Love and war in the time of Olympics

OlympicsIndia navigated the waters around the Cape of Lost Hope, and succeeded only in netting small fish — two silver and four bronze medals, no gold. We flunked in Archery and Shooting, and were hauled by our hind legs in Hockey, although that game is not our only justifiable hope. The results were unsatisfactory overall, by most standards. Yet, in spirit, many of our countrymen, blissfully addicted to optimism, followed the Olympics as if their lives depended on it.

Excellence always has to be appreciated, no matter who wins — which country, which race or socio-political environment produces formidable talent. Our innate interest in sports, irrespective of how we ourselves perform, is laudable. Despite nepotism and sycophancy in our selection process, we still do admire excellence, at the same time paying a heavy price for shady practices, lack of training and dedication, and disfunctional discipline back home.

Hark, how the words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru resonate: It’s not whether you win or loose, but how you play the game! Shouldn’t that ideal constitute the core of our great Olympic spirit? But honestly, does it? Unfair or questionable decisions pop up every time “cross-eyed” judges decide the winner. The events are many, where managers, alas! not athletes, play the game and call the shots.

Faster, higher, stronger

In the distant past, the Communist Bloc — undivided Russia, East Germany, Eastern Europe, including China — swept up medals like they needed larger contingents to haul them away, in what may have been perceived as a demonstration of communist supremacy. Now the tables have turned, transforming internal pressures (practiced inside a country) into an external, worldwide force of muted manipulation.

Today the so-called free world — spearheaded by America and its western allies must win — if need be, by biased judging, altered rules of engagement, and by introducing events unfamiliar to an unsuspecting world. Win by hook or by crook is and always has been the motto. Today’s old boy network, which applies both in love and in war, flexes its muscles in the Olympics arena, as it does for instance, with Nobel prizes.

How else do you explain such dubious events as Synchronized Swimming, Beach Volleyball, and Rhythmic Gymnastics entering the fray? I can see you nodding your head, wondering if Beer Drinking, Dart Throwing, and Monopoly (the board game) could be too far behind?

The element of human error, it may be argued, could compromise judging decisions. But, why does human error seem to consistently favor one side, and not the other? In today’s world, fragmented Russia, Eastern Europe, and even China get the short end of the stick, to speak nothing of smaller and/or emerging nations. These countries are left to win by athletic superiority alone.The only way they could put down the Jamaican wonder, Usain Bolt, was when the Olympic president chose to chide him for the now-famous archer’s stance as frivolous and “disrespectful.” Wow!

Hunger for abuse

Judges decisions in gymnastics, boxing, and diving — wherever scoring intermediaries arbitrate — have raised too many eyebrows. Female American gymnasts strike gold like it was a foregone conclusion while their Russian, Rumanian, and Chinese rivals grind the enamel off their teeth. A U.S. male gymnast moves up from seventeenth position in minutes, to win the bronze! A Chinese coach shakes his head in disbelief. Discrepancies, too numerous to mention, make it look like soft sabotage pays rich dividends.

Indian pugilist Vikas Krishnan is stripped of victory against Errol Spence in the welterweight (69 kg) category after Team USA protests, and gets the decision promptly altered. Another boxer, Manoj Kumar, falls to “cheating,” after his pre-quarter final bout (64 kg) raises the home favorite, Englishman Thomas Stalker’s hand high in the air. (When Push comes to Shove, they whisper in each other’s ears.) Cuban coach, Blas Iglesias Fernandez, confirmed that Kumar fought just as well in the first two rounds, only to grudgingly extract a 7-4 decision in the all-too-obvious last round! Boxers from Cuba and Belarus nurse similar “injuries,” and the pain and suffering that goes with it.

Jawaharlal Nehru belongs to history, while the ideals of sportsmanship lie battered and bruised by existential realities — where survival and success reign, fueled largely by greed, ruthlessness, and cunning. Don’t say you weren’t warned: All is fair in love and war. The Olympics, leaping into prominence once every leap year, shows us how. ‘Tis with a heavy heart I sigh: Fare thee well, fair sport!

Shyam Bhatya

Like music, ice cream, and chocolates, who doesn’t love sports? We all have our opinions about what’s going on in the field of sports, especially if things appear biased and/or unfair. I’ve pitched my two penny/paise bit. Why don’t you throw in yours?

2 Comments

Filed under Sports

2 responses to “Love and war in the time of Olympics

  1. Excellent post. I’ve lost all faith in professional sports, and now it seems that amateur sport (so-called) is well along the same unhappy path to commercialism, hucksterism, celebrity, and a win-at-all-costs philosophy. I’m afraid we’ve lost something precious: sportsmanship and the true glory of human striving. Make that two heavy hearts… : (

    • Thanks for your comments. Two heavy hearts makes mine feel stronger. Our bolstered by the fact that honesty and fairness has not come to an end, in spite of the meanness and corruption we see all around us. I have admired your cartoons recently, and hope we may be of mutual benefit as I have a deep-seated interest in humor. I could e-mail you details later.

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