Posted by: hellonhairylegs | August 14, 2008

It Isn’t Worth It

Ok, so I ended up watching the Olympics and shouting encouragement at the people who happen to have the same citizenship that I have. I couldn’t help but feel that it isn’t worth it. We watch people run, jump and swim for a couple weeks every four years. These athletes have spent years training for their events for the chance of a medal. The best-case scenario is years of someone’s life traded for a few moments on screen and piece of metal. Imagine all the people who have strived and didn’t make the cut.

Even today, Eamon Sullivan won the silver in the 100m Men’s Freestyle. He came second in an international event, second in the entire world in a sprint race won by centimetres. Our news media billed this as a disappointment. Times have changed since Ancient Rome, instead of blood we howl for gold.

The medal factories of China are an extreme example. Take this article; it describes the horrible condition even gold medal athletes are subjected to.

“There are many athletes like me who never get the help,” Zou said by telephone. “We are left uneducated, unable to have children and destroyed by a system that told us it would take care of us forever.”

And whether the gymnasts pictured above have been starved or drugged to keep their bodies in a state of pre-pubescence is anyone’s guess.

For an event that is supposed to be about peace it sure demands a lot of sacrifices.



  1. I agree that it’s a terrible shame for someone to be considered a “disappointment” because they received a silver medal, and it’s worth noting that that attitude is part of a culture of privilege. Some friends that I used to work with from Bangladesh once told me about the frenzy of pride that a single bronze medal inspired for their country– which doesn’t have the resources to invest in athletes as we do in Australia. When a nation has the luxury of investing so much money in athletes that a silver is disappointing, it’s a pretty sure sign that that nation is pretty blind to its own privilege.

    And having said that, I’m not much of an Olympics person, and I would much rather that the federal money invested in athletes would be spent on, say, systems of bicycle paths in cities and towns throughout the country in order encourage the use of environmentally friendly transport. Or hell, even on improving our existing public transport infrastructure, which badly needs it. (And I know that these infrastructures are state, rather than federal issues, but the states get funding from the federal government, so it should all be possible).

  2. I’m with you on that Beppie. Our public transport sucks, as does the hideous amount we spend per medal on our atheletes.

  3. I’m really torn on the women’s gymnastics thing. The judgments are totally arbitrary. I mean, the things that they award points for and take points off for necessitate a body type that is slim and streamlined. It’s no wonder that we see thinner and younger athletes than ever. Also, the women’s all-around last night was very telling as to this trend. Commenters on NBC praised Nastia Liukin for her grace and “gazelle-like” movements, while the slightly bulkier and more muscular Shawn Johnson was marked down for performing too “harshly” or “powerfully”. Even though both girls are much shorter and thinner than average girls, Johnson’s muscular legs were a hindrance whilst Nastia’s extreme thinness was a benefit.

    I believe a lot of it is culled by a deadly combination of beauty ideals and gymnastics fads. If they are anything like dance, which I participated in competitively until my post-pubescent body made the popular moves designed for thinner girls look stupid, much of what determines success in sports is more genetics and access to expensive coaches and lessons.

    Regardless, my point is that China’s extreme thinness is not something that is a mark of their “backwardness” whereas our athletes are healthy. Both the Chinese and American gymnasts were much younger, thinner, and shorter than the average Chinese or American female. I surmise that the abuses of “stage parents” probably compares to being sent to a Chinese athlete factory. Funny thing is that Chinese women are actually, on average, shorter, smaller, and younger looking than American women. Which is funny, because our beauty standards have very much to do with outward signs of “femininity” like softness, breasts, and hips. Chinese women are not as likely to have the signs of American female beauty as American women are. Thus, am I surprised or shocked that the Chinese gymnasts are shorter and smaller? Not at all. Genetically, they are more likely to be. If a sport has more to do with body type than body ability, or as much as, you’re going to see women and girls that fit that narrow window of body types as closely as possible.

  4. I didn’t mean to imply that our atheletes were healthy and agree with you on genetics playing a role more than experience or skill in gymnastics.

    As to stage parents being the same as the abuse factory I doubt the problems are comparable in education. Also, there is a difference between something that is tacitly condoned and something that is actually government policy.

    Gymnastics as a sport is fun to watch, but heartbreaing to to think about. The way it is judged seems to be biased heavily in favour of bigger gymnastic countries and towards the beauty ideal.

  5. You are right about the governmental policy thing. Ugh, thinking about how China treats those children is disgusting. I much prefer swimming. It doesn’t destroy the body, and it’s definitely more about power and ability than a beauty ideal.

  6. Yeah, swimming is awesome, although on Aussie television they show swimming heats when there are better events going on elsewhere. Australians are swimming crazy. I’ve already heard at least three guys complain about the new swimsuits and their inability to ogle women without breasts. If there is anything that has proved to me that men hate women it is watching women’s sports with my dad (either that or the porn adds I stumble across wherever I go on the internets).

  7. Not to mention the fact that all sports are used as an excuse to exploit women as sex in the rape industry called prostitution. I just can’t stomach sport after reading things like this:

  8. dlnflkdsf dlkf sldj gds;

    There are just no words.

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