The Olympic spirit?
The 2012 London Olympic games officially begin Friday, but a number of contests are already under way.
One preliminary-round women’s soccer match took place Wednesday, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported, with more to come today and tomorrow.
But not all contests take place in athletic venues. At least since the 1936 games in Nazi Berlin, politics have also been a regular part of the Olympics. That’s certainly true this year. Consider the following:
✔ There appears to be serious competition occurring within Iran’s ruling regime about whether its athlete will compete against Israeli athletes. First, Iranian authorities said they wouldn’t compete. Then, earlier this week, a top Iranian official said members of Iran’s Olympic team would participate in competition against “every country.” However, on Wednesday, an Iranian news agency claimed that official had been misquoted, leaving the question up in the air.
✔ Greek triple jumper Voula Popachristou was banished from her team Wednesday for Twitter comments she made mocking African immigrants. She later apologized, but too late, apparently, to win back her spot in London.
✔ The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that nine athletes — eight women and one man — have been suspended for suspected doping.
✔ Two other women will get the chance to compete in London and will set a precedent in doing so. The two — one a long-distance runner and the other a judo competitor — are the first women ever to be included on Saudi Arabia’s Olympic team. As a result, CNN reported, every one of the 205 countries at the Olympics will have at least one woman on its team.
✔ More than 40 groups, including Occupy London, are expected to stage a protest Saturday over the “corporate dominance” of the games.
There will, of course, be great stories of individual and team triumphs over the next 2 1/2 weeks. There will be upsets and accounts of athletes who persevered despite incredible hardships. Millions will watch, read or listen to Olympic coverage to see if people like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt can repeat their previous Olympic glory or whether they will be surpassed by newcomers.
But for some people, these Olympic games have not generated the same sort of enthusiasm that previous contests have. There’s not the same eagerness to watch the competition unfold.
Perhaps it’s the round-the-clock news coverage of Olympic trials that leaves the games themselves diminished. Maybe it’s the many political issues mentioned above. Or perhaps it’s the sense that, in this age of international terrorism, the true Olympic spirit is absent.
After all, nothing speaks to our common humanity and the notion of peaceful competition like Great Britain’s unfortunate but arguably necessary preparations: 18,200 military troops deployed for the games; two warships at the ready; Typhoon jet fighters; Puma helicopters and surface-to-air missiles that are mounted on nearby apartment buildings.