The Blog

Olympic Pride vs. Nationalism


The Olympics are over, thank goodness.

While it is a wonderful opportunity for athletes, some treat the Olympics as a reflection of friendly global relations. I would say that sort of thinking is solidly fixed in fairyland.

The Olympics can sometimes be viewed as an advertising campaign for those already apathetic to international news. And, if you weren't apathetic yet, you will be after 4 hours of watching gymnastics.

The Olympics should be used as an international collection of the best athletes, nothing more.

When the U.S. wins gold, it is not a reflection of the U.S. It is a reflection of the individual athletes' abilities, hard work, dedication and yes, their nation's funding and training. But overall, it is the individuals who run the race, play the game and jump the jumps. I celebrate the athlete, not the nation. I don't give the U.S. government credit for Michael Phelps. I give Michael Phelps credit for Michael Phelps. Obama did not swim the race, Phelps did.

For some, the Olympics can become a "who's the biggest international fish" competition. This is imbedded in a nationalistic ideology. Maybe you believe this nationalistic doctrine is good for people. I do not.

For example: There are social media postings claiming the U.S. women's soccer team's victory over Japan is "pay back" for Pearl Harbor.

This kind of mentality is scary.

First off, turn some of that hatred onto ourselves. Are we going to approve of our children receiving the same sort of verbal abuse for all the wars and suffering our government has started? In many ways, terrorism and hatred towards the U.S. has only just begun. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Secondly, what does Pearl Harbor have to do with athletes in the 2012 London Olympics? I would love to hear the crazy line of thought on that campaign.

Back in my bartender days in Chicago, I watched people scream at the television. Be it the Bears, Cubs or White Sox, I got a kick out of people's pride in their team as if they themselves were on the field. Team pride. Being a part of a group and sharing in group glory is a great feeling. However, there is a danger inherit within the workings of this type of pride. It naturally blinds individual common sense. The team becomes the most important priority. Not the individual player or fan, but the team. The team trumps all decisions. The survival and success of the team is of primary importance. The degradation of the opposing teams is part of the team's survival. It is this mindset that can be dangerous when fueled in international waters.

I was embarrassed by the chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A..." in the stands in London. It was unnecessary. There was no need for the chanting. We knew where the players came from. Chant the players' names or simply eat your popcorn and be quiet. As an expat, I was horrified by the chanting. There was something bully-like about it.

However, it is that national pride and chanting that makes the Olympics attractive to some. It is why my significant other, who never watches handball, all the sudden is glued to the screen when Sweden is playing.

Overall, the Olympics gets watered down to high school gym politics. Occasionally, underdogs emerge here or there, but generally the most medals go to the people calling the shots: The Empire-lympics.

A lot of people look at the Olympics and think: "See, look at us all getting along - one big international family." Though, when I hear people loudly chanting "USA, USA" and I see Fox news getting upset over the lack of red, white and blue costumes, I start to wonder what drives people to watch the Olympics. I am curious when people will stop hiding behind a flag. To be an international family, the flag waving and chanting will have to stop.

In sum, the Olympics should be about the athletes, and that is all. Stop counting medals, it is not fair. For goodness sake, put the flag down.

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