Today marks the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beiijing.
Bring on the excessive national pride and the blind faith in some kind of pure version of sport that the Olympics allegedly represents.
Such cynicism, I know. But frankly, I am feeling kind of cynical about these Olympics. There's the immense political controversy over the host, there's the apolitical reaction by most athletes, in part, I believe, because of their need to believe in some pure version of sport that has been peddled to most Americans much of our lives. And then there is the problem of losing some of that blissful ignorance the more you begin to find out about what really happens within the IOC and other sport governing bodies.
I don't want to rant or moan about some of the systemic and institutional problems, though. (Well I do but that would take a lot of time.) I do want to expand on a controversy I wrote about earlier this week: American "traitors."
Seems like China's softball coach Michael Bastian is not the only one who went overseas for an Olympic opportunity. The WNBA's Becky Hammon is playing for Russia. (The article linked here is not that great but it does contain the relevant points.) And her decision to do so is not being received very well. I wonder if this is about playing for the "commies" or just not playing for America. Of course Hammon, according to sources, was never even considered for team USA despite the fact that her stats stack up very well against the other point guards who did make the team.
The fact that she could make some money out of it--if Russia medals--also has some people's panties in a wad. Of course WNBA players are professionals who make very little money, comparatively. There will be plenty of Olympians making money during and after Beijing depending on how well they do. Think Michael Phelps is going to be hurting for cash when he comes back stateside?
The people who find Hammon's participation on team Russia egregious should take a step back to see the larger picture of commercialism, nationalism, globalization, and the Olympics.