It's the Olympics - and I'm NOT there
For the first time since 1992 I'm not at the Olympics - and it feels weird. I'd convinced myself that I wouldn't mind not being in Beijing, but as the Games have approached I'm starting to miss being at the heart of the action. Watching the Opening Ceremony on tv (or for a while on my computer - now there's a distraction!) reminded me of waiting for hours before marching with Team GB in Atlanta in 1996. What a buzz to walk into the stadium and see the crowds and flashing cameras! But there's a dark side too, and one that made it easier for me to miss the Beijing Games. The rampant nationalism, the authoritarian Chinese regime, the tragic irony that in a country likely to dominate the Games, sport plays little or no role in the lives of ordinary people. I read an article by Mathew Forney in the Herald Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/08/06/opinion/edforney.php) about China's sporting programme - Operation 119. 200 000 professional athletes, all selected as children for their talent in specific disciplines, and rigourously groomed for success; or else simply returned to their families if they don't pass muster. And I've heard the rumours of China's approach to Paralympic sport, where superbly fit athletes with strangely consistent amputations line up on the starting line. Perhaps I'm a little naive, but this is getting too far from what sport should be about.