Waving, not drowning

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 6.54.32 PMYesterday I stumbled into the tearoom and was greeted with three Young People, their fresh faces turned up to the clear, bright blue of the television screen.

‘Eeennggaah?’ I said

‘Swimming,’ they said, ‘Finals. Straya might medal’

‘Grrrr…. ‘ I said, lamenting the loss of distinction between nouns and verbs in that terrible caravan fire during season 573 of Home and Away.

I’d actually forgotten the Olympics had started. This is because I simply don’t give a shit. And, as I watched what appeared to be an extremely well organised bait-ball unfold on the television screen I realised I’m not the only one.

The Olympics aren’t dead but they’re dying. Competing with ever more immediate and fantastic feats of weirdness, from Donald Trump to cat-memes, the Olympics simply fails to capture the public imagination.

On top of that, Olympians, especially western ones, are the bodily representation of a freakishly unequal distribution of wealth. They are overfed, impotent show-ponies, a track-suited middle-finger to the global poor. Watching each hermetically-sealed pod of uber-buffs touch down on the seething miasma of South American carni-shambles is an embarrassing joke.

Consider the slapstick outrage over countries with ‘performance enhancing drugs’ – a perfectly managed scandal that diverts attention from those with performance enhancing vaccinations, performance enhancing chlorinated water and the absence of the requirement to actually do any real work in order to survive. The Olympics used to be a celebration of struggle and triumph, now it’s an overt display of extreme wealth and excess.

In 1984, as I carefully drew purple and pink borders around my Heroes of the Pool project I thought that any one of us skinny, scabby kids could grow up and represent our country in the Olympics. We all did. Sure, it wouldn’t be easy, but if we worked hard and ate whatever branded cereal product was heavily marketed to us, we just might get there.

That nationalistic myth of mobility and achievement is dead and gone. Kids growing up in Bundarra know perfectly well that the closest they’ll get to the Olympics is spending a life time in trackies. The dream is over. Rio 2016 just puts it up in lights.