What is the real match, the real contest here? Is the Olympic spirit manifested in Sochi or is it something relegated to the distant past? The whole pragmatic, unprincipled “winning is everything” approach embodied by the “Own the Podium” program of the Harper government and the corporate monopoly sponsors of the Canadian Olympic Committee is incompatible with the high ideals of sport and the modern spirit of friendship and mutual respect between peoples and their athletes. These ideals are manifested in some of the most indelible Olympic memories that have nothing to do with medals and victories. One of those moments happened a few days ago when a Swiss gold medalist waited at the finish line of a cross-country ski race for 28 minutes to shake hands with the skier from Peru who came in last, as pictured below.
Respect for one’s opponent in competition is a well-known norm and one of the high ideals of sportsmanship. This human-cntred ethos has been assaulted from all sides by commercialized, professional sport, with its basis in the fetish of capitalist competition. The big sports monopolies, such as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), stage the arena to promote blind, mind-numbing support for the “home team” as “our team.”
Fans at the Air Canada Centre are organized to disrupt opposing players when they take foul shots, or incited to boo basketball or hockey players who have been either traded away by MLSE or signed with another franchise. The sports media sets the table with a “debate” as to why the athlete should be vilified. This hooligan behaviour is astounding.
The great power spirit is part of the agenda of the Harper government and the monopoly media with their chauvinist reporting for the “home team,” medal count and “own the podium” as the be-all and end-all of international competition. Greed and the self-serving interests of the monopoly corporate sponsors strangles everything positive about sport. Of course the level of culture of the athletes does not mirror this boorish and jingoistic approach, but this is the outlook which is being pushed at every turn. This shows the need to restrict these monopolies and not permit their domination of sports and culture and to fight for a human-centred sports and Olympics movement.
There are two diametric, opposing concepts of sport: the two approaches contend every day as is evident on the playing fields in Sochi, Russia.
CORK GAINES (FEB. 14) – In what will go down as one of the more touching moments of the Sochi Olympics, Swiss cross-country skier Dario Cologna won a gold medal and then waited 28 minutes to congratulate last-place finisher Roberto Carcelen of Peru at the finish line.
The 43-year-old Carcelen is Peru’s first Winter Olympian and has only been skiing since 2005. He was also competing with broken ribs as the result of a training accident just two weeks before the Olympics.
Cologna did not have an easy race either, having just finished a grueling 39-minute, 15 km course with a close finish at the end.
Like many of the cross-country competitors, he collapsed after crossing the finish line.
You wouldn’t have blamed him if he just wanted to celebrate and find a massage therapist.
But 28 minutes later, and 11 minutes after every other skier had finished, Carcelen struggled down the final stretch. He was greeted by a standing ovation from the fans and grabbed a Peruvian flag from the crowd.
Carcelen (bib no. 92), who finished 87th, crossed the finish line and was first greeted by Dachhiri Sherpa of Nepal (bib no. 91), who finished 86th in the event.
And then, to the likely surprise of everybody, Cologna appeared, still carrying his skis, to greet both competitors with a handshake. What a great moment and what the Olympics should be all about.