V. and I have spent a fair bit of time in the past two weeks watching the 40+ billion dollar Olympics. Australian television coverage is about as biased as what I have seen in America on NBC. And, again the two of us have been suckers for the mythology surrounding "heroes" and "drug-free" sports like everyone else who watches. When I was growing up I had a great appreciation for the "amateur" status of the games, although I was quite ignorant then about how other nations were pumping millions into their Olympic athletes to put on a good show every four years. I have always held a bias against big money sports, so that's why I found special pleasure in watching the Australian synchronised swimming team, which is entirely self-funded and has no corporate sponsorship, in contrast to watching men's basketball or tennis, with their millionaire players. Still, I do get caught up with the drama of some of the competitions (the cycling in the velodrome was awesome!) and I admire the discipline and devotion of so many of the individual athletes. I have found myself cheering for both the Aussies and the Americans, but I certainly cannot see how any of this seriously helps or hurt international relations. Some fans, however, do get quite wound up about all of this. Last week, for example, the Sunday Mail here in Brisbane featured an article with a headline suggesting that state secrets were being sold to China. It turned out to be a story about an Aussie swim coach who has sold his training techniques to the Chinese because they apparently made him an offer he just couldn't refuse. Although he's been doing this for quite a while, and he has a number of other international clients who send their swimmers to Queensland to learn his "secret" training methods, no one here was really upset about any of his affairs until the Chinese swimmers beat one of his own Aussie women, who ended up with just a bronze medal. The following letter appeared in today's edition of the Mail. I think it captures the "real" spirit of the Olympic games:
I am appalled that Australian swim coach Ken Wood would stoop so low as to sell his secret coaching methods to China, while still maintaining his position as coach to our own Olympians. Because of this methods, Australian swimmers are now leading the world with extraordinary performances. It's a pity he won't be remembered for his exceptional talent. Instead, he'll go down in history as a traitor. His excuse is he did it for the money. A fair dinkum Australian coach would manage on a pension before sleeping with the enemy. Australia should return home next week one member short--him. Leave him in China.