The Olympics are officially under way. I’m not really interested in watching. It’s far less the spectacle than in regular times, and not because of the absence of spectators. I have to say the opening ceremonies, the portion I actually watched, were captivating in part because of the lack of people in the stands. There was an eerie poignancy to it.
I’ve grown cynical of the whole enterprise, especially this time around. The world is supposed to pause and watch and be engrossed in the human drama, but the media overplay things, try to keep things cheery and upbeat, hype it with emotion-laden music and back stories, all in an effort to rationalize and totally distract us from the fact that there is still a raging pandemic going on, along with gross inequities in vaccine availability and distribution.
Instead of welcoming the distraction, shouldn’t we be focused on getting rid of the scourge? Don’t we have more important things to tend to besides making sure our precious athletes get to compete for their chance to make a name for themselves, make all the years of sacrifice pay off? And the IOC and NBC make their money back? And sponsors get the exposure they’ve paid for? The dissonance is grating.
Defenders will say we need the distraction when so much hasn’t been “normal” for the past year and a half. But this insistence on normal is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. We’ve tried to carry on as if nothing is different. We’ve pushed against this aberration in routine as if it were merely an unwanted nuisance that will go away if we just ignore it.
And it will all be painted as a triumph of the human spirit. As if we have, somehow, prevailed.