Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympics watch: racism special

For someone who's deliberately avoiding the Olympics I do seem to keep coming across snippets that interest me.

For instance the Spanish basketball team who posed for adverts doing... well... umm... paying homage to their Chinese hosts. In their defence the clearly racist pose was directly requested by their sponsor even when some of the team apparently objected. But that's not much of a defence is it?

Although perhaps I'm verging on racism here myself when I point to the fine figures of the Croatian water polo team. I hope not. After all bristling moustaches and tiny chequered costumes are much to be admired I'm sure you'll agree.

Dave Zirin from Edge of Sports has an excellent piece on women's gymnastics in The Nation (which doesn't seem to be online yet) where he says;

"If the Olympics are McDonalds, then women's gymnastics is without question the Big Mac. There is the remarkable, CGI-like athleticism by all the young women involved. Then there is the knowledge that the competitors have had their bodies and health manipulated and warped so they can execute on the springboard."
But it seems that when the US team was beaten by the Chinese the US coaches decided to stamp their big feet about it,
"bellow[ing] about how the Chinese team violated age violations and cheated their way to the gold. (Béla calls the Chinese gymnasts "half people.") The media has run with this, raising hell with accusations that the Chinese were using several gymnasts under the age of 16. The Chinese coach, Lu Shanzen smartly responded, "If you think our girls are little because of looks, then maybe you should think the Europeans and Americans are strong because of doping." [sic]
"Let's forget the terrible irony that the media is all too concerned about Chinese gymnasts who aren't 16 but have turned a blind eye to the way Chinese child labor has been used to prepare Beijing for the Olympic games. Béla and Martha Károlyi launching these attacks is like hearing George W. Bush criticize Russia for invading Georgia: they simply have no moral standing whatsoever.
Zirin then goes on to detail one of the US coach's sadistic attitude towards training. Béla Károlyi (pictured), who was been banned from coaching the team prior to the Olympics for unspecified reasons, still continues his involvement;
Béla Károlyi [has been] making millions on the brittle backs of young women whose bodies are misshapen on account of his ruthless pursuit of gold. Yes, women's gymnastics can make you queasy all right. And the thought of Béla Károlyi, bending his huge frame over to get in the face and scream at young girls, is enough to really make you sick.
Frankly you can give me the frat-boy slitty eye gesture over the day in day out facts of women's gymnastics anytime.