As far as I'm concerned, the less said about the goings on in Beijing the better. I know, I know, I'll be watching the judo and the athletics, especially the former (there are no drug cheats in judo, no money under the table, no money, pure and simple), but competition among chemists does not race my motor, as they say in Detroit. The opening ceremony may have dazzled some people, but it left me cold. There was no humanity to it, just a lot of Chinese animated figures acting as robots. Who invented opening ceremonies anyway? Back in the good old days Greece marched in first, in step, followed by the rest. Then some politician declared the Games open and that was it. No fuss, no tiny children marching next to some giant freak, no bull about peace and goodwill to men.
One of the most unpleasant sights was that of small African teams marching in without athletes, but only fat officials, gaily waving tiny flags and greeting the crowd. Officials have no place in opening ceremonies. They should sit in their hotels with their hookers and let the athletes do the walking. But most of these tiny African and Pacific rim countries show up in order to show up--none of their athletes having met the qualifications--so the fat ones have their moment of glory, but it's still a disgrace.
I have often written about my favourite Games, Rome 1960, but now an American by the name of David Maraniss--a big Clinton fan, incidentally--has produced an opus about those Olympics of 48 years ago, and the book has caught on in the Home of the Depraved. Maraniss calls it The Olympics That Changed the World, a typical American exaggeration, because the only thing that changed back in 1960 was that Americans stopped winning everything and had to take second place to the mighty Soviet Union. Like many American scribes, Maraniss is a hero worshipper, and he regales the reader with tales of a young Cassius Clay in the Olympic village and how Clay made mincemeat out of his opponents. This is simply not true. I cannot remember whether it was the quarters or the semis, but an Australian by the name of Madigan beat Clay cleanly. The judges gave the American a split decision, but it was a joke. I knew Madigan--or could it be Mulligan?--because we boxed together daily in a New York gym, the NYAC, and, although all man, he was a male model for a while in order to pay the bills. The Aussie once sparred with Ingo Johansson and almost put the world's second-ranked heavyweight on the floor. Clay ran away for three rounds but was declared the winner. Maraniss is a cheerleader who has read the publicity handouts, but I saw the fight and Clay lost it.
The great heroes, according to the book, were Wilma Rudolph, the black American sprinter who was as graceful as she was fast, and very pretty to boot; Rafer Johnson, the black American decathlete, who also won gold; and Milka Singh, India's 'flying Sikh', who won a bronze in the men's 400 metres. In other words, white men and women do not the Maraniss pantheon make. In fact, the two great losers of those games were John Thomas, the black high jump American world record holder, upset by two white Russian jumpers, and the black sprinter Ray Norton, who was beaten badly by the German Armin Hary while the Rome stadium--invaded by both West Germans--went wild. Hary was not only fast, he was outspoken. 'The Americans kept patting each other on their backsides and saying how they would kick arse, but the only arse they saw was mine.'
The great star of those games was Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian barefoot marathon runner who smiled all the way down the torch-lit way of the Appia Antica and repeated his feat four years later in Tokyo. He was promoted to sergeant by Haile Selassie, and was given a convertible, which he crashed, and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Now there was a real amateur. Washington hacks, reviewing the Maraniss book, have a field day with Avery Brundage, calling him a bigoted hypocrite and other names which apply more to the Fourth estate than to a gentleman of the old school like Brundage. (A great friend of the Taki family, incidentally.) Brundage wanted to keep the games clean and amateur. Samaranch and the present head, a ghastly Belgian by the name of Rogue, I believe, turned the Olympics into a circus, a money circus, where the ones who spend the most are allowed to have their way.
The reason the Games are now always in August is in order not to interfere with NBC's coverage of professional football in America. Cheating is widespread and records are now meaningless. The Games are awarded to those who bribe the most, and the Koreans are the worst offenders. The white of judo gis, symbolising purity, has been changed to accommodate colour TV, as great a barbarism as Samaranch and Rogue put together.
The Chinese are seeking a propaganda victory and they shall have it. It is a joke to call it a victory, but the Olympics have become a joke--female beach volley ball belongs at Stringfellows--so why deny it to them? The only way the Games can be saved is if they're moved to Olympia, and if the competition excludes professional sports which have world championships of their own, such as football, baseball and so on. Athletics, swimming, judo, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics and equestrian events should be the mainstays, the rest should be eliminated or at least cut down to the minimum. Thus spake Taki.
Taki. "That's not fair play." Spectator 16 Aug. 2008: 42+. General OneFile. Web. 21 Dec. 2009.
United States Judo Association - USJA
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