Streams

Opinion: Olympic Ideals Aren't Political Reality, But We Can Dream

Friday, August 03, 2012 - 10:19 AM

Olympians have been caught doping and have been accused of taking all manner of unfair advantages. Olympians hold grudges and sometimes talk trash about their opponents. Several badminton players were even disqualified for not giving the game their all - presumably to line themselves up for favorable match-ups in the next contest of the round robin.

So, yes, Olympians are human. Despite their remarkable achievements, they're not perfect. Behind their superior physiques and beneath their incredible psychological focus, there may be pettiness and jealousy, and in some cases impulses to cheat and deceive.

We get it, they are like us. They are part of the real world.

But even as they compete on the international stage for the highest glory in their chosen fields, they aren't car-bombing each other. There aren't drone attacks among the rival teams. There are no "collateral damages" in their contests.

In that way, Olympic Games are better than the real world.

The commercialism can be repellant. The egos outsized. The expense of investing in these athletes and in the games - at a time when many governments aren't able to support the basic needs of their citizenry - is excessive.

Yet even those elements offer a vision of how our world could work. Countries can compete for sponsorship dollars and airtime instead of land and resources. Feuds among regions, ethnicities and disgruntled neighbors can be settled symbolically instead of militarily. Nations should earn praise for the the health, robustness, education and training of their people - not just the 1 percent of the 1 percent who excel in athletics, but all their citizens.

In the opening ceremonies, as the nations paraded in a cultural celebration, bitter international antagonists marched side-by-side. Countries that scheme against each other in military strategy rooms and disrespect each other at the United Nations came together in London to play. While the superpowers win most of the medals, even the little guy has his shot as he toes the starting line -- even the representative of the smallest country is cheered as she received her medal.

The Olympics may be unrealistic. These weeks are only an interlude among unending wars, an oasis of plenty and prosperity in a world of shortages, unsustainable development and poverty. These are, truly, "Games."

However, that's the point of dreaming: to imagine the world as it could be, not as it is; to hope for something so different from the disappointing state of affairs. The Olympic Games, with all their problems, are a glimpse of that dream, and should make us wish to bring more of that dream a reality.

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