STRANGE AS it seems, there is not a huge and suitably vulgar trophy that can be
hauled from Sydney and displayed in the Capitol rotunda as a bragging token of
America's standing as the world's No. 1 sports power.
This is because, as most school children learn to their amazement, no
nation "wins" the Olympics. This may seem a tiresome technicality amid all the
puerile and inelegant boasting, egged on by the drooling coverage of the
National Broadcasting Co., that has surrounded America's performance at the
Olympics-where it won 97medals, "beating" Russia with 88 and "humiliating"
China with 59. The word for what "we" did to Vietnam, which took a single
silver, is unimaginable in the language that drives the sports world and its
cheerleading network co-promoters.
And why couldn't our muscular soldiers similarly whip the same nation at
rice-patty polo during the recent unpleasantness known as the Vietnam War?
Personally, I feel deeply humiliated by the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, a
nation with a gene pool of only 284,000 souls, many of them infants or too old,
lame or fat to compete. This upstart of an archipelago took home two medals,
which is a per-capita performance far more brilliant than that of the United
States with a gene pool of 274 million and a reliable supply of immigrants
attracted by the rich rewards it gives star athletes.
Funny, I didn't see any Bahamians behaving boorishly, waving their flag
like a beach towel at Sydney. And, speaking of humiliation, giving up Elian
Gonzales was nothing compared with Cuba's showing. Explain to me how a nation
of 11 million wins 29 medals when the United States is 24 times as populous.
The Cubans must have cheated. Either that or they train their athletes with
cattle prods. Imagine a nation where we are assured its people don't have
enough to eat and drive 40-year-old DeSotos outperforming mighty Japan.
People who find Australians insufferable and their accents annoying will be
particularly displeased by their showing. On a per-capita basis, they stomped
our butts. There are only 18.7 million Australians, a barely noticeable slice
of the world's 6 billion people or America's 274 million. And they got almost
half as many medals as we did. The more populous mother country, Britain, was
deeply skunked, getting roughly half as many medals as its provincial cousins
who started out as a bunch of brawling convicts evicted from the jails of
Ireland and England. I imagine that all over the Outback they're retelling that
joke about how you tell when another planeload of tourists arrives from
England. Answer: It keeps on whining after the engines shut down.
Many factors influencing the outcome of the Olympics have little to do with
naturally occurring brawn or skill. These include economics, which determine
the availability of swimming pools, tracks, gyms, horse stables and equipment
in a given society. They also include differences in average stature, which
means many Asians run with shorter strides.
Finally, the games are influenced by politics, which gives an advantage to
state-controlled athletics. "Winning" the Olympics is a deeply stupid concept
that any mature nation should have by now outgrown.
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