Individuals and Corporations: The Janus faced Olympics

I am a little bit reluctant to write about the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics, as a Londoner and as someone who blogs normally about philosophy and social thought. I feel that there is something distinctly good about the Olympics, and something distinctly bad, and bizarrely they are necessary cohabitants for this four week event to occur. I say Four Week Event as I include both Olympics and Paralympics. Maybe I’ll start with the good stuff:

Good things

It is my belief that generally any exposure about disability is better than no exposure, even if that includes a naff joke in the special episode of Absolutely Fabulous about how a blind man is not discriminating about women’s appearances. The Paralympic events will be something I am particularly interested in seeing. Partly because I have an interest in disability, but also as I personally saw some paralympians last year (that’s another story) and they were lovely people and very passionate about their respective sport. I’ve heard a lot of things especially about the Wheelchair Basketball and the affectionately named ‘Murderball’. The more exposure that these sports get the better. Personally, anything with some kind of brutality appeals to me, so I’m definately looking forward to seeing coverage of the Murderball!

There are lots of personalities attached to individual sports and these individuals can raise the profile of their nations and the sports that they represent. Sporting events can bring virtues out of people. The essence of the Hellenic concept of virtue is translatable to the english word ‘excellence’, and physical excellence is an ideal to be celebrated, as is say, mental excellence or temperance of character. Sporting competitions emphasise the best in human ability.

Raising awareness of sports can get ordinary people involved. I myself am particularly interested in following the Tennis, Michael is interested in following the Weightlifting and Badminton. We are hardly the sporting types, but seeing personalities like Oscar Pistorious or Usain Bolt. Inspiring future olympians is also something particularly special, to encourage young people to get engaged with a sport and be able to train competitively on a wider level, whether that’s county, national or international. There is not only the aspect of physical fitness but also a wider sense of wellbeing and cultural identity towards sports, and often cultural trends that may not be expected. Michael tells me that countries in Southeast Asia are quite good on the international scene of Badminton, while for decades there has been a great football following in Iraq.The things which are really great about the Olympics are particularly individualist, egoist and agent-focussed. There’s something Homeric about an event like this, seeing the heroes compete against each other and representing their nations.

Bad things

I suppose many people can think of bad things, but the things that I’d consider particularly bad are the organisation of the sponsorships and the influence they have on a taxpayer funded event as stakeholders. Corporations may legally be persons, but what of the British taxpayer and their interests? (gosh this sounds incredibly right wing) There seems to be a juxtaposition involved, in order for an event which involves the representation and participation of great athletes, corporations must support it. This may involve sponsor parties, but also the corporations such as the UK Government, contracted construction corporations and other such associated organisations which were required to facilitate these events being possible at all.

There seems to be an essential conflict: in order for great individuals to compete with their peers, their has to be he machinations of wider corporate interests. Delphi, Athens and Olympus had their games, and those citystates were a precondition for their local celebrations. Just like the Ancient games, the Olympics is dragged long by the underlying political and corporate interests.

N.B. the use of ‘corporate’ is a purposeful equivocation between ‘collection of persons’ and the putative use of the term.


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