Monday, July 26, 2021

Sports in Pandemic Times

Years ago, I visited Barcelona and one of the things you could go see was the Olympic Stadium and the hotel built for the Olympics.  I was there in June, and I hope there are things in normal times that the stadium is used for, but wandering through a huge empty stadium was off, and the hotel looked odd, taller and shinier than most buildings in Barcelona, it just looked plunked down there.  
A cousin got married near Lake Placid and we went to visit some of the things leftover from that that are still used for training.  
I went on a work trip to Salt Lake City, and we took a look at the bobsled tracks still there.  
I started to wonder how many leftover bits there were in various cities that had hosted the Olympics. The housing, the various equipment needs, it's probably not anything that any city needs to speed zillions of dollars building for two amazing weeks.  
I used to love the reading of the Olympic oath.  These days it is ever more clear to me how much the athlete's rules are bendable if you are the right kind of athlete.  If you're a privileged white guy, it's fine to vandalize things, harm other players, and so on.  Some folks have been able to appeal their positive drug tests, and others have not.  It's not fair, and like so many things, it in part has to do with who has the time, energy, and social capital to make an issue of something.  To move forward and survive headlines associating you with scandal.  
When runner Dutee Chand's gender was questioned, her mother talked about the shame of all of this happening in public.  Likely plenty more athletes have run afoul of the narrow gender definitions and simply not wished to press it.  
And then you add in a pandemic.  A pandemic where gathering in groups increases risk.  A pandemic where the virus causes long term lung damage, a particular problem for athletes.  A pandemic where travelling and unequal access to vaccination increases the risk of variants developing.  A pandemic where vaccinated folks are more likely to contract asymptomatic versions and not know to further limit contact.  
All of this is to say, my love for the Olympics is tarnished, and it is completely ridiculous that we are asking these athletes, the many volunteers and staff, to do this so we can watch safely from our TVs.  
And I still cried when I saw who lit the flame.