reality of third world poverty. I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t hear someone talk about it either through facebook or some other medium. But the Olympics are a chance to step aside for a moment and marvel at God’s creation. When you wake up early to see the sunrise do think, “This is beautiful, I wish I could appreciate it but I know people somewhere in the world are suffering…”? Or when you watch your child graduate from highschool or college do you think; “Man, I am so proud of them, but for every child graduating with them today, 300 will never be this educated…”? Unless you are a masochist, I doubt those are your thought processes. Why can’t the Olympics be a cooperate form of worship?
    As for the whole idea of the monarchy; this generation is greatly removed from what this Royal family did during WWII, King George and Elizabeth were both sources of hope and inspiration to their People who lived less than 60 miles from the German War Macht not to mention the fact that the aforementioned King was playing doubles tennis with black Caribbean subjects while Jim Crowe laws were still rampent in the United States. When leaders do praiseworthy things, we should all pray to God with thankfulness for his providence as the anthem boasts.

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