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the diary thing 
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07.18.01
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 games
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olympic ringsWE DIDN'T GET IT! We didn't get it! We just didn't get it! I'm so goddamned happy that we didn't get it! Because you know, if we'd gotten it, we'd end up having to take it -- right up the keyster, as they say. But we didn't get it so, really, there's no reason why we should have to take it. Up the keyster. Except that there are a lot of people here who still don't get it, and now that we didn't get it, they're going to push for us to try again, to get it, and they don't care how long it takes to get it, as long as we do. And then we'll really have to take it. Up the keyster. They just don't get it.

I'm talking about the Olympics. As you may have heard by now, Beijing was the winning bidder for the 2008 Olympic games, beating Toronto and Paris for the "honour" of hosting the international festival of corporate sponsorship and drug testing. And sport -- amateur sport. Played by commercially endorsed professional athletes. Right. Well, at least Toronto did better than Paris at something.

I hate to sound so harsh about the old Olympic games but I haven't felt right about them since Munich, probably. I remember Montreal, ironically, with some fondness, but after that -- well. Steroids, hormones, political boycotts, NBC, Nike, Pepsi, beach volleyball, you name it -- I'm hardly a big sports fan, but at the end of the day, at least you know wrestling is fixed. 

I feel bad for the athletes. This is it for them -- the last, best arena where they can prove themselves as shot-putters, javelin-throwers, rhythmic gymnasts, sprinters, tri-athletes, you name it. (I don't feel bad, however, for the U.S. Olympic basketball team -- along with hockey, the worst violation of the Olympic spirit of amateurism in the name of commerce since, probably, "Nadia's Song".) I mean, I'm sure winning a medal -- even just competing -- in the games was proof that you were among the best, a chance to gauge yourself next to the best in the world. Nowadays, most people assume you got there thanks to a relentless national athletics program funded by advertising partnerships and a fistful of performance-enhancing drugs, and that your medal is just plated tin if you don't get an endorsement deal from Nike, Reebok, or Adidas, at the very least. The rising tide of cynicism has overwhelmed everything good about the Olympics. 

I suppose it was possible, once, to host an Olympic games without selling your city, or country's, soul for the privilege. I suppose that hasn't been possible since Berlin in 1936. Montreal went into debt a billion dollars for their 1976 games, and they still haven't paid off $300 million of that. They're still totalling up the figures for Sydney. It's like the credit card binge that haunts you to your grave.

Toronto, let it be known, was willing to hock everything -- our future, our autonomy as the richest city in the country -- to get the games. Or rather, a cabal of politicians and developers were willing to sell the family farm -- our family farm -- for the chance to rake off profits, fast-track development deals and subsidize construction. They might still do it. We already have one moribund sports facility that went into debt and needed a bailout from public money -- I can only imagine what they might have done with a velodrome, a rowing course, a pool. Hell, I bet they'd have levelled parkland for beach volleyball, just to use the land for condos when it was all over. I wish I was joking, but I'm not -- these people are capable of anything.

The cutback-happy provincial government has been devoted to strip-mining the city for its tax base since they got into power, and they'd worked out a clever provision in their Olympic agreement that would have ceded control to them if it went over-budget, which was as certain as Dick Cheney's next heart attack. 

But we didn't get it. And I'm as happy as a Frenchman with a chainsaw.


 
"He that seeketh to be eminent amongst able men hath a great task; but that is ever good for the public: but he that plots to be the only figure amongst ciphers is the decay of an whole age."
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- Francis Bacon
Of Ambition

 
Another rant. I'm just full of piss and bile lately.

BEIJING'S GAMES WILL BE BERLIN 1936, all over again. At least that's the consensus, from the political right (who have no problem with China as an import/export partner -- that would be bad business), and from the sour grapes contingent up here who think it unfair that a country that executes petty criminals in the same stadiums where they might hold events should win over a city whose main crime is that we have a mayor whose world-view was apparently informed by old Looney Tunes.

(Hey, now -- my world-view was formed by old Looney Tunes, too. But at least I don't make a habit of imagining -- aloud, to a reporter, while mayor of my city -- that Africa is full of cannibals waiting to boil me alive. What an asshole.)

There are those -- optimists, I think they're called -- who think that the attention paid to China leading up to the games will force the country to improve its human rights record. Or maybe they're a little bit more cynical than that, and cherish the image of the games as a trojan horse, bringing rampant commercialism into the "Communist Paradise" and eroding the Party's power. I'd like to remind them that Tiananmen Square focused a bit of attention on China, and if nothing else, it proved the fiendish adaptability of the Party in dealing with dissidents and bad press.

Then there are the wonks, who've already started weighing in with solemn pronouncements that the Olympics are nothing less than an announcement for the beginning of the "Chinese Century". I'd like to point out to them that the 1900 games were held in Paris, the 1908 games in London, and that the past century did no particular favours for either France of England.

The 1904 games, however, were held in St. Louis. So much for that theory, inasmuch as no one can deny that the 20th century was good to the U.S.A. Maybe it's time to start learning Mandarin.

I TURNED THIRTY-SEVEN a week ago. Whoopee.

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writing ©2001
Rick McGinnis
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