Computer-generated fireworks inserted into television broadcast. Records of thirteen-year-old athletes disappearing and turning up replaced as doctored sixteen-year-old passports. The adorable little girl lip-syncing her country’s patriotic song because the girl with the beautiful voice wasn’t cute enough to perform on international TV.
China has truly captured the values of ancient Greece — the emphasis of form over content, of appearance over substance, of extending power through cultural manipulation. These Olympics are China’s great leap forward in an effort to dull the world’s awareness of human rights violations, environmental irresponsibility, and economic bellicosity with a gala of glitz.
Pity, really. The wonder of Michael Phelps, who channeled acute ADHD into unprecedented physical achievement, the graciousness of Jason Lezak, who would be the greatest swimmer in the world if he didn’t have the misfortune of swimming in the same era as Michael Phelps, and the bittersweet drama of Dara Torres, who missed gold by a hundredth of a second as she showed up athletes half her age — all these provided moments of true inspiration and examples of the potential of the human spirit.
The Chinese government’s inability to appreciate the benefit the games have to offer in life lessons is a life lesson itself. It’s the same lesson the Greeks taught the world over 2000 years ago.