Every four years the rich and fat people of the world sit down to watch their champion athletes whip the arses of the poor and skinny countries. Collectively, they pour billions of dollars or dinas or drachma or dongs into programs that ensure their pre-pubescent synchronised divers will out spin and twist those of Sierra Leone or Equatorial Guinea. Their nations surf waves of jingoistic euphoria when their Ivy League college guys throw a flat plate or heavy ball further than anyone else, then reward them with an Abercrombie and Fitch contract and interview with Matt Lauer.
The poor and skinny countries get patronised over the line by the (sponsor’s) beer swilling public, holding their plastic cup in one hand and filming each touching moment with an iphone in their other. Anthems get compared (“Oh that’s a nice song”), tears get measured, athletes get judged by whether or not they sing the words or put their hand on their heart or even bothered to brush their hair. Silver medallists are judged on their demeanor, bronze medallists are lauded for ‘beaming at just picking up a medal’, and the golden girl or boy atop the podium can look forward to a life of hero status, interrupted only by the publishing of photos of them in flagrante delicto with someone else’s husband or wife (or both) when they no longer have the body of Adonis or the face of Helen of Troy.
The host city packs up its banners, downs a Berocca and processes the asylum seeking long-distance runners fleeing a war lord made famous on YouTube, then gets on with the business of going broke and trying to stay relevant as the five ringed circus moves on to the next contaminated landfill site in need of urban renewal. Meanwhile, the government of the day has pushed through all its most contentious legislation, while its people were watching ping pong, and the corporate fat cats have signed their deals, flogged their newest phone or burger or pair of shoes to the bemused fatties in the stadia, and the sweaty ones at home, whose skin is now almost one with their leather arm chair.
The poor skinny athletes go back to their poor skinny countries, their Soviet era apartments, their barbed-wire compounds on the outskirts of the world’s fastest growing metropolises. The ones from larger, communist states get medals of honour, allotments of land or have their families imprisoned, depending on how they did. The really lucky ones will find a talent scout from a formerly-reputable university (now fighting allegations it turned its back on ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by coaches) on their doorsteps offering a scholarship – with citizenship thrown in on completion of a BA in nothing much more than yours or mine is.
The committee that runs the circus will retreat to their manors and tax havens with the wives and girlfriends they picked up at the equestrian competition, or who danced in their lap in Mayfair as they slipped their nation’s GDP into a fraying g-string. They will meet again in a year or so to decide where next they would like to holiday in four year’s time after enjoying the sophistication of the Big Smoke and the sun-burnt bums and precision waxing of Rio.
I can’t believe that we have to wait four more years for it all to come around again.