They say a picture is worth a thousand words and yet what if the picture is out of focus? Every four years the Olympic stage reminds us how small of a world we live in as athletes from all corners of the globe converge to compete for medals, glory and vindication. They walk through the gates and their country, race, religion are left behind. They are athletes.
As sure as there will be upsets and moments of glory, with every passing Olympics the rules and standards that are created and enforced to keep the playing field “even” suggest that we (as in the human race “we”) might still benefit from attending a Human Race 101 class now and then for review purposes.
Doping…I get it. That’s just not o.k. to rely on modern medicine when the 17-year-old you are competing against has logged 10 hours of training a day since she was four to get there. But the social media sanctions? Telling athletes what they can and cannot text to their friends and followers? Are we at that point where we cannot simply handle people who lack common sense by slapping them down and shaming them anymore? Can’t we fight back on the channels they chose to share their abusive thoughts through and not drag it onto the Olympic stage?
I don’t like racist comments anywhere – whether on twitter, Facebook or in the real world. They are non-productive and make me mad as hell. Every individual should be accountable and forced to live with the consequences of their behavior in their life and within their life. We don’t need the IOC telling us what’s acceptable or not. By doing so, the IOC is basically saying that, “we don’t trust these athletes to have good judgement and we have to police this because society cannot manage this problem without us.” In fact the message in a larger sense becomes “the human race needs policing because we forgot how to behave.”
Now we’ve had a couple of bad judgements already from Greece and Switzerland – a mere two individuals out of thousands who decided their hateful thoughts deserved to be shared online. But I say throw them in the ring let them appear before the court of worldwide human judgement. Allow them on the field so they can feel the burn of the disapproving eyes of the world on them. Let them compete against those they ridiculed and insulted. We’ll see who fares better, who has the support of the world, and who comes out on top (regardless of medal placement). I would hope that these two athletes feel the error of their ways every waking moment of their lives. Not because they were expelled from the Olympics, but because people who matter to them remind them every day by example that racism and hatred are not acceptable.
In its earliest form, organized sport was used as a venue for judgement. A place where slaves could win freedom, and the condemned could win life. Right or wrong, sport provided the ultimate conflict resolution stage. As civilizations evolved, sport rose above judgement and provided a playing field where athletes were held to the highest standards of performance and accountability – human accountability. So should we all be. Let the games begin.