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Don't lose sight of the Olympic forest because of the nationalistic trees

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The Olympic games got off to a great start, with a blazing, throbbing opening ceremony full of colour and intrigue, including a rambunctious entrance by a myriad of athletes of the World. It was so much fun watching the beaming, glowing stars pour into the stadium in colourful garb, a real celebration of the best and brightest from around the World. Sadly, for me anyway, that appears to be where the goodwill pretty much stopped. Right now, this doesn’t really feel like an Olympic Games. Instead, we appear to be going through dozens of individual, stand-alone events where athletes from one country try to accumulate medals against unseen, unreported rivals. Perhaps I am far off the correct path, however my innocent understanding was that the Olympics is supposed to be a celebration of mankind.

Instead we have the BBC screaming with delight as a British athlete finishes second in the cycling, completely and utterly ignoring the Dutch winner, even going so far as to only interview the silver medalist. What about the Dutch girl? Didn’t she deserve a look-in?! Colour me confused.

Instead we have Irish television actually taking the British insularism and expanding on it exponentially. I suppose Irish TV has some excuse in that Ireland is a tiny nation and any victory for an Irish athlete truly is newsworthy, however, RTE may as well call their Olympics coverage ‘’The hunt for any kind of medal for an Irish athlete along with some other random sports that we will spend 5 minutes on at 11:30 pm on RTE2’’.

The German media is utterly despondent, simply because they haven’t won a truckload of medals as yet. The Olympic games is, in their eyes, a failure thus far, because ‘Germany, Germany, over all’ (that’s the start of their anthem translated, for your information) isn’t blaring out daily on the winners podiums. They don’t care how the other athletes are doing. The entire exercise is a monster bust because Germany isn’t cleaning up.

As for the United States. ESPN is basically a snazzy, glorified medals table focusing solely on the US and their achievements to date. Their coverage is ignorant in a barely concealed passive-aggressive way, with ‘comical’ stories about how American athletes find foreigners amusing. For example, they love telling us that star-struck members of foreign teams are asking the Dream Team for autographs after games, they are getting a big kick out of that dynamic. You know what’s interesting, ESPN doesn’t even have an Olympics tab on their menu bar. Just the usual NFL, MLB and so forth.

‘Worldwide leader in sports’? Maybe in shoving US sports and US athletes down our throats, sure, but ESPN can’t claim to have a worldwide, global view on anything. They don’t even have an Olympics tab on their main menu bar!

Look, the above flag-waving is all well and good, it is great that we in Ireland know everything there is to know about Katie Taylor, and in the USA the entire Olympics is about Lochte\Phelps, the Dream Team and the US women’s soccer team.  Super. Wonderful. I suspect many readers will be shaking their heads saying ‘I don’t see what this idiots problem is?!’

The thing is, the Olympics is a chance to celebrate peoples from all around the world. The games are crammed full of individual stories that would only fill your heart with happiness and an uplifting feeling if you had a chance to find out about them.

Every Olympic event is full of brave, interesting and skilful individuals, beyond the colour of the flag they represent.

Many of these individuals have the weight of the World on their shoulders. There are countless individual struggles going on, often against the odds, as in the case of Saudi woman Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani who is not just preparing to battle other opponents in Judo, but is also battling the weight of an entire faith’s beliefs on her slim shoulders. Not only does she have to worry about an opponent pulling a ‘Ouchi Gaeshi’ on her, she also has to worry about backwards, redundant comments from her own people like this; ‘‘Men will be looking at her and she will likely be wearing form-fitting attire.’’

On no, someone call in the religious police! Form fitting attire! Oh the humanity!

Hey, of course there is a middle ground, and I am not going to lie to you, any Irish medal will be loudly cheered from my apartments sofa. The point I am trying to make here is, we are in danger of being sucked into this boring, nationalistic, angry, flag waving black hole, where the exploits of individuals are crushed from our view by the weight of ugly medal tables and over exuberant nationalistic reporting.

Knock yourself out, punch the air when (insert country here) wins whatever event. But, just don’t lose the chance to celebrate humanity a little. Try ‘adopting’ a few athletes or teams from nations other than your own, and follow their exploits as the games progress.

You might find yourself enjoying the Olympic games on another level than that stupid medals table.



Follow Cormac on Twitter

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