I confess — I don’t watch the Olympics. Sure, some ice skating if I happen to be around when someone’s watching it, but as far as I can remember, I’ve never actively cared about who won or lost or how anyone performs in the Olympics. Jewish body-hate? Perhaps — I just don’t get all weepy-eyed and patriotic over sports. Sure, as I said yesterday, some sports, maybe sports in general, seem to produce decent, upstanding people, but still, I can’t seem to, you know, care about the sports themselves, certainly not enough to waste time watching them on TV (when there’s so many other ways to waste time, like blogging :-)).
Anyway, once upon a time I could forgive my co-humans their quadriannual (now biannual) Olympic fever — just ’cause I don’t give a flying fig doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t — but nowadays I think it’s pretty clear the the Olympics is a scam, a giant glob of forced marketing synergy and official corruption that plays on our patriotism and our need to experience some kind of athleticism, even vicariously, through the unhappy medium of televised sports, all in order to sell us more and more Product. The latest news out of Athens is pretty telling — their “clean-venue policy” protects sponsors from consumers who just might enjoy products other than those made by Olympic sponsors (like Budweiser). As one official noted: “We have to protect official sponsors who have paid millions to make the Olympics happen.” So it’s not enough that they get to use the Olympic Rings in their advertising, or have their names and logos plastered all over the stadium, performance spaces, and on the athletes themselves (US athletes are required to wear Adidas when accepting any medal) but now advertisers have to dictate to attendees and stadium employees what kind of clothes they can wear, food they can eat, and beverages they can drink — or they just aren’t getting their money’s worth!
Expect to see a lot more of this, and not just at the Olympics, but wherever corporate-sponsored spaces replace public spaces. We’ve seen over-zealous principals punish students for daring to wear Pepsi logos on Coke-sponsored campuses — I think we’ll be seeing this written into the contract with Coke (and, let’s be fair here, Pepsi too, I’m sure) in the not-so-distant future. Colleges who rely on corporate sponsorships to support their stadiums, rock concerts and other corporate-sponsored cultural events, and who knows what else will begin to come with dress codes, even when held in otherwise publicly-funded spaces.
Randy Cassingham, the author of the most excellent e-newsletter, This Is True (you can’t read the story on the site, though you can sign up for the e-newsletter and never miss another — there is, however, an RSS feed you can read, at least for the next couple days), hits the hammer on the nail when he calls the clean-venue policy “a policy that in the future will be known as ‘The Olympic Spirit’.” Corruption, corporatization, domination, and a total lack of respect for the audience — Olympic Spirit indeed.