Fighting with the Sky

The Fake Face of the Olympics

Posted on: February 13, 2010

I love watching the Olympics, whether it is winter or summer (I do have to admit that I do prefer summer, but I love the winter ones too).  I like watching all the different sports that aren’t always readily available to watch at other times…like curling, skiing, snowboarding halfpipe.  I’m sure I could find ways to watch these, but it wouldn’t be as readily available to me as the Olympics are.  Even though I love the Olympics, there are some problems with it…

The Olympics are promoted as global unity, which in some ways they are, but in other big ways, they aren’t.  Especially with the Winter Olympics, the countries with the large delegations that win most of the medals are the U.S., Canada, European countries, and larger Asian countries (like China and Japan)…in short, the wealthier countries.  Many winter Olympic sports require snow and mountains for training.  Most countries around the world do not have these things.  And many athletes that represent African or South American countries are often wealthy enough to attend school and train in either the U.S. or a European country.  Athletes from poorer countries often also don’t really have a great chance or winning a medal.  During the opening ceremonies, the announcers said something like 60 (I think, I could be wrong) of the 82 countries in attendance have never won a medal at the Winter Olympics.  In the end, the Winter Olympics (and the summer to a smaller extent) end up just being a competition between the wealthier countries.

Only 5 (I think) African countries are in attendance at the Winter Olympics this year, and most of these countries are only represented by one athlete.  The South American countries tend to have a larger delegation (around 10 athletes), but there still aren’t that many South American countries in attendance.  I did find it interesting also, that many countries (such as Iran) have their first female athlete to compete in the winter Olympics this year.

As RosieRed23 points out, there is still some blatant discrimination against female athletes.  Women’s ski jumping is still not recognized as an Olympic sport where as men’s ski jumping is a fairly popular (for me to watch) Olympic event.  Why can men do this sport and not women?  There are plenty of female ski jumpers.  Almost every other (if not completely every other) Olympic event has male and female competitions.

During the opening ceremonies, the first nations of Canada and their mythology were highlighted.  I thought this was a really interesting way to open the Olympics.  But, @womanistmusings pointed out some of the hypocrisy of this in a tweet: “Well Canada now that you have showcased first nations ppl @ the olympics perhaps we can work on some equality now.”  I don’t really know a lot about the politics of Canada and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada, but judging by this tweet, my guess is they are not treated with the greatest respect and political equality.

In the end, even though I enjoy watching the Olympics, I do think that there is some fake-ness in the way that they are presented.

Further Reading:

Spare Candy: Remember women ski jumpers during the Olympics

The Feminist Agenda: The Cult of the Olympics

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3 Responses to "The Fake Face of the Olympics"

What I know about Canadian natives is only what I’ve learned from Racialicious and Renee at Womanist Musings and other sites, but even *I* nearly snorted the drink I was drinking out my nose at the way they were proudly displaying them during the ceremony. It was WAY hypocritical. Sadly though, I’m not sure that many people watching in the States have any clue, since Canada is always spoken of here as a liberal paradise (“I’m moving to Canada if so-and-so conservative politician gets elected”).

Thank you for this post! I am not so much of a sports fan, Olympics included, for a lot of the social reasons that you outlined. However, critical outlooks on these “global community” events aren’t popular, so thanks for going there anyway.

Highlighting the native peoples was a very conscious choice and, I think, a necessary one. If the tribes had not been included from the beginning the native communities would be joining in the protests with very good cause. As it is I find the claims that the tribes have been treated poorly during the game preparations a little thin.

Yes, the first nations of Canada have had a difficult history and there is still a lot of reparation work to be done. But including them in the ceremony was not hypocritical at all, it was a step in the right direction. With their country’s similar colonial history, you’d think Americans would know that these problems take time to deal with and there is no easy solution. As a British Columbian, I was proud to see the chiefs sitting behind Mr Harper. I only wish they’d been on time.

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