The Olympics, Again


The International Olympic Committee says: [ioc]

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Well, then, you can stick a fork in it and shovel some dirt over it, because it’s done and it needs to be buried. The IOC faced a difficult problem from the get-go, getting the countries of the world to participate and send contestants and money – but it was a foregone conclusion they’d bring their nationalism and hatred along with them. After all, other than money, what do nations have to offer but their pride and hatred? It was inevitable that when they began to “pull representatives of the world together” they’d do so mostly by standing them next to each other – to more deeply expose the inequality in the international system by literally putting it on parade.

The wealthy and powerful nations bring armies of trainers, high-tech gear, horribly badly tailored Ralph Lauren blazers (will you look at that piece of crap?) and – naturally – a full staff of pharmacopeia-cheaters. The poorer countries can’t afford all that stuff, so they get shunted aside, but note: when there’s a breakout talent from a developing nation, everyone does show them the honor they deserve; fair is fair. But nobody dwells on the shortage of dressage teams from sub-saharan Africa, or the absence of a Yemeni contingent at all.

Today’s scandal is that, naturally, their financial advantage wasn’t enough for some of the governments and winning at any cost was so important that they had to systematically cheat, with a huge doping program. So Russia is banned from the winter olympics in South Korea. More precisely: Russian nationalism is banned – no Russian government officials, the Russian flag won’t be flown, the Russian anthem won’t be played, and any Russian athletes that compete will have to be waived in and will have to wear Ralph Lauren designed neutral grey uniforms. There is only one part of the preceeding sentence that is “fake news” – can you spot it? Wow, you’re good – the neutral uniforms will not be designed by Ralph Lauren. [nyt]

At this point, if I were Marc Ecko, I’d whip out a line of nationalism-free sportswear for olympians and offer them free to any contestant that was willing to help push the meme that they there for the athletic competition and not the nationalism and all the flag-covered crap needed to get recycled into rags and given to Medcins Sans Frontieres Médecins Sans Frontières to use for bandages.

This is a potential watershed moment, in which the olympics could become about the athletes and their love of the sport and all of the politics, cheating, corruption, and Ralph Lauren designs need to go. Think really quickly: you probably know Usain Bolt ran in something colored like the Jamaican flag but … uh… do you give a shit? You did know he was Jamaican, I assume. He’d have run just as well in stuff from the sporting goods section in any retail mall. My point is: if you enumerate the fucks you give about the olympics you will probably discover that they are almost entirely about the athletes and their performance. So be it.

Here’s my simple recommendations for how the olympics can regain their relevancy briefly, while achieving an uplifting and clarifying level of honesty:

  1. Take the nationalism completely out.
  2. Open the events to top competitors in the sports based on other events, popular nomination, and a jury of past champions in those fields that are qualified to recommend them for the qualifying rounds.
  3. Open qualifying rounds are designed to eliminate the lower tiers of scorers with a strict numerical cut.
  4. The main events’ competitors are, simply put, the best and the winners are the best of the best.
  5. Competitors may get their funding from national governments (thank you), corporations, rich patrons, crowdfunding, or whatever.
  6. Competitors may (presumably it’s part of their funding contract) negotiate that if they’re running for Ralph Lauren.com they will wear whatever horrors Ralph decrees. But, key point: the competitors and the funding source make that negotiation – not the competitors’ national owners. The US does not get to select Ralph Lauren and tell Simone Biles that because she’s American she has to wear that outfit. The world should not ever roll in such a lopsided way that anyone can tell Simone Biles what to wear. Imagine if the US Government tried to tell Bob Dylan to wear Ralph Lauren because he’s an American …
  7. To slightly amplify on #6: if a particular government wants to stipulate that their entire stable of athletes must agree to the Ralph Lauren jackets contractually, and instead Google swoops in and “signs” some top talent out from under them … oh, dear me, what we just had was a failure to negotiate effectively, national team, time to go rethink your strategy. This would create a fascinating “game before the game” as national teams and athletes tried to optimize their outcomes – and it’d level the playing field. Especially when some sporting shoe company nobody ever heard of before found some transcendent talent somewhere in some back lot gym, gave them the best gear and training, and crushed the nationalists’ contenders. Because it’d no longer be possible to lock out transcendent athletic talent by controlling the athletes’ passport – it’d be, like, an international event about the whole of human potential and maybe Tesla technical acumen and Amazon’s clever use of Alexa and who knows what marketing brilliance.
  8. The International Olympic Committee can identify components of the overall event which are funded through sponsorship, and may negotiate sponsorship with the funders accordingly. Just like they do in pretty much every other sport, everywhere. But, hey, if Tesla wants to sponsor a running track, personally, I like the irony. If George Soros wants to sponsor a dressage event, be my guest, let him bid against Ralph Lauren.
  9. But wait, you say, “corporatizing the games will destroy them!” to which I reply: they’re already destroyed. Let’s put some corporate marketing icing on that cake, call it Titanic2.0 and sell sponsorship space on it to the same idiots that are fighting over the internet banner ad economy. They’re jackasses but they’re better at running a business than nationalists are.
Simone Biles' Amazing Olympic Costume

Simone Biles’ Amazing Olympic Costume is her performance. Smile, optional.

Of course these suggestions deconstruct-out the entire value proposition of the olympic games for nationalists. I’m sure you know what my fuck-meter is reading on that score. Nationalism is what has been ruining the games all along; they have been a pawn to nationalists since they were restarted by rich British and French aristocratic imperialists as a way of showing everyone how awesome their empires were. In other words: they started as product marketing. There were political moments of importance in the olympics, to be sure – such as 1936 in Germany. And political moments of embarrassment like when the US led a boycott of the 1980 winter olympics in Moscow because the USSR invaded Afghanistan. And the boycotts of the olympics after the US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – wait – why has there been a single olympic event held since 1980? The whole mess has always been rich ultra-nationalists’ chance to push humans around like little meat chess-pieces and pat themselves on the back for somehow being related to them. I was born within the same map-lines as Simone Biles but I don’t feel I get to take any pride in her performance because of that fact. I can and have sat back and said, “it’s so good to see that some humans are really incredibly amazingly good at what they do!”

If the IOC wants their meal-ticket to continue and grow, they need to revitalize the brand, “reboot” it, catapult it to the next level. That means going halfway Hunger Games and using the corporatists’ financial power to shove aside the nationalists. It wouldn’t take much – some small country that can have an olympic team simply needs to auction their identity off for corporate sponsorship and then trojan-horse the entire games. Hey, why are all these great athletes suddenly getting honorary citizenship in Adobe-(formerly known as grand cayman)? Not to cross the streams too deeply but this also addresses another elephant in the room: the NFL is only able to do corrupt stuff like blackball Kaepernick because they are a single corporate entity that controls the vertical and the horizontal: one crack and the dam breaks. I guarantee you that some marketing genius at Nike has probably already suggested buying an entire national olympic team and re-branding it, but they got shot down by cooler heads who equate “don’t rock the boat” with “don’t blow up the harbor.”

In a display of true nationalistic incompetence and arrogance the US’ stunt UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said that the US might not send a team to the winter olympics because of safety concerns on the Korean peninsula. [salon]

When asked if it was a “done deal” that U.S. athletes would be in attendance, Nikki Haley said on Fox News, “There’s an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea — it’s about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?”

Well, not turning the area into a war-zone is a good way of protecting US citizens in the area. And, by the way, did you just admit that the entire populations of North Korea and South Korea are more or less irrelevant to how you see your mission in the world?

People of both Koreas: blow out the olympic torch. Agree to not have a war during the event on the condition that all the nations leave their flags, drugs, spies, and Ralph Lauren designer jackets at home. Only the athletes, and their trainers, and they can wear whatever they like. The Koreas, right now, could say “we could stop this whole mess, but we won’t – if you renegotiate and turn it over to the corporatists instead of the nationalists because they know how to run a business.”

Athens Olympic Stadium: $10billion

Athens Olympic Stadium: $10billion

Nobody will remember the stadiums; they’ll get dynamited eventually.

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Hat-tip to ice dancers (I love ice dancing; it’s utterly nuts!) Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik who will be competing this year. Typically, we are expected to say “will be representing North Korea…” or some such nonsense but – no – they will be representing themselves. They’re just doing that nationalism stuff because otherwise the nationalists control their ability to go dance on ice.

We all need to push back whenever we hear someone say “representing the US…” or whatever country. Unless you are acting in service of national foreign policy, you are not “represening the US…”  Nikki Haley? Representing the US. Donald Trump? Representing the US. Bob Dylan? Representing Bob Dylan. Beyonce? Representing: the universe that is Beyonce. Somehow we managed to keep the nationalists from shitting all over the musicians – can you imagine if they had tried to re-frame Prince as representing the US? The US would have pulled back a bloody stump. Why is this? Because music has a corporate support structure and the artists are able to negotiate the degree of independence they can have, based on their fan-support and talent. Prince would have eloquently arched his perfect eyebrow and said, “I don’t need you. You need me,” and thrown the entire guitar and walked off stage. So if someone starts talking that nationalist olympic stuff to you, just say, “hey, why don’t you focus on the athletes. They’re all amazing competitors regardless of where they were born and it’s a shame all these flags and saber-waving keep getting in the way. This should be about them, not lines on a map.”

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“who knows what marketing brilliance” is Marcus-code for “whatever hateful crap marketing people come up with and convince themselves is brilliant.”

Sure, let Warner Brothers put together a track and field team and make ’em all wear superhero outfits. It’d be a hit. You know it would. Especially if they were great athletes who really kicked ass. Honestly, I’d probably cheer out loud if someone dressed like batman blasted past a track full of other people and stood on the podium with his head down, his fists clenched, Dark Knight pose, and then gave a black power salute. I’m only dreaming, don’t mind me.

It’s late and I’m tempted to “not go there” but I must. I really must. OK, so the Russians cheated. I’ve read a bunch about how they did it and it sounds like a creative well-staffed effort. Not as professional (or anywhere near as expensive) as the cheating arrangement that let Lance Armstrong appear to be a vastly better bicyclist than he was. Anyone who supports banning Russia from the olympics must reasonably support banning the US from the Tour De France more or less forever – because that was more coldly, calculatedly, and soullessly executed cheating than the Russians have managed to come up with, yet. Play along with me for a second here: suppose the nationalists are right and it’s appropriate to – you know – blame a nation for cheating – and punish them accordingly; then why is it unreasonable to point at Lance Armstrong’s Tour De France cheating and blame the nation for cheating and ban the US from the olympics, too? I know they’re different events at the ground-level: bicycling in france versus olympicsing but the meta-level event is nationalism and both the US and Russia cheat like hell at nationalism.

Text encoding: This is text that looks just fine in wordpress editor. `Or so it seems.’  Sometimes I can’t even double-space. And dash and em-dash are different too–hey, I did not know we’re not supposed to use spaces on the sides of an em-dash.

Comments

  1. CJO says

    It’s fitting then that the whole circus is derived from the Ancient Greek model.
    Every polis, city state, had its own fictive claim to Heroic foundation or divine ancestry, often both. And everybody took these claims seriously, as to call one into question clearly calls them all into question, including that of your own polis. (Not to say that the details of a specific heritage couldn’t be judged as more or less prestigious, just that the terms of fictive ancestry were generous.)
    Anyway, back to the games. When you competed in an individual athletic or performance event at Greek games, you were in effect an avatar of your polis and its connection to the legendary and mythic pasts. Victories over rival cities were so celebrated at home that, entirely aside from the prize money (most of which was due the polis), you were probably set for life at home, in the sense that you’d never have to spend a mina on anything ever again.
    A different sort of nationalism, to be sure: the competitions were explicitly performances for the god (Zeus at the Olympic Games, but variable according to location). So the victory of an athlete from this or that polis was regarded as bringing the god’s approval and favor on his entire people.

  2. Dauphni says

    Here in Europe we have managed to get that nationalism into music, and it’s called the Eurovision Song Contest! It’s pretty much the exact same mix of nationalism and commercialisation that the Olympics are, except with music instead of sports.

  3. John Morales says

    CJO:

    Anyway, back to the games. When you competed in an individual athletic or performance event at Greek games, you were in effect an avatar of your polis and its connection to the legendary and mythic pasts. Victories over rival cities were so celebrated at home that, entirely aside from the prize money (most of which was due the polis), you were probably set for life at home, in the sense that you’d never have to spend a mina on anything ever again.

    And they’re depicted as competing in the nude.

    (Had to be noted)

  4. cartomancer says

    As John Morales points out, the original Greek Olympic Games were conducted entirely in the nude. The Greek word gymnos means “naked”, so gymnastics are literally naked activities and a gymnasium is a place for being naked. Bringing this tradition back would have three advantages, a) it would scotch all attempts at both nationalism and corporatism through clothing design, b) it would frustrate the hell out of the people at Ralph Lauren, and c) it would finally release a vast and hitherto largely untapped reservoir of beautiful human bodies for our delight and admiration. Of course, there would also have to be a ban on nationalistic or corporate tattoos. As a kindness to the horses we might allow the polo players to wear special Ralph Lauren riding boxers.

    The original Olympics (and the other great Panhellenic games – Isthmian, Pythiotic, Nemean) also had beauty contests and artistic contests as well as the sport. So we could all enter our favourite models and porn stars and other sundry attractive people too if this were revived. We could have Raconteurship and Oratory categories.

    In fact, we could revive the Isthmian games (sacred to Poseidon), Pythiotic games (sacred to Apollo) and Nemean games (sacred to Heracles) and use them for various purposes. Zeus was the king of the gods, so his Olympic games could be the nationalistic games where governments compete for prestige and prizes. The headline event would be a nationalist apologetics public speaking competition. Poseidon was a patron of seaborne traders and merchants, so his Isthmian games could be the corporatist games where Apple and Nike and Sony compete for their advertising space. The advertising itself could be competitive, with prizes for best slogan, best TV ad, etc. Apollo was a god of medicine, so his Pythiotic games could be the doping games where no medical intervention is forbidden in pursuit of victory. I predict this one will be the most popular as we will see robot-legged cyborgs competing against swollen drug-grotesques and surgically altered centaurs. Heracles was the one renowned for his physical strength and ability, so the Nemean games could be free from all the rest of it and just focus on the sporting competition. Perhaps the cultural events could be organised together into their own Panathenaic Games sacred to Athena, as the Peisistratids tried to promote in the 6th century but never really achieved more than local Attic renown.

  5. komarov says

    I have to say, apart from the colour scheme that ‘heroic picture’ is a perfect replica of the classic nazi or soviet propaganda poster. The style is modernised, of course – the Nazis had drawings, the soviets later developed their rather distinct photo-collage style. This, I’m guessing, is photography plus photoshop’s Hero Of The Nation filter*

    *I’m almost sure such a filter exists, but they charge a lot for the license. As they should, because buying something so ridiculous should cost a ridiculous amount of money. And I mean “ridiculous” by photoshop pricing standards.

    About competition:

    Maybe it’s the ‘competition’ angle that also helps poison the games? It certainly encourages the nationalism and hatred you mention. Of course I don’t have a ‘solution’ of any kind to this. International cooperation rather than competition seems to yield things like the UN – which does .. something, sometimes – or things like the Syria, where nations “cooperate” by bombing different groups of people to pacify the region. Clearly humans are too stupid to cooperate if you are but a few steps away from the individual humans.

    Nobody will remember the stadiums; they’ll get dynamited eventually.

    I remember lots of prideful articles at the time about how recycleable and reusable the facilities for the London olympics were supposed to be. I have no idea how that worked out in the end though. For all I know there might be a giant landfill on London’s outskirts with disassembled stadium parts rusting, rotting or remaining plasticky for the next 10000 years.

    Which leads me to add another proposition to your olympic plan:
    Have the organisers emphasise actual sustainability when choosing their site. The Big City that promises to build a luxurious extra-special olympic park just for the occasion is out from the get-go. The city that decides to renovate or upgrade existing facilities scores points.

    We might as well do away with the [City] Olympics thing altogether. Maybe a couple of cities in a region could band together and apply as host. Between them they’d have much better chances of being able to provide all that’s needed without being wasteful. Instead of presenting plans for your olympic village, you show the selection comittee which events take place where and what wonderful transit system you have planned to get spectators and participants from A to B. (e.g. special buses and trains running during the event)
    On a regional scale I wouldn’t even be (as) opposed to building new facilities. If three cities between them decide to build an ice rink in one, a track in the other and a pool in the third that’s grand. They all get something out of it and, presumably, the facilities are available to people in all three cities (with a little commute) when the games are over. The dynamite lobby may protest, though.

    Really the main goal is to take the pointless bombast out of the whole thing. It’s another symptom of nationalism: “Look at our golden roof. Fine, it softened in the hot afternoon sun and fell on the tracks but where else do you get that except for [Nation]?! Look upon our idiocy and despair!” (And please stop stealing the roof.)

    Re: cartomancer (#4):

    The Greek word gymnos means “naked”, so gymnastics are literally naked activities and a gymnasium is a place for being naked. Bringing this tradition back would have three advantages, a) it would scotch all attempts at both nationalism and corporatism through clothing design, b) it would frustrate the hell out of the people at Ralph Lauren, and c) it would finally release a vast and hitherto largely untapped reservoir of beautiful human bodies for our delight and admiration.

    a) will require athletes to have their national flag tattooed over chest and back. Thighs and arms could host ads.
    b) “New Tattoo By Ralph Lauren”
    c) Whether this is an advantage is arguable and a matter of taste. Immediate downside: Massive mewling by conservatives across the globe about corruption of he youth, lewdness, and so forth.

    I’d certainly have no objection to ‘olympifying’ other categories of human endeavour, though.

  6. oldmanbynow says

    My post is little more than a footnote to cartomancer’s learned remarks above; but a citation of the primary sources should always be welcome. So, see the below, from Pindar, in Olympian 1 (citation follows). It is only an excerpt, but in toto, the work speaks to all points Olympic, then and now: the glories of fictive ancestry, the gods, local rulership, prosperous and peaceful community, nature, and wealth. Of all things mentioned, the actual athletic achievement ranks pretty low on the totem pole–especially compared to the achievements of kingship. It’s worth reading, because it shows the continuity of the most important thing we see of the Olympics unless we are there: the second-hand reportage thereof–which evidently has not changed for 2500 years. But if you are there, or if, oh blessed one, you are actually competing joyfully and willingly, then the moment of personal achievement is unstained by “marketing” and “journalism.”

    ” For Hieron of Syracuse Single Horse Race 476 B. C.
    Water is best, and gold, like a blazing fire in the night, stands out supreme of all lordly wealth. But if, my heart, you wish to sing of contests, [5] look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day through the lonely sky, and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia. From there glorious song enfolds the wisdom of poets,1 so that they loudly sing [10] the son of Cronus, when they arrive at the rich and blessed hearth of Hieron, who wields the scepter of law in Sicily of many flocks, reaping every excellence at its peak, and is glorified [15] by the choicest music, which we men often play around his hospitable table. Come, take the Dorian lyre down from its peg, if the splendor of Pisa and of Pherenicus placed your mind under the influence of sweetest thoughts, [20] when that horse ran swiftly beside the Alpheus, not needing to be spurred on in the race, and brought victory to his master, the king of Syracuse who delights in horses. His glory shines in the settlement of fine men founded by Lydian Pelops, [25] with whom the mighty holder of the earth Poseidon fell in love, when Clotho took him out of the pure cauldron, furnished with a gleaming ivory shoulder.”

    From http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Pind.%20O.

  7. colinday says

    @ Komarov
    #5

    Immediate downside: Massive mewling by conservatives across the globe about corruption of he youth, lewdness, and so forth.

    Conservative mewling is a downside?

  8. says

    Nationalism is not at the top of my list of reasons to hate the Olympics. I’m more concerned about the corruption, the waste, and the effect it has on the underprivileged when countries displace people to present a “nicer” facade for the cameras.

    No public money should be spent on the games. If the games can’t support themselves without ticket sales, television rights, and sponsorships, then they should be allowed to disappear.

    They should only be held in places that already have facilities in place. The IOC, if they feel it necessary, can then pay for any upgrades to those facilities.

    The biggest issue is the underprivileged. Most cities already do everything they can to criminalize homelessness without trying too hard to alleviate in any way other than trying to push the homeless out of their boundaries. This is the only part of the process where I’m fine with public money being spent. Give the homeless homes! Provide good addiction centres and mental health facilities where people who need help can feel comfortable getting it while living in warm, dry, and safe conditions!

    After all that has been addressed, then do something about the nationalism.

  9. says

    sonofrojblake@#7:
    Pardon my ignorance, but why all the hate for Ralph Lauren?

    I picked Ralph Lauren as a target of derision for a whole lot of reasons.

    First and foremost, because the US olympic committee picked RL to design their outfits and, therefore: iconic target.

    Secondly Lauren (who I doubt had absolutely anything to do with that other than to cringe and put his head under a hot towel and wait for it to go away) is a legitimately iconic fashion designer who not only can do better, but has. Lauren’s iconic look, however, is a remixing of fetishistic elements of class and power. Like Hugo Boss, he specializes in making imperialists and feel good about looking good. One can never call his work “formulaic” but there is an underlying sympatico that is – he often re-tailors military uniform classic elements into slightly more comfortable versions, adding a bit of length to make the aging and drooping bodies of oligarchs look taller and straighter, and then applies his genius eye for color palettes. A lot of Lauren’s work looks like paramilitary uniforms for the rich: the sail-yachting set, the fox-hunting set, the bureaucrat authoritarian warrior-set. His eye for color and style is equisite and he’s a genius. I am quite sure that if Lauren actually turned his personal attention to olympic uniforms the result would be something hearkening back to a 1936 that never was, in exquisite colors – but it wouldn’t say whose 1936 it was. Perhaps the 1936 of other fashion genius Hugo Boss, who designed the SD/gestapo uniforms and hopped a boat to New York. I will say that, other than their status as iconic legend (outside of the fashion world) Boss’ uniforms were wearable, practical, and well-tailored. Which brings me to: ….

    Thirdly, as a uniform, the only part that does not suck is the hat. Every piece about the jacket sucks, in fractal detail. I could probably go on for an hour (and so could you, if you look at the damn thing carefully enough!) about how it sucks. If you really want to make it hurt, compare it to a masterpiece of costume design like the current Wonder Woman outfit or Batman’s kit: every iota of those costumes shows a level of attention to detail that completely shades that Ralph Lauren jacket (although I could see Wonder Woman wear the hell out of that jaunty little hat!) OK, so, the guy is, uh, heroically built. That’s also not a problem for a good costume designer – remember costume design is what we’re talking about here, not fashion – though they are related fields. The guy who is designing a costume for batman is also going to have to think “how do I get the drape of the blazer across those insane muscle effects?” This is not easy. Unless you’re Balenciaga, in which case you’re done in time for lunch. So, it’s a uniform that inherently fails to flatter extremely dimensional people. Unless you have a Balenciaga who personally fits each jacket to each athlete, you’re going to get puckers and wrinkles and tucks. Look at the picture again – presumably this is an example of that jacket looking its best which means they chose the model, pinned him into the jacket, and it still can’t drape right because it was apparently cut by a stonemason who was making his first attempt at fashion. You can see the interfacing is stretching apart. And look at the stretching at the top of the shoulder, toward the back – those shoulders were tailored by Ham the ham-fisted using a hammer made of bacon ham. Look at the armpit! It looks like it was photoshopped – it’s so short – I bet that guy can’t raise his arm above his waist without bursting a seam. Then there’s the obvious fact that it won’t button right, so they had to leave the bottom button open. Did some designer at Ralph Lauren’s studio use an AI to randomize ideas until something looked fucked-up enough that they declared it “edgy” and went with it? Look at the way the off-lapel balloons out like a spinnaker! Clever nautical reference, that.

    That’s the short form.

  10. says

    Sunday Afternoon@#9:
    here’s how to totally rock a beret:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Italian_Soldier_Olypmic_Games_Turin_2006.jpg

    Oh, and look! A well-designed, functional athletic uniform. That load-bearing equipment is ridiculous, though – you can see that someone stuffed all the pouches to make it look like she had military-kinda shit in there. Otherwise, I applaud the very subtle use of make-up and lighting – that’s a very nice piece of nationalist propaganda for Italy. To be fair, Italy has a very long history of really rocking the nationalist propaganda.

  11. says

    komarov@#5:
    I have to say, apart from the colour scheme that ‘heroic picture’ is a perfect replica of the classic nazi or soviet propaganda poster. The style is modernised, of course – the Nazis had drawings, the soviets later developed their rather distinct photo-collage style.

    Yes. In my first olympics-related rant [stderr] I deliberately paired that image with this one.

    Mostly, because the armor looks about as well-tailored as that Ralph Lauren jacket. I.e.: not at all.

  12. says

    Dauphni@#2:
    Here in Europe we have managed to get that nationalism into music, and it’s called the Eurovision Song Contest! It’s pretty much the exact same mix of nationalism and commercialisation that the Olympics are, except with music instead of sports.

    Are the contestants chosen by government committees or by some other popular process?

    I confess, I have heard of it but avoided learning anything about it because I was pretty sure I’d burst an artery.

  13. says

    oldmanbynow@#6:
    the work speaks to all points Olympic, then and now: the glories of fictive ancestry, the gods, local rulership, prosperous and peaceful community, nature, and wealth. Of all things mentioned, the actual athletic achievement ranks pretty low on the totem pole–especially compared to the achievements of kingship

    Oh, so it was marketing bullshit all the way down?

    I actually was feeling a bit of “ok, that makes sense” from cartomancer’s observations about the religious aspects of the games: at least with religion you can nod and say “it’s bullshit, but they believe it. maybe.” (the same can be said about marketing) but I agree, it sounds like a toxic chum of nationalism, religion, and display of power from the very beginning.

  14. says

    to get recycled into rags and given to Medcins Sans Frontieres to use for bandages

    It’s not “Medcins Sans Frontieres”, the correct spelling is “Médecins Sans Frontières”.

    Typically, we are expected to say “will be representing North Korea…” or some such nonsense but – no – they will be representing themselves

    Agreed. This one really annoys me as well.

    Somehow we managed to keep the nationalists from shitting all over the musicians – can you imagine if they had tried to re-frame Prince as representing the US? The US would have pulled back a bloody stump.

    Not really. Eurovision was already mentioned in comments, but it goes beyond that. (By the way, singers for the contest are chosen by popular voting. Any musician interested in participating can submit their song, which has to be a certain length and correspond to some other criteria. Then a committee within their country picks about 20 or so best songs. Then all the chosen musicians perform in front of TV cameras. Then people living within the country send phone messages and vote for their favorite. That’s how the country’s representative is chosen. Then afterwards during the big international competition residents from all participating European countries get to vote and the winner is whoever gets most votes. The point allocation system is sort of complicated, but I won’t get into details. And the contest is pretty awful, so there’s no need for you to learn about it.)

    Nationalists try to claim famous musicians, writers, philosophers etc. as belonging to their countries. For example, Wikipedia article on Kurt Vonnegut starts with the sentence, “Kurt Vonnegut Jr was an American writer.” How comes somebody’s place of birth is the first thing to be said about this person? And every single Wikipedia article starts like this attempting to state a person’s place of birth as the first and most important thing that ought to be said. And even for people who lived all over the place it’s somehow necessary to attach them to some country, for example, “Sir Isaiah Berlin … was a Russian-British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas.” He was born in a Jewish family, why not call him Jewish? Apparently Russian-British-Jewish would be too long.

    I’m not sure to what extent this is happening in other countries, but where I live people desperately attempt to claim “national ownership” over every single famous person who happens to live within the country. If an artist/writer/musician who happens to live in Latvia gains some internationally recognized prize, nationalists start blabbing about how this artist is honoring the country, spreading the country’s fame internationally, representing the country and so on.

    Since there happen to be not that many “truly Latvian” international celebrities, often nationalists go so far as to claim ownership over celebrities who weren’t even Latvian. For example, there’s a Wikipedia article that starts with: “Walter Zapp (Latvian: Valters Caps; 4 September [O.S. 22 August] 1905 – 17 July 2003)[1] was a Baltic German inventor.[2] His greatest creation was the Minox subminiature camera.” English Wikipedia article faithfully states that he was a German. Nonetheless, some Latvian nationalists attempt to claim that he was a “Latvian inventor” instead of a “German inventor”. Well, he did live in Latvia for a while, that’s certainly true. And some go even further and claim that people like Isaiah Berlin were Latvian (Berlin lived here until the age of 6, that sure makes him a “Latvian”).

    I was born within the same map-lines as Simone Biles but I don’t feel I get to take any pride in her performance because of that fact.

    Of course. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who feel proud when somebody else from their country does something great. It seems to be a basic human trait applicable beyond nationalism. People feel proud about the achievements of their family members, distant relatives, other people who just happen to live in the same city etc.

    Regarding athletes competing naked: I’d watch THAT. I normally never watch sports at all. But if I could look at sexy people who were competing while being naked, then I’d love to watch that instead of porn films.

    By the way, I believe that states shouldn’t give any money for professional sports. If a state funds stadiums where kids (or adults) can play games, compete or simply get some exercise, that’s great. That’s beneficial for the community and helps decrease obesity. But professional sports shouldn’t be funded by the state: for those watching these competitions it’s just a form of entertainment. States don’t fund entertainers like comedians, movie directors, pop singers, or fiction writers. Why should they fund football players then? If ticket sales/sponsors/advertisers for football matches fail to get sufficient funding, this is a good indicator that athletes might as well change their profession. Besides, states fund sports selectively anyway. How comes football players get state funding while those interested in golf don’t get any money? If would be better to simply abolish all state funding for professional sports.

  15. John Morales says

    [It] would be better to simply abolish all state funding for professional sports.

    In the early phase of the modern Olympics, a big deal was made that they were for amateurs. Didn’t last.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    I love Eurovision.
    The performances are amazing.
    I am Canadian so most of the politicking is obscure to me.

  17. says

    The role of politics in Eurovision is an interesting one, and a bit different from, say, the Olympics situation. One is the tendency of different regions to vote similarly, which I regard as a bit of a red herring – it can pretty easily be taken that the Scandinavians or Eastern Europeans (or whomever) have a similar pattern of tastes which leads to them often voting for each other.

    The big one, of course, is the screw-Russia vote. But that’s not created by state action from anti-Russian countries, but essentially a mass boycott of Russia from individual voters. That leads us back to the issue that they are there as “representatives” of these countries rather than as of themselves, and therein lies the problem.

    All that being said, one of the things I do like about Eurovision is the way many of the entrants tend to be a bit quirky, a bit different, a bit experimental. I’ll take a Eurovision full of Lordi, Aarzemnieki, Secret Garden, Koza Mostra and the like over a Eurovision with a dozen Bieber clones any day of the week.

  18. konrad_arflane says

    Anyone who supports banning Russia from the olympics must reasonably support banning the US from the Tour De France more or less forever – because that was more coldly, calculatedly, and soullessly executed cheating than the Russians have managed to come up with, yet.

    I think it’s worth noting that the Tour de France (and a lot of pro cycling in general) looks a lot like what your ideas for the future of the Olympics would look like – teams are organized by sponsors, and every rider gets (Movistar) or (Bora-Hansgrohe) or whatever appended to their name.

    This also speaks to your point about banning the US from the Tour: AFAIK, Armstrong wasn’t assisted in his cheating by the US government, but rather people working more or less officially for his team(s), whereas the Russian athletes were beneficiaries (and/or victims) of a government-run doping program. If anyone should be banned from the Tour, it should be the companies under whose auspices doping takes place.

    Unfortunately, that would probably mean finding a whole new set of sponsors for the Tour de France teams every fucking year, considering the extent of doping use in pro cycling.

  19. oldmanbynow says

    @Ieva #16
    “It’s not “Medcins Sans Frontieres”, the correct spelling is “Médecins Sans Frontières”.”

    And that’s how you get people to ignore the rest of your comment. Verb. sap.

  20. says

    oldmanbynow @#22

    Why do you even bother informing a random stranger on the Internet about the fact that you are ignoring their comments? You are perfectly free to ignore me or my comments. I don’t mind. If you wish to ignore me, just go on and do so. It’s not like you need to secure my permission before you are allowed to ignore me.

  21. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#16:
    “It’s not “Medcins Sans Frontieres”, the correct spelling is “Médecins Sans Frontières”.”

    I have mentioned several times before that I have some kind of problem with WordPress’ content encoding on FtB. And, yes, I’ve tried inserting html character-codes. Eventually I gave up in frustration. But bless your heart for reminding me.

  22. Owlmirror says

    I have mentioned several times before that I have some kind of problem with WordPress’ content encoding on FtB.

    That reminds me — I was wondering if you compose text directly in WordPress, or use an editor/word processor and copy-paste. Maybe it’s a code page thing?

    Do you use Firefox? If so, what to you see on the WordPress post composer page when you do View→Text Encoding?

    (I may have asked this already, but I don’t remember what, if anything, you responded with)

    How exactly are you typing accented characters anyway?

  23. Holms says

    #11
    You speak of this Balenciaga person / label in positive terms, so I googled the name and found this goddamn thing. Please retract your glowing praise of this Balenciaga, they do not deserve it.

    #24
    I believe oldmanbynow’s #22 is an expression of exasperation for your eyeroll-inducing #16, which begins with a silly scold. And I also believe that oldmanbynow knows very well that he did not have to tell you that, in much the same way that you did not have to inform him of that either. You both chose to do so because this is a forum comment thread, i.e. a place where interested parties comment on the things they read. Did you not know this?

  24. says

    Holms@#28:
    By Balenciaga, I am referring to the man himself, who was a genius with a needle. I specifically opposed Balenciaga to the badly-fitting Ralph Lauren jacket because he was a master of making things fit; the guy knew cloth to an amazing degree. He would have sniffed and turned away quickly if he even had to look at that Ralph Lauren thing.

    What house Balenciaga has become is another story. Let’s not talk about that because it’s kind of like the Amityville Horror.

    Something more structured from the master:

    I am sad I followed that link you posted.
    Although I’ll say this: The new house Balenciaga appears to be qualified to produce olympic uniforms. They’re right there with Ralph Lauren.

    [Edit: I did just notice that I am being inconsistent. I refer to Balenciaga as the person, but Ralph Lauren as the company. I should have been more careful to clarify that throughout. Ralph Lauren was a brilliant designer of clothes, but not one of the greats; his genius was for color.]

  25. says

    Owlmirror@#26:
    I am baffled: where is this View->Text Encoding of which you speak?

    I used wordpress’ editor, and have tried both pasting in accented characters and using html metacharacters. Now I feel like I need to go retry. One of the other nice things about web software is that “stuff works, stuff doesn’t work, you can’t explain that.” OK, not so nice, really.

    If I go up and edit oldmanbynow’s comment@#22, I see where Ieva’s accents are in the text, without any encoding. It’s just the characters. So that looks fine. Let me see if I can do it:
    “Médecins Sans Frontières”.

    EDIT: !@#(!&U!*(&*!&*# I swear that did not work before. OK, so it works in comments. Now let me go back and adjust the posting text.
    OK and now it works fine. So from now on that problem is solved. I have no idea why it was not working before, but it was not. It still mangles “smart quotes” and some metacharacters. Maybe that is fixed now, too. I’m going to try a few smart-quotes in the upper miscellany block below the divide. Interesting! That worked, too. Yay!

    One thing that often happens if I cut/paste a quote is it brings along encoding and div tags. So usually I keep a copy of notepad up and paste into notepad, then copy that back into my text – notepad becoming a sort of HTML-laundering tool.
    I have fixed the offending text with my tactical Strike Pen to indicate that there was a mistake in my text.

  26. Owlmirror says

    where is this View→Text Encoding of which you speak?

    Hm. I kinda took it for granted that the menu bar would be visible but I just remembered that many versions back, Firefox turned off the menubar by default. I found out how to turn it back on shortly after they first did that, and now I always turn it back on, but I guess not everyone does so.

    So you have to use the hamburger menu on the far right to go into “Customize”, choose “Toolbars” on the bottom left, and select/check/tick “Menu bar” to turn it on. Then “View” is one of the menu bar columns/options, and the Encoding option should be right under there.

    Also, it may be that it is View→Character Encoding on Windows.

    Regarding the stuff that wasn’t working before but is now: I suspect that the problem may be the encoding used by the initial blog posting page. Now that the post is posted, this page that we are seeing now is definitely using Unicode, per the Encoding option from the menu.

  27. says

    Holms @#28

    Another person who dislikes something about me… Thank you very much for informing me! How could I possibly live without this precious information? Now I’m going to spend the rest of this day crying under my blanket /sarcasm/.

    And I also believe that oldmanbynow knows very well that he did not have to tell you that, in much the same way that you did not have to inform him of that either. You both chose to do so because this is a forum comment thread, i.e. a place where interested parties comment on the things they read. Did you not know this?

    I find it fascinating that people are wasting their limited and precious time on this planet informing absolute strangers about the fact that they dislike something about these strangers. Do they really expect the recipient to care?

    eyeroll-inducing #16, which begins with a silly scold

    I wasn’t scolding anybody. I wasn’t aware of Marcus’ encoding problems. Nor was I aware of Marcus getting angry or annoyed about spelling corrections. I think I remember several occasions when somebody else corrected Marcus’ spelling and typos, and then Marcus’ reactions weren’t in any way negative. If somebody I’m frequently communicating with indicates that they dislike having their spelling mistakes corrected (I hadn’t received such an indication from Marcus), I take that into consideration. I usually don’t intentionally annoy people. And when I do, I don’t go for something as petty as spelling. Instead I mock their religious beliefs or point out logical mistakes in their arguments.

    Besides, it’s not like every person out there dislikes having their mistakes corrected. If somebody was willing to spend their time correcting mistakes in my comments, I’d be happy. I know that I must be making mistakes (English isn’t my native language), and I’m probably making the same mistakes over and over again. And I’m certain that I’m not the only person on this planet interested in improving their writing.

  28. Holms says

    #32

    Another person who dislikes something about me… Thank you very much for informing me! How could I possibly live without this precious information? Now I’m going to spend the rest of this day crying under my blanket /sarcasm/.

    I criticised something you said. Don’t mistake that for personal dislike.

    I find it fascinating that people are wasting their limited and precious time on this planet informing absolute strangers about the fact that they dislike something about these strangers. Do they really expect the recipient to care?

    Do you really expect me to change my behaviour in response to what you write? Probably not, right? Same here. I simply responded to your comment with a comment expressing my thoughts, and you’re doing the same thing.

    Case in point: oldmanbynow expressed his thoughts regarding your nitpicking over using accented characters. He very likely did not care whether you changed your behaviour, he was just expression his thoughts in a comment, just as you have been doing.

  29. says

    I hadn’t received such an indication from Marcus

    My role here is as the host of a dinner party where there is no food. I try to offer up tasty morsels of thought, and perhaps nudge discussion one way or another but … I’m not here to be right. I try to get my facts straight, keep my opinions clear, spell correctly, maintain a basic quality of writing, and not be utterly stupid.

    Naturally, I have an ego, and I don’t enjoy being corrected for my mistakes but – hopefully – you’ve all seen that I try to take it well and not to hide the fact when I do make a mistake. I don’t think my role here is to be right; it’s to be as honest as I can be. Everything else is secondary. Well, I mean, after destroying the United States, and convincing everyone that morality is just authority in a clown suit, and that the patriarchy should burn and racists suck. Other than that, I’m trying to be honest and that means acknowledging my spelling mistakes.

  30. jrkrideau says

    @ 9 Sunday Afternoon

    that’s not how to wear a beret

    It does not even look like a beret! I’d suggest it is a bad take-off of McAuslan’s tam done by someone who has never seen a Scottish regiment.

    Our soldiers wear a beret and they would probably go on strike if expected to wear something like that.

    @ 11 Marcus

    Thirdly, as a uniform, the only part that does not suck is the hat.

    Oh it sucks big time. The Canadian Army is not quite as stylish as the Italian but here is another way to wear a beret https://nationalpostcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/canadian-forces-1.png. That’s the PPCLI in fancy dress but the regular soldiers I see on the street every day wear them like that, but the colour is green to match the splotchy green uniform.

  31. says

    jrkrideau@#36:
    Oh it sucks big time.

    Eh, it’s adequate. I was trying to damn the thing with faint praises and I’ve tried not to call it a “beret” – it’s more like a “welder’s cap” or a dishwasher’s cap.

    It’s not utterly wretched; it’s not militarized enough that its cut becomes an issue, and it’s unstructured enough so that it looks like crap along with the jacket – a structured hat with that wrinkly jacket would be unbearable…

    Personally, I’d go with a sort of fantasist version of the unstructured WW1 kriegsmarine hat that Corto Maltese wears. Berets just look like sloppy shit-disks to me. But, then, I’m a napoleonic and I think troops should turn out like the Chasseurs A Cheval de La Garde or the Brunswicker Hussars or go home. For today’s battlefields, a bearskin shako is a bit much, I admit. Hmmm, come to think of it the Brunswickers had a neat little pillbox-busby that would look great today. Replace the totenkopf with the crossed hammer and golden T of the Trump regime…

    The Canadians’ berets: meh. But then I do not approve of berets as military headgear. Remember, the uniform for the olympics, or at least Ralph Lauren’s version, looks less military and more like something a dishwasher on a cruise line might wear.

  32. says

    Hm. I personally do not know anyone, and I mean anyone, who would watch olympics or other major sports events if they were stripped of nationalisma and all of the “us vs. them” mentality. My colleagues were mightily suprised when I have shown total indifference to Czech Republic being in some soccer championship (I do not know which – I really do not give a shit). Nobody seemed to grok that I find no connection with some complete strangers who kick ball around for the one one and only coincidental thing we have in common – that they are the citizens of the same country as I am.
    And since I cannot get myself riled up about nationalism anymore (I had some vague inklings when I was young, but those atrophied instead of developing), as a consequence I also do not watch any sports whatsoever. I se absolutely no point in sports, unless prescribed by a qualified physician.

  33. says

    Charly@#38:
    Nobody seemed to grok that I find no connection with some complete strangers who kick ball around for the one one and only coincidental thing we have in common – that they are the citizens of the same country as I am.

    You described my attitude to a ‘T’ there. I am endlessly puzzled why anyone would give a shit about any of these people, except on their own merits. For example, I think Simone Biles is amazing, because I’ve watched her work. What she does is at the limits of human capability and I think it’s incredibly cool that someone has “gone there” and brought it back to show us. Wait – what, huh, she’s an American? So what? She represents that nation of Simone Biles as far as I am concerned.

    I feel the same way about professional sports. Some of the athletes are (naturally!) very very good at what they do, and they should be appreciated for their performance. But I feel no connection to them as people – they’re performers. I know nothing about them as human beings and I probably wouldn’t like them, if I did. That’s one of the other things that surprises me about people’s supportive attitude toward the olympics or professional sports: they know nothing about the people they are cheering and, in the case of some of the professionals, the athlete wouldn’t get out of their big car and walk across the street to piss on them out if they were on fire.

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