Gold Fever

Now that the Olympic show has left town, the majority view seems to be
‘I was sceptical about the Games before, but the way they’ve turned out has proved me wrong’.
Some have noticed that there has been no mention of the Livingstone team which won the games, or his role in snatching defiance from the horror of the 7/7 bombings. Or more seriously, that in spite of all the thanks to team and family and spectators, there has been no acknowledgement of the fact that every medal and volunteer smile was a collective effort, paid for by the working hours of every British cleaner and bank-clerk.
The claim that supreme individual sacrifice and Elite ‘talent’ wins medals is a myth. Britain’s success at 2012 was as clinical and collective as the East German domination in the bad old days. If only this degree of dedication and effort could be targeted towards real problems, rather than pissed up against the Wailing Wall of sporting ritual, society would be far healthier, and more kids would take up sport for its own sake, and not as a route to Glory and adulation (and lots of money).
I carried my usual sentimental fondness for the Olympics into this month, prepared to forgive and forget its corporate bastardisation in the hope of seeing another Martin Woodruffe or Daley Thompson or Bob Beamon. But now sport has emerged as a replacement for religion, I’m actually worried.
The USSR relied on Stahkanovite Heroes of the Motherland to embody its ideology, and inspire the masses to further sacrifice and effort in the greater good.
The Catholic Church did much the same in its heyday, with saints, and pilgrims and zealots mortifying their flesh in retreats and monasteries.
Sport is now the church of Consumerism. Providing a panacea for our current disintegration, and promoting the doctrine of pointless and wasteful consumption in order to generate higher levels competition for its own sake. A whirling dervish of intense effort and drama which simulates real life, but can never replace it. A 1930’s Hollywood for our times, and a replacement for religion.
I could take the absurdity of incessantly announcing the god-given ‘talent’ on display while simultaneously peddling the theory that hard work and dedication can get anyone Golden Glory. Or the endless circular argument that winning gold was such an achievement and really made all the hard work worthwhile because it meant a gold medal – if it hadn’t been for the news ban. For most of the first week there was no BBC news. And he second wasn’t too sharp either. For anyone wanting their TV news without corporate sponsorship, there was a brief summary of extreme headlines before yet another trailer of the British hopes to come in the tennis pitch or running field.
The DG of the BBC is now the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the new religion of Sport. It’s got everything from the glory days of the Vatican. Including mortification of the flesh and the lifetime of complete devotion to a single salvation, and the power of prayer, or ‘positive-thinking’, or magic-thought as it’s correctly known. All the rituals and the genuflections and witchcraft and more.
‘Give us the kids, and we’ll give you the gold medals in ten years’ Sports England is saying, as the Jesuits did. The Devil makes work for unsporting kids to do. Who is coaching David Rudisha? Kenya’s new sensation? A catholic priest.

Legacies
1) The NHS will have to pick up the tab for all the born-again sporters who haven’t yet been told that you do not do sport to get fit, you get fit to do sport. They’ll find out.
2) Finally, a replacement for religion. And one which worships the same god of Competition as Consumerism, the opposite of what is needed in an age of over-production and plenty. A Sporty Kid is an Obedient Kid! And if your spares can earn a novitiate in your local sports monastery or convent – what an honour! Just like in de Auld Country, so it is.
Most of modern ‘fitness’ is a complete load of baloney funded by dodgy corporations in their own interest. The criminal and political side-effects are depressing to say the least. At best a creepy Narcissistic superman cult, at worst a training ground for hired thugs, but in the middle a massive herd of adrenalin junkies, primed to pounce and as emotionally stable as a rat-trap. That’s what your ‘Sixpack’ culture does, if you really want to know – suppresses pacific abdominal breathing, and enforces Fight or Flight chest breathing. A race of bouncers and enforcers.

Killing words with sport.
After England’s flop in the European Cup, nobody can seriously use the word ‘composure’ again. But then England have ‘composed’ themselves out of so many championships it’s unfair to blame one event, even if it was the one most peppered wit the the mantra.
And now the Olympics have made the word ‘talent’ meaningless. It is crow-barred into almost every sentence regardless of context, almost as a form of punctuation or aid to scansion.
There is no evidence that the greatest sporting minds are inferior in any way to those of Einstein or Beethoven. But this is ridiculous. And how many words have to die to sell burgers and toxic fructose comfort-drinks?
At its best, sport is pure drama. That is why it makes you cry. But it can’t make anything better on its own. No more than art or science can. We do not live in a sick society because there is not enough sport, there is not enough sport because we live in a sick society. And the virus is money, not lack of ‘role models’. The real truth is ‘Where there’s Brass there’s Muck’ – not the other way round.
If there is a ‘positive’ message from sport in general and this games in particular it is that we all put years of hard work into becoming what and who we are, and should be respected equally. And therefore why not rewarded equally? Those who just lurved Boyle’s opening ceremony should remember that when they vote next.
The Olympic band keeps playing as the HMS Brittania slides under the waves.
Morrissey is a lousy singer and songwriter, but he’s right about the Nuremburg levels of hysteria. A million British gold medals won’t heal the fatal cracks in society. In fact, it might well make them worse. And as every credible study shows, most of society’s problems are caused by inequality. Power worship and elitist hero-cults are all politically the same. All ways of distracting people from the things which should unite them.

If the Olympics was a permanent institution, as many now seem to want in effect, we would be living in a fascist state, for all practical purposes. Cheering because we had willingly suspended both our individuality, and our natural community and family loyalties and sympathies. Surrendering everything to the greater national cause of the ideal of Elite Perfection and Absolute Competition. Just what else does fascism mean if not the obliteration of rational cause and effect in political life? Claiming sport can save us is as anti-rational as claiming that the Jews were to blame for the Great Depression.
It would make Albert Speer proud to see all the lobotomised Gym-Monkeys dragging their knuckles around London’s streets. Unable to look left or right, but with magnificent Abs.
The BBC abandoned its news service for most of last week. The top of every broadcast was either another trailer for a forthcoming medal hope, or another interview with yesterday’s winners of the rowing or gallumphing. On all BBC channels, including News24. That is distorting the political landscape by omission.
Young people were shot and went missing – one of them still is. Floods destroyed dozens of homes.. and life went on with a vengeance. But if you watched BBC, Everything Was Beautiful At The Ballet.
‘Big Sports Jamborees’ are now merely enormous corporate orgies to which the public are invited to buy a very expensive, and therefore elitist, ticket. They no more an expression of common human values than the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Epsom Common on Derby Day used to be the East End’s day out. Not any more. So much for the unifying influence of the grand sporting event.
Every Olympics we get this same hysteria, even if we only get a few medals. The hero of the hour returns in glory, politicians and experts drool on about how this will now inspire an new generation of Goody-Two-Shoes Kids only interested in getting tired and doing what as they’re told without question. And a few weeks later, the same people are castigating young people as feral vermin who should be put down. It’s All A Con. Wake up. This is the Abuse of sport, not its epitomy.
The schizophrenia of ministers and the media is all too apparent. As is their desperation to salvage some political points from a disastrous year (and a half) which has undermined the credibility of Consumerism as thoroughly as economic Depression undermined the Weimar Republic. And has left us clutching at showbiz for an answer to our problems.
Everyone is forgetting that this was the first Olympics since Tokyo when most people were fairly confident that they were watching performances by clean, drug-free athletes. Because of the war on drugs in sport, these were events we could trust. This makes a huge difference in how we perceive sport. It is very difficult to wholeheartedly celebrate a victory which you feel is a crime. If you care anything about sport, that is. London was very lucky to stage the games as it came out of decades in the shadow of drugs. It cannot take all the credit for the sunshine.

The fact that God does not exist does not mean that religion doesn’t. In fact, religion exists precisely because there IS no God. Sport is now harnessed to the proposition that the more Gold Medals Britain wins, the better it is as a society. This is pure primitive Voodoo. Magic Thought. An abandonment of rationality of biblical proportions. All the magical properties that the politicians and media have been claiming for Sport could just as well be claimed for Art. The reason for their choice is that Art tends to encourage free minds, whereas sport does tend to domesticate. Which is why an artistic kid is often a rebellious kid. And that would be a disaster.

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