Viewing the Olympics: A Slant Take

This is a bias view. Whose isn’t in any case? Even the BBC can’t hide their cheering for team GB to the extent that viewers are presented with only parts of the games. Honestly speaking, I cannot get overly excited about Lawn Tennis, Football, Boxing and Sailing. Besides, Beach volleyball and Basketball do not interest me! If I had my way, that BBC reporter lurking just off the track to interview athletes after their performance, while panting for breath, should be given a long holiday. I find his questions foolish, a distraction and often very insensitive.

Notwithstanding, I am having a great time enjoying much of the Olympics televised by BBC. We were so conditioned to possible massive transport problems, water quality and security that some were eating away at their fingernails. Of course, there will always be hiccups in organising a massive event as this, but I think all those involved in making this possible the way it is running should be commended. And I do not mean any politician, royalty, sport icon or this and that Lord!!!

My multiple Anansi cheering habits are for team GB, the Netherlands, anyone from the Caribbean participating at the Olympics or any “odd” Olympian among all the hyped up contestants around whom the pundits are making all sorts of predictions. Bolt may have been predictable, but who could have guessed about the Grenadian Kirani James or Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic!

Team GB’s success is quite fascinating for a number of reasons Much has been said about the privileged background of many of the athletes. But what is quite noticeable is the impact of a multicultural society on the quality of athletes who have won medals for GB, France and the Netherlands (among others). On our golden Saturday night when Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford struck gold, the image of a multicultural-intercultural Britain must have caused all the multicultural pessimists to be lost for words. And how about the image of a mixed heritage athlete (Ennis) beaming and performing in style before the world? Whatever critique we may have of Britain, its commitment to an intercultural society burns brightly like the Olympic flame. Perhaps, when Germany (and the rest of Europe) do their post reflections on their “low medal take” they may wish to revisit their critique of what Merkel termed as a problem; “multi-culti” Germany and Europe!

It was pointed out to me that after Mo Farah’s win he was asked by a journalist if he would have preferred to run as a Somali, to which Mo responded that this was his country where he grew up, started life and he is proud to wear the GB vest. It may be that a journalist is entitled to ask any question however foolish it may be. But we should not be surprised to get an answer that ought to locate the small-mindedness of such a question. What was most significant for me though and which gives me much hope is the way the packed our arena cheered on these athletes. After all, they are British. Multiculturalism has come a long way and Britain should be proud of this. Danny Boyle ensured that this was highlighted in the magnificent opening ceremony.

Perhaps, I am too much of the optimist that Hugh Muir wrote of in his piece in the Guardian (August 6, 2012): “So sport can be a catalyst for social progress, and it can shine a light on change that has already occurred. London 2012 has certainly achieved the latter. It may or may not achieve the former. But if the optimists are right and the embracing of Team GB does reveal something about Britain as we are – and if it endures – it will be a valuable part of the promised legacy. Intangible, compared to facilities and bricks and mortar, but legacy all the same.”

I am also a realist. So in the meantime, now that Curiosity has landed on Mars to join Spirit, an earlier Rover that seems to be working in unpredictable ways, we await for signs of life out there and possible alien participation in future Olympics. Life, here however, will continue to delight in the colourful variety as captured by those Olympic rings.

copyright© August 7, 2012

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