Olympics is being hosted in England at a time when the world is in the midst of a financial crisis. It is ironic that in these hard times, the host country had to undergo seven years of planning, construction and disruptions, at a price of $14 billion. Danny Boyle, who directed the opening ceremony reportedly, had 27 million pounds ($42 million) to spend on his spectacular opening -- half the amount spent in China in 2008.
Admittedly, it has been a tense moment for organizers, what with the prospects of a terrorist strike at the games not ruled out. Of course, counter-terrorism chiefs have played down fears of a major attack, even as British Prime Minister David Cameron said that a safe and secure Olympics was his priority. The organizers certainly are undergoing one of the biggest security operations in peacetime. Memories of the suicide attacks on London in July, 2005 which killed 52 people are still fresh. Moreover, this year is the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich massacre where 11 Israeli Olympic team members were killed by Palestinian terrorists. The threat of an encore exists.
Countering this challenge apart, organizers had to face a series of doping scandals, which to an extent tarnished the Games' image in the buildup, with at least 11 athletes banned, including Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou who became the Olympics' first "twitter victim" when she was withdrawn from the team over tweeted comments deemed as racist.
A paradox of sorts is evident at the games: while people are tightening their belt due to the economic meltdown and a controversial austerity budget, the organizers of the games have lavished billions on celebrations. Yersterday’s show at the opening was one side of the coin where cheerful faces of competitors were seen in a celebrative mood, even exhibiting unity, friendship, equality, compassion, care, common humanity and universal ideas, not to mention musical tributes to the so-called Olympic spirit. We have been witness to the dancing and cheering. But, today, a day after the opening is over, a paradox unfolds where competitors at the field will show up with stern, strange looks, the look of friendship and camaraderie disappearing overnight. What will be seen henceforth will be competitive virtues of tenacity, courage, excellence, supremacy, discipline and conflict surfacing. Boxers will be at the best to pin down their opponent even at the cost of letting out blood!
The paradox goes further after the opening ceremony’s win-win situation. Twenty four hours later, most will be the losers. Unlike the message of peace conveyed yesterday during the opening ceremony, the competition will only mimic warfare, even heartbreak amongst the vast majority of the participants. No longer it is so-called brotherhood, rather about status and superiority of one country over the other.
Four years down the line in 2016, the same sport will take place in the city of Rio de Janeiro. There have been enough stories of human crisis in Brazil, yet the government has called for a new thinking, with the hope of a stronger economy in the Latin American country. Of course the government has vowed to clean up violence, build impressive structures et al, but the ground reality is that residents are opposing the government machinery in their effort to clear the hutments. Officers in Brazil are cleaning up the neighborhoods, but haven’t yet realized that when they displace people, they are merely pushing violence to other places. Queer, isn’t it that people have to endure pain of losing their home for a sporting event that lasts only a couple weeks! This is the bitter irony of Olympics.