Over the past few days I’ve occasionally turned on the Olympics, for no real discernible reason other than I somehow feel obligated to. I am not a sports person. There’s no reason why I should suddenly be interested in something just because it’s the Olympics, when I could not care less at any other time or in any other year. So here are some thoughts on the Olympics, from someone who admittedly has no skin in the game.
Watching on YLE2, one of the national television channels here in Finland, has been a refreshing experience. I’m used to watching the games on American television, with non-stop color commentary and cut-aways and commercials commercials commercials. Here the game comes on, the camera follows the action, and it’s otherwise silent. No talking heads telling you what you just saw with your own eyes, or giving you gossipy background on the athletes. Because it’s state-run TV, no advertisements and no breaks. Just the event, from beginning to end.
The coverage also seems to be more about the events of interest, rather than concentrating on what the home team’s doing. Which means, here in Finland, getting all of the hockey games. A Finn could be going for the gold in curling, but if it’s up against Bulgaria vs Sudan (I’m making up two teams no one would reasonably care about) in hockey, they’re going to show hockey, because Finns want to see hockey even if it’s bad.
Which really drives home what the Olympics is actually about in the United States: nationalism. There’s a constant count of how many medals the US has won, with a great focus on that then the accomplishments of the athletes. I also kind of felt it was my patriotic duty to watch even though, as I said up top, I don’t care about sports. During the Cold War it kind of made sense, because it was a non-violent proxy war with the Soviet Union. In 2018 it just feels creepily fascistic, especially since Russian athletes can’t compete under their national flag.
This post is probably more political than I want it to be. I thought about doing this as a topic for the podcast, but there’s not really anything else I want to say other than what I state above. It’s not a big enough topic for the zine. Without the nationalistic fervor and the constant bombardment of advertising from the Official Sponsors of the United States Olympic Team or the hucksterish come-on to watch the games, the Olympics are just sort of there for me. And I’m okay with that.