Yes, I’m watching the Olympics.
I understand that this makes me a Bad Person, that I am somehow Complicit In Tyranny And Discrimination, that the mere fact that the Sochi games are jiggling my television’s electrons is enough to Cause Consternation and probably Indicates Deep Flaws In My Character. So I am told.
But you see, no.
I’m old enough to remember the Olympic boycotts of 1980 and 1984, and I don’t remember them helping anything. The Soviet Union’s Communist system did not tremble, nor did their troops leave Afghanistan because we refused to send athletes to Moscow. Nor did our capitalist wonderland falter when the Communist bloc (remember them?) returned the favor and skipped out on Los Angeles. Honestly, I’ve been to Los Angeles and I can’t say I was all that impressed either. Haven’t made it to Moscow but perhaps someday.
I watched the Beijing Olympics despite the many and varied sins of the Chinese government. I watched the Salt Lake City Olympics despite the fact that it was in Utah, a state whose views of gay rights are not all that far removed from Vladimir Putin’s. I watched the Lillehammer Olympics despite the criminal things that Scandinavians do to seafood. I watched the Vancouver Olympics despite … well, who knows with Canadians. It was probably the politest Olympics on record. Certainly more so than the one in France anyway.
I’ve watched them all, in my lifetime.
The point is, I don’t watch the Olympics for the politics of it. There’s enough politics in my life as it is. My viewership neither endorses nor condemns the government policies of the host countries, nor is it meant to. And I grow intensely weary of being told otherwise.
The people who insist that I am promoting all sorts of Badness And Evil by watching the Olympics are the same people who won’t leave me alone about what I eat, what I wear, what I do with my free time, how I drive, what I read, what movies I watch, and where I choose to walk. All for the good of my soul, of course, as well as the furtherance of whatever agenda they’re pushing for the nonce.
Like albino peacocks, they somehow miss the point.
The point of the Olympics is the athletes. The point of the Olympics is the fact that you have several thousand people who have worked very hard for the chance to prove that they are the best in the world at sports that, for the most part, nobody really cares about at any other time (slopestyle? seriously? do people even do that when the Olympics are not on?). This is their moment. This is when they get to shine, and they probably won’t ever get another.
And I’m supposed to snub them because someone else gets their knickers in a twist over politics?
The curlers, the lugers, the biathletes, the bobsledders, the speed skaters, and so on – all those people have sacrificed more than most people can possibly understand to be where they are, and most of them know full well that they are not going to get close to the medal stand and they do it anyway. That’s what I’m watching – the people who are willing to do that. Not the politics.
I get it. There’s a mountain of corruption that goes into every Olympics, one that coats the entire administrative apparatus of the event with a fine layer of sleaze.
I get it. Putin is bad. His government pursues policies that are barbaric and morally leprous, and in a civilized world there would be no room for such laws. The world isn’t civilized, in case you haven’t noticed – such laws are all too common everywhere and the difference between Russia and certain parts of the Land of the Free is a matter of degree not kind.
But you know, fine. I get it.
You want to change that? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t? The world would be a much better and – as noted – more civilized place if you did. So do something real about it.
In the meantime, I will watch the Olympics.