Is it just me or is America getting its ass kicked at the Olympics? Didn’t it used to be a tight competition between the Russians, the Americans, the East Germans and the Rumanians? Some African nations always outran us, outtracked and outfielded us, but we could be assured we would take a lot of Olympic Gold in other areas. Today things are different. As of this writing, China has 13 gold medals and we have 9.
Do the Olympics reflect real life? Are they a litmus test of world politics? Do they have any social or political relevance? Are they something just old people watch? I haven’t asked my sons, but I bet they’re not watching the Olympics.
As a kid, I enjoyed the Winter Olympics. Odd-- I had the notion I would one day grow up to be a world champion ski jumper. It was only logical, since I was growing up in the shadow of the Southwest Museum in sunny Southern California.
I had seen snow a few times in Big Bear and I could point to Norway on a map. I reckoned that qualified me. There was something about the downhill speed, the great soaring freedom in the air, high above the pines, and the eventual landing on bended knee on packed powder that had me in its thrall.
In adulthood, I made it to Oslo and saw Holmenkollen ski jump up close and personal. Scary. The top of it stretched into the sky at a perverse angle. The sailing-off place was many stories above the ground. It might work for Rocky the Flying Squirrel, but not for me. What the hell had I been thinking, safe in my living room, in front of the TV in my flannel p.j.’s with my cat cradled in my arms?
So far, the best part of these Olympics has been the opening ceremonies. Didn’t director Danny Boyle do a fine job, exploiting the multi-century star quality of England, both in the arts and popular culture, and turning it into a big-screen, cinematic culturefest that translated quite well onto the small screen?
The English are peculiar yet lovable. They can come off as haughty and full of themselves. They live on a tiny island and consider the rest of the world “foreigners”. I doubt they are the toffee-nosing, politically correct mealy mouths we have become. It’s most likely still a British-centric universe to them.
These are the people who brought us spotted dick, dowager hump and the card game, bridge. They also brought us the Beatles, Monty Python, New Wave music and James Bond. I love their quirky originality. Maybe it comes of geographic isolation. Maybe it comes from the opposite-- the fresh blood delivered by the many colonials who have returned to Mother Britain. It looks like England is the new Great Melting Pot. We’re already cooked.