Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “July 31, 2012”

Olympic Extravaganza

The extravaganza has officially jumped the shark.

My wife sat through the opening ceremony for the 2012 Summer Olympics on Friday night. I watched about half of it. About all I could take was a couple of minutes before I went to check email, the refrigerator, or to see if Jodie, my long time house ghost was OK.

How low we’ve sunk. This extravaganza thing has been growing like the 2006 bubbled up housing market for the last few years and it’s finally popped. I’m so tired of contrived choreography and costumes whose continuing attempts to be shocking are only satires of themselves.

My wife wanted to watch the athletes march around the field. She’s from Denmark and wanted to see the Danish team, for one thing. I remember when I was a kid, totally enraptured by the Olympic Games, watching the athletes enter the stadium. Somehow they showed both humility and pride at the same time. These people have worked incredibly hard to get to these games.

For many of them, this is the absolute pinnacle of achievement in their sports as there’s not much potential to compete professionally in canoe sprinting (as far as I know). This event is about those athletes and about nations coming together and putting aside the politics and competing peacefully.

We were watching a rerun, essentially, as London is eight hours ahead of us. In order to make it work for TV, including maximizing the audience and making the fireworks and light shows work, the actual event took place from about 9pm to 1am, London time. The extravaganza came first, of course, leaving the athletes entrance march until after 11pm. Many of the athletes didn’t want to stay up so late because they had competitions early the next morning. The result was that we saw some fraction of each team in the parade.

This robbed both the athletes and their fans of a big moment. In fact, many of the fans in the stadium got up and left before the event was over. All this for one of the most boring, self-indulgent shows I’ve ever seen. People in silly costumes just danced around and waved their arms endlessly. They were telling the story of the evolution of England – apparently in real-time. It had nothing to do with sports or the Olympics themselves.

But this has become the norm. Everywhere I look, these days, there’s another extravaganza. So many that it’s just plain boring. The English spent $85 million on this turkey – money that could have gone a long way toward alleviating the “worst quality of life in Europe,” as has been said of England.

I say the day of the extravaganza is seeing its sunset. The level of hype for events can’t really get any higher. The hype is so extreme that it’s lost its meaning. You’d think that drinking a can of cola or light beer is going to bring about the world’s biggest party and the Rolling Stones are going to play there. Words like “amazing” have no meaning whatsoever, anymore, because EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is amazing. I’ve heard that word at least five hundred times in the past year.

I’m tired of hype. I’m tired of commercial exaggeration. I’m tired of the extravaganza. I know when something’s great. I know when I’m anticipating something. I don’t need to be told how to feel. Can we move on? I’m ready for the next thing.

By the way, I’ve drunk thousands (maybe millions?) of beers in my life and half of them were actually really good (some people are wine snobs, I’m a beer snob. Sue me). But I’m still waiting on Mick Jagger. Maybe I still haven’t drunk the right brand.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


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