2 September 2008

Africa Wins the Olympics

I missed enjoying Christina Ohuruogu win the 400m. in Beijing. It was during the time when my resolve to boycott this hideous corporate extravaganza was still holding out. Eventually I gave in, overcoming my rage that my own delight in sport should be alienated from me by the real powers behind these games — corporate PR and Chinese rehabilitation.

The attempt to defend the sole right of those who have paid millions to gain publicity from the games has gone to the absurd lengths only a totalitarian state would be capable of. Logos and brand-names of those companies who could not offer the large price-tags have been covered with masking tape throughout Beijing. A shame this process was not taken to its ultimate conclusion, thus allowing us a temporary escape from the corporate shouting-match our high streets have become in recent years.

So much for intellectual property. What of the physical property, the muscle-power and stamina and co-ordination that the games are really about? The ultimate provenance of most of this — especially in athletics — is really Africa. In the case of the UK, both Christina Ohuruogu and Philips Idowu, our two leading medal hopes, have names that suggest African ancestry. Outside the countries of central and eastern Europe this also applies to the medal-winners of most other rich western nations. Even the US, having stolen Africans in their own fairly recent history, are now benefiting from their sporting success while still oppressing their descendants on home soil.

If Africa fails in the global market-place I can only think that this is because of its generosity of spirit. A country so over-endowed with resources natural and human has felt no need to be grasping and mean. Its tragedy has been that it has come into contact with cultures so much more lacking in the human spirit that it is.

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