By now, you probably have heard that the US cyclists arrived at Beijing wearing masks (to protect themselves against bad air pollution there), and how eventually they offered apologies presumably after the US Olympic committee got on their cases.
Almost all the opinions in the US I have read so far seem to be on the side of the cyclists, and take it out on the USOC, IOC, and Chinese govrnment citing various reasons:
- The USOC for influencing the US athletes to apologize particularly when they are the one to design the masks and provide it to their athletes in the first place.
- The athletes have very right to protect their bodies.
- If any, the Chinese government should apologize for having bad pollution in a city where they are hosting an international event.
- Why should US give a rat’s behind for offending the sensibilities of the big, bad Chinese government.
- How the IOC sold out to Chinese government pressure by agreeing to hold in China despite human rights records, and pollution etc.
- How the USOC is selling out by praising the arrangements supposedly just to please the hosts.
- etc. etc.
In my opinion, the display was done in extremely poor taste because I would expect it to offend the citizens of China, although I would not be surprised if many people in the US give a rat’s behind about that either. The common “comeback theme” to this incident is why should we apologize to a government we don’t approve of? The people of China are generally left out of the picture perhaps because it is presumed that they would be blaming their government too. I mean how could they not?
I think many people in the west usually commit a bad mistake in presuming that the citizens of a country ruled by a regime that the west finds oppressive have no pride in their nation. Or more accurately, that people of that country must think like them, and thus have the same anger and disapproval towards their government in all issues. However, what they seem to miss is that while there may be people in that country who hate their government, hate their leaders, they still love their country, its history, tradition, and culture. That love and patriotism runs deep as one would expect. So I think most of them will still want their nation to be projected in a good light in circumstances like the Olympics, even if it is being projected by those “hated leaders”.
So you may not like China’s policies, and you may think that your displeasure is directed only at their government, but perhaps you do not realize that your resulting actions disrespect the people of China. If you care about distinction, then you may realize why an apology is good even if directed at the hated government. If you don’t care, then that is a different story. Like I said, I would not be surprised if many (not all of course!) people here in the US give a rat’s behind about the sensibilities of the peoples of other nations.
I also think that in general athletes at this level value the medals and the fame more than their bodies – a hell of a lot more. And in cycling? Given its legacy? Come on! Now I certainly do not mean to imply every cyclist is involved in doping, which would be a mean and unfair generalization. I am simply pointing out that cyclists do push their bodies to the extreme – it is part of the sport.
So the US athletes think they require a mask just to walk around, but are going participate in a grueling, cycling competition at the international level? Come again?
In any case, nowadays it is all about winning – and that of course manifests in many ways, and also in many harmful ways. And the fame? Ah – here in the US, that comes as part of the giddy, self-adulation that US indulges in nauseating fashion during Olympics. For mainstream US, I wonder if the only reason Olympics even holds interest is to see US athletes win. In fact, I wonder if it is pretty much the only reason US “needs” the Olympics – just to show others how dominant they are. The operative word there is only, as there is nothing abnormal about wanting your country win in every competition it participates in. But the obsessive nature implied here manifests into the lamest TV Olympics TV coverage possible – mainly about US and more about US. NBC and Bob Costas killed the Olympic excitement in me – and they did not take that long. This obsession also manifests in jingoists sports coverage everywhere you look.
In fact, if that obsessive need is not there, then either all these sports would simply fade away in the US, or become localized events. Of course, then the winners of those local events would still be tagged “World Champion this” and “World Champion that”. For example, the baseball league championship is “World Series”, the NBA champions are the “NBA World Champions”, the NFL is “Superbowl World Champions”. So this urge to say “I am the greatest”, “I love myself – I mean I am great”, “See me. Am I not the greatest?” is already well inculcated. This obsession runs deeper – even the fully “US based” ABC news is ABC World news tonight 🙂 . It is also the country with the “best health coverage in the world”.
I guess this turned into a rant 🙂