By Rachel Krueger
When my first college boyfriend asserted one lazy Saturday night that hockey needed cheerleaders, I knew then and there that we would not be trawling the aisles 80 years hence, hand in wrinkled hand, looking for a better denture adhesive. Less because of the “cheerleaders” and more because of the “hockey needs.” Hockey does not, in fact, need cheerleaders. Hockey is just fine on its own.
As are the Olympics — or at least they would be if their organizers would leave them alone. Now that all the hoo-haw has died down and we’ve had time to polish our medals, let’s take a moment and reflect on this multi-million dollar, multi-million viewer event and whether it really needed all the Lite-Brite drummers, spurious accusations and, yes, cheerleaders.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way the Beijing Olympics went down, and there were plenty of things to enjoy. Me, I love a 2008-strong dance troupe. I’m not above enjoying a bit of side-court drama, and I know plenty who will say that there can never be too many pretty girls in bright red thong bikinis. Fine; there can never be too much long Phelpsian torso either.
The difference is that Phelps is an athlete, dammit. And while cheerleading has sometimes been loosely referred to as a “sport,” it is not yet an Olympic sport.
So many of the things we enjoyed, in fact, were distinctly non-Games related, and I’d like to know why. Why all the T&A;? Why the CG’d fireworks? Why all the hyper-reporting about said CG fireworks, or the pretty Chinese voice in the speakers that didn’t come from the pretty Chinese face on the screen? The Olympics have always been loaded with water-polo fist fights and back-alley-attacks on figure skaters and positive drug tests — loads of drug tests — but these scandals largely revolved around the athletes and their ability to perform. This past summer’s offerings seemed to lean more heavily towards the largely irrelevant — the Chinese seeded the clouds beforehand so that it wouldn’t rain on the Opening Ceremonies? Those Commie bastards! — and to distract from a number of truly jaw-dropping performances.
I mean, did you even see Karen Cockburn’s silver-medal-winning performance on the trampoline? Or were you instead caught up in the Chinese-gymnasts-of-questionable-geriatry debacle? I know said scandal actually touches on the athlete’s eligibility (younger gymnast = more compact body + less wisdom borne of age = more willingness to fling said compact body through the air with abandon), but it also takes away from the fact that the Chinese gymnasts were so breathtaking that they made you want to cry.
Serious, try to watch these pint-sized beauties now without thinking, “Cheater.”
Even if they had been proven of age, their performances have been tainted.
I’m not saying we should ignore potential breaches of rules. Nor am I suggesting that we put a budgetary cap on the opening ceremonies. I just wonder if we’ve grown weary of the games themselves — if incredible physical prowess is no longer enough to impress us on its own without the ribbons and trappings.
And I know that even by writing this, by even bringing up these issues, I am quite firmly part of the problem, but I had to get this all off my chest. The Games are coming to Vancouver next. Is there any hope we will escape the scrutiny that plagued Beijing? Not likely. Can we ensure that all scandals are distinctly sports-related? Not a chance. Is there any way we can — lacking the deeply-steeped culture, the seemingly-bottomless funds, or the stupefying manpower — match the opening ceremonies? Crystal ball says no. But if we are in the mood to be bold, we can pare the whole thing down about 80 notches and let the awe-inspiring beauty of the Games themselves shine through.