Friday, 11 May 2012

The Olympic Religion?

Watching the start of the Olympic run-up to the Games themselves, one could be forgiven for wondering at the ritualistic and religious overtones of the whole ceremony of lighting the "Olympic Torch" to be carried round the world until it eventually reaches London in July (or whenever!) and the Games commence. I suppose someone, somewhere, spent a lot of time researching costumes for the "Priestesses" assembled at the site of the Temple of Zeus on Mt Olympus. Possibly even spent a lot of time choreographing the whole thing, to recreate something we have only the sketchiest of ideas of - and most of that the invention of those ever creative gentlemen of the late 1800s.

Yes, I know, the "Games" are supposed to bring the worlds peoples together in "peace and harmony" or something. We're all supposed to sit glued to out television sets and oh and ah as our "champions" strive to run faster, jump higher or swim further, faster or whatever than anyone before them. But does that merit all this "mystical ritual?"

Am I really the only person who wonders about a society that rejects "religion" and wants to erase all mention of God from every public office and every public activity - but then spends vast amounts of money setting up ritualised events such as the lighting of the Olympic torch? It does rather seem to give the lie to the loudly asserted modern view that "religion" is unnecessary.

And before anyone accuses me of not being proud of the achievements of those who take part, let me be plain. I think the athletes deserve the praise and accolades they get, especially those who refrain from taking performance enhancing drugs. With the vast amounts of money being pumped into the Games, and the extremely lucrative offers the Gold Medalists will earn, the temptations must be enormous. All the more reason then, to praise those who don't fall for temptation.

Well, the 'torch' has left Mt Olympus and is now on its way. Let the ritualised worship of the Olympic Games begin. Yes, I shall watch, some events anyway, and yes, I will be proud of the athletes who do well - and those who don't. I will admire the rowers, sailers, runners and all the rest for their prowess, but I will also be hoping that everyone comes out of the end of this with their sense of proportion intact. The Olympic ideals were established in an age of amateur excellence, but since the introduction of vast amounts of money in sponsorships, corporate promotion and national pride, I fear the ideal of "It matters not whether we win or lose, what matters is to have taken part" has long since been shoved out of sight.

And that is a great pity.

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