The London Olympics will go down in history for their shameless use of athletes as mercenaries as well as turning
into blatant propaganda for the host nation. Both the opening and the closing ceremonies were nostalgic mass
productions, simplistic theater of Britain's past glory, all under psychedelic lights. The shows must have been as puzzling
as Yorkshire pudding to anyone not British.
Baffling too were the number of resurrected athletes, those banned by their national or international
sports federation for doping, i.e. cheating. These days reprieve is doled out generously for drug abuse and
in no time the culprits are back in circulation. With fabulous fees offered to successful sporting identities the
temptation to improve performances with illegal substances seems irresistible.
Talking of convictions an Australian swimmer, Nick D'Arcy was convicted in 2008 of brutally beating up a fellow
swimmer without provocation. He was fined 180,000 dollars (Aus). But Australian officials allowed D'Arcy, a convicted
felon, to compete in London even though he did not pay a cent of the fine, claiming bankruptcy. Yet the same hypocritical
officialdom demanded a public apology from aboriginal light heavy weight boxer Damien Hooper for wearing into the ring a
T-shirt with the aboriginal flag, a flag which is now legal in Australia. The federation claimed the flag broke the Olympic
Charter. Had Hooper worn a T-shirt with one of the famous sports brands emblazed it is highly unlikely he would have
been asked to apologize.
Sponsors and their money now exert enormous pressure on sports federations and the mass media to ensure
'sponsored athletes' do compete, never mind if they have broken the rules or been convicted for misdemeanors.
Regular Olympic Game fans must have been puzzled to find well known athletes who had been
competing for their country in the last Olympics or in subsequent World Cup and World championships
suddenly appear in London as citizen of another country, especially the oil-rich nations. Induced to change
allegiance by lucrative fees some of these mercenaries actually did win medals for their new masters,
offering them not only the chance to appear on the medal list but to have their country promoted on
international television as a sporting nation. (Most of these countries had more officials then athletes
walking in the opening and closing ceremonies)
Take triple jumper Yamila Aldama, now 40, a Cuban who was persuaded to change passports and compete for the
Sudan a few years ago. This month she competed in the triple jump at the London Games for Britain as a British citizen.
If these so-called plastic athletes are no longer a novelty neither is mushrooming nationalism at the Games.
In London it appeared obligatory for every athlete who won a gold, silver or bronze medal to wrap
themselves in their national flag and prance around the stadium pretending a miracle had occurred. This flag-
waving has become nauseating in a world that should have learned by now flag-waving has always been a
precursor to disastrous conflicts and jingoism.
Biting one's medal for the cameras is also obligatory. It may be fun if one or two do it, a bore if all the
athletes have to bite the metal for photographers who seem to have lost their creativity. Kissing the track or
screaming blue murder at the top of one's voice after a win is also now a favorite gimmick. And there were
many who knelt and thanked God for having selected them to win rather then the others - though God is
supposed to be neutral. Tears were shed in buckets, mainly for the cameras. The exhausted and the defeated
lay scattered on the track - anything to attract attention.
But what was particularly annoying and hardly in tune with the Olympic Spirit was the â€œMe. Me, Me attitude of all
the winners. No one paid tribute to the losers. TV cameras focused exclusively on victors sparing no time for the
vanquished and their brave battle.
We live in a world where only winners are celebrated, where only the rich count and the powerful
decide. We forget, without the others, there would be no winners.
Did not the original message of the Olympic Games pontificate about the glory of competing - not just winning?
Uli Schmetzer, a former foreign correspondent covered three Olympics.
He is the author of four books, all available in print and a digital version on