Melbourne, March 2006

                                                                 GAMES NO LONGER

                                 The Commonwealth Games - an Olympiad of the defunct
British Empire - have once again confirmed the Olympic Spirit, if it ever existed,
has been smothered by nationalism, materialism, egoism and the cunning of
political leaders who have known since the beginning of civilization that with â
€˜bread and games’ they can distract the public to the point where they can
pursue, without protest, their own nefarious games.                                  

                                 Australia, the host of this Olympiad which involves England
and its former colonies, has outdone itself both in spectacle, medals won and
national chauvinism. Few developed nations have been anesthetized with sport as
much as has Australia where one major sporting extravaganza succeeds another
leaving the running of the country – and the systematic dismantling of its once
formidable welfare state - to the politicians while the plebs enjoys more games.
One often wonders if Australians read anything else but the sports pages in a
country where a football player’s sprained ankle can be the first item on a
news broadcast, preceding the 35 killed in Iraq that day or the thousands missing
in an earthquake – somewhere in the world. Australia spent thirty million dollars
alone on the gaudy closing ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games,
money that could have been spent more appropriately for the victims of a
hurricane that lashed northern Queensland demolishing the livelihood of
thousands while the Games went on.

                              Any visitor from Mars, watching the extravaganza on the box,
would have been excused in thinking there was only one nation competing,
Australia. Anyone else in the various arenas was obviously suitable only as a
distant and occasional back-prop. The camera lenses gobbled up the Australians,
either competing, winning or even coming last. Commentators extolled their
virtues, their feats, their future, their families, their coaches, even their sponsors to
the point of nausea. The rest of the competitors were reduced to décor, blended
in occasionally to certify others were present. Australia won twice as many medals
as its nearest rival (the ‘motherland’ England ) yet the Australian 4x400
meters women’s  relay, relegated to second place by an English quartet that
beat them by a good twenty yards, had the impertinence to protest over a minor
technicality that did not affect the outcome - and were awarded the gold medal.
The English were disqualified. Greed knows no borders.
    
                           The Melbourne Games enthusiastically embraced the main
principle of American Culture: ‘Winning is ueber alles –ueber alles in the
world’. Coming second or third (except if Australian) is not worth wasting air-
time, time more profitably utilized by slipping in yet another ad from sponsors who
utilized home-grown and well-known athletes to promote their products. Non-
Australian non-winners were simply not worth talking to even if they had offered
the most memorable and courageous resistance, to wit the women’s marathon
where the Australian gold medalist fought shoulder to shoulder around the final lap
with her African foe. After crossing the finish line the African simply vanished from
the TV screen which was filled instead at infinitum with the winner who, admittedly,
was an amazing 38 year-old mother of two. One would have thought after such a
titanic struggle the winner, at least, should have made some gesture of admiration,
compassion or fair play to her 20 year old African rival, a slip of a girl. No, the
winner, like almost every other winner, was far too preoccupied with herself, far
too eager to milk the adulation without sharing any part of it, far too egoistical to
even acknowledge a foe who had made an otherwise mundane race an
unforgettable event, at least for those who still believe such Games can be
classified as ‘sport’ in the dictionary.

                          If some kind of sporting spirit survived it was among the smaller,
poorer nations whose athletes, still holding out their hands, still smiling at the
other, had not yet realized, as had the Australians, that winning is everything and
you must never share your fortune with the losers. This one-time ‘true-blue
spirit’ Down Under was in part salvaged by rural townspeople who contributed
sports equipment and money to athletes sent to the Games literally shoeless by
their governments. Finally there was the self-sacrifice (or stupidity) of an army of
15,000 volunteers who worked without pay day after day for up to 14 hours
ensuring the Games went off like clockwork – thus enabling the corporate
sponsors and wheedling organizers to amass fat financial benefits since they did
not have to fork out wages for thousands of workers necessary to staff the various
venues.  

                        Needless to say the corporate backers of the sporting
extravaganza feathered their nests handsomely (and were profusely thanked for
doing so by the organizers) while the gullible public paid for it, either as volunteers
or in salty ticket prices. The ‘thank the sponsors’ ritual is another Australian
habit, as if those corporate entities offered their financial support without profit (if
nothing else in advertising and public relations). But why should that surprise
anyone? After all is this not a common setup in this new millennium of soulless
materialism practiced below the mask of public benevolence?
ends.