Tuesday, August 19, 2008

China Olympics

As an avid Olympics watcher, I find my thoughts returning to the Cold War years, when the Soviet Block countries fielded full time "professional" athletes with whom the US athletes had trouble competing. The Soviet judges and referees would often favor their athletes to the detriment of U.S. athletes, especially.

Fast forward to the present. We see Chinese gymnasts, who are obviously under the required age. They are trained by the government from the age of three in "athletic mills," where they are kept from their families and required to train long hours each day. All this in an effort to dominate and make the world think they are the best and most powerful.

The parallels in judging aren't the same, but we see Chinese gymnasts being favored by the judges, even when they perform badly. The commentators blame it on poorly prepared judges, but one has to wonder, given the U.S. reputation around the world, and the Chinese rising star. These judges are taken by the spectacle of it all, and the obvious Chinese attempts to dazzle the world into thinking that they are modern and tolerant. We know that they are still very much a totalitarian regime with capitalist tendencies, but, so often, others are easily fooled.

At any rate, the Olympic parallels between the "old days" and the present are very "deja vu." Now Russia is flexing its muscles again and no one is ready to confront them militarily, and they know it. I wonder about the politics of the next Olympics and who will be the major players.

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