Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympically OTT

Before I get into this rant I should point out that I'm not much of a sports fan, but am I the only one in Britain who hasn't found the "celebration" of our athlete's relative success in Peking a little over the top? It seems as if we've had virtually non-stop 24 hour coverage of the blasted circus for the last three weeks with even the news carrying the Olympics as its main story line.

Of course, I recognise that winning an Olympic gold medal is quite an achievement, but I also recognise that they are only doing what they are supposed to do and that they have - on the whole - received an awful lot of taxpayers money to do. In that respect they are far more fortunate than the vast majority of us, so for much of the media to then suggest that their efforts should be recognised with further honours - knighthoods, MBE's and so on - is ridiculous and cheapens the honours system.

The honours should be reserved for those who have given a lifetime of service to the nation or carried out some selfless act - not for those privileged athletes who are largely insulated from the rigours of everyday life that so many of us mere mortals go through.

I have no problem with honours being bestowed on sporting personalities after a lifetime of achievement and dedication - generally they have not only worked hard in their own sport but have done a great deal of good for charity and the nation, but I find the idea of handing out gongs to a 22 year old just for winning one event at the right time rather silly.

One other thing that has struck me during the Olympic fortnight was the incredible sycophancy of the BBC towards the Chinese. From the opening ceremony where BBC commentators gasped in awe like dumbstruck children at the gaudy, vulgar but wonderfully stage managed displays on show (totalitarian regimes are usually very good at stage managed displays - fear is often a good motivator) and through every event they have been doing nothing but telling us how wonderful the Games were and how great the Chinese are.

Yeah, they are great as long as you don't mention the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution or the millions who have died at the hands of this oppressive nation. It was always a mistake, in my view, to give the Olympic Games to the Chinese - they were always going to use it as a political lever and the BBC more than anyone have helped them to do this.

From what I understand, the Berlin Olympics of 1936 were wonderfully stage managed too and went a long way to allaying some of the fears people had about the Nazi regime. It would be another 12 years and millions of violent deaths before there was another Olympic Games. There is also a certain irony that after the Berlin Olympics the next city to host them would be London in 1948 - as it will be after the Peking Games.

Though I don't expect the same thing to happen this time I do find it repugnant that another viciously oppressive totalitarian regime is once more allowed to present a false visage to the world through a sporting meet and that our own state broadcaster more than anyone supports them in doing so.


TheFatBigot said...

I'm not sure I can agree with you on honours Mr Stan. Obviously there is no formal rule about it, but the convention is pretty well established that gold medal winners get an MBE. I don't think it inappropriate for the lowest honour to be given for achieving something so rare.

Nor do I think the knighthoods for Redgrave (5 golds) and Pinsent (4 golds) were inappropriate, nor the dameness for Holmes (2 golds in the same games at the end of a long career at or near the very top).

Were Chris Hoy to be knighted (4 golds, including 3 in one games) it would be consistent with past awards. Rebecca Adlington is a more difficult case. Her 2 golds were a quite astonishing achievement but she is only 19. Having said that, she sets a superb example in her behaviour. My guess is OBE or CBE this time advancing to DBE if she wins again in 2012.

It is not without precedent for high awards to be given to those whose careers have not ended, but it has been reserved for quite outstanding achievements and conduct, Richard Hadlee is probably the most recent example and Chris Hoy would be a fitting addition to the short list.

Lemon said...

The very concept of athletes (many of whom are toffs of the lowest order) receiving anything beyond a medal, fame, and lifelong coaching jobs is wrong.
Should someone who was able to run a little faster than other athletes be recognized as was Douglas Bader, CBE?
Not like they toil in a coal mine. They mostly complain about how little money they receive to represent their country.
They don't risk lfe or limb - how many Brit soldiers will receive such an honour?

Stan said...

S'ok fb - I don't expect everyone who reads this to agree with everything I say, but I still don't agree with the idea of giving honours for sporting prowess regardless of the precedents. I can just about accept Redgraves as his achievement really was something special - Pinsent .... maybe, Holmes definitely not.

As Lemon points out, it is not as if they are doing anything dangerous and being given the opporunity to pursue something that they love doing is hardly a sacrifice. I know many people who have given their lives selflessly to help others less fortunate - will they ever get rewarded with an honour. Not likely.