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Why the olympics suck
February 6, 2012 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Will Self on the 2012 London Olympics .
posted by numberstation (54 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Rather unenthusiastic is putting it waaaaay mildly: I think the Olympics suck dogshit through a straw."

Oh Will, never change.
posted by Fizz at 7:31 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone know the the body text font on that page is ?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:49 AM on February 6, 2012


If my uncle were not doing an alternative olympics in London at the same time, I would lament the olympics more. but I get to see my awesome relatives for three weeks!
posted by parmanparman at 7:51 AM on February 6, 2012


That's one beautiful rant!

(An adoptive Londoner of my acquaintance announced last year that to avoid the security theatre he was going to go and spend 2012 living somewhere comparatively anarchic and lawless—like Singapore.)
posted by cstross at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the Olympics suck dogshit through a straw

Unlike Self's novels, which seem always to suck polysyllables through a reused syringe.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2012


"He and I agree on most things Olympic and consensus is a big barrier to keen observation – ask Lordy-Lordy Coe and Tessa Jowls."

If I consense with this sentiment is it still keenly observed? Excellent interview. I can now check "find template for Olympics snark" off my to-do list well ahead of schedule.
posted by lllama at 7:57 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm excited about the Olympics as a temporary mitigation of ill-advised economic austerity policies during a downturn! That and the canoeing
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:57 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


an excuse for ‘elite’ athletes to fuck each other, snarf steroids and pick up sponsorship deals,

I know he's intentionally being brash and I myself have a lot of issues with the current corporate state of the Olympics. But, as a former athlete and as someone who once had to endure his wife's helpless sobbing from a continent away at being so close to making that team and it not working out, I take great offense.

You can take the Coca Cola, political part of the Olympics and shove it, but also recognize that most of the athletes there are there as cash-strapped amateurs for but one life-long obsession: Faster Higher Stronger.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:06 AM on February 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I really like Will on those BBC 'Grumpy Old Men' style shows
posted by jamiemch at 8:07 AM on February 6, 2012


I'm so happy he has the freedom to complain. Hundreds of thousa... millions of people have died for his right to be a grumpy old man. But all he does is complain.

Assuming we will always have the Olympics, could you suggest a better way of doing them?
Why assume that? If you want to run and jump, go do it in a field for free. If you want to run and jump with a Kenyan or a Croatian, go out and find one – there are plenty around my way – and go and run and jump together in a field. Costs nothing. You may even make a few bob by charging people to watch you.


I have no time for people who only know how to bitch and moan. If you can't offer a solution for improving upon a condition then shut the hell up. Unfortunately he probably has some psychological dysfunction that won't allow him to problem solve. It's probably rooted in genetics, but enhanced as a learned behavior. I'd venture he complained about stuff in a humorous manner when he was much younger, perhaps even pre-teen, and it gained attention so he kept doing it and figured out how to really entertain people with his flamboyant exclamations of disgust and now can't do anything but bitch and moan.

That's not to say I disagree with his assessment of the Olympics. They've gotten a bit out of control. But suggesting that we simply don't have them anymore is not a solution.

The thing that struck me while watching Will and the other men on the BBC's Grumpy Old Men was that the vast majority of the things they complained about were due to over population. There are simply too many people around for people to enjoy being people. It has to do with when each individual was introduced into the world population. How many people they are comfortable sharing space with. Will is likely pissy about the Olympics because it brings even more people into his little village called London.

Anyway, to fix the Olympics I think they probably need to review the athlete acceptance policies, testing, and bring down the amount of celebrity creation. They need to stop introducing new ridiculous sports which only encourage flamboyantly ignorant athletes. They need to focus more on good sportsman ship, great athleticism, and historical references to the quality of competition.

And take the corporate brands out of everything. [period] If it's not the athlete's home country flag or that year's Olympic logo, it's not allowed on any jersey, building, printed material, or screen.
posted by LoudMusic at 8:09 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's not to say I disagree with his assessment of the Olympics. They've gotten a bit out of control. But suggesting that we simply don't have them anymore is not a solution.

Why is this a crazy idea!? Just because something has been done for many many years, does not mean that we should keep on doing it?! Slavery was an institution as well and that's been outlawed in most places. I get that you're annoyed he doesn't have an alternative but who says he has to offer one up.
posted by Fizz at 8:12 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're cash-strapped amateurs who love their sport and want to succeed and be the best, but the Olympics are also a convenient place to have sex with other elite athletes who are in a different sport instead of their own incestuous one.

That said, despite knowing the problems with the institution, I love watching the Olympics. I am more a winter sports person, but some of the summer sports are good too.
posted by jeather at 8:12 AM on February 6, 2012



most of the athletes there are there as cash-strapped amateurs for but one life-long obsession: Faster Higher Stronger

Apart from synchronised swimming and the like.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:23 AM on February 6, 2012


GallonOfAlan, I think the font is Le Monde Courrier.
posted by steganographia at 8:25 AM on February 6, 2012


Thanks!
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:29 AM on February 6, 2012


It sounds like his problem with the Olympics is that capitalism exists and people love their home countries. I like both of those facts, and I love my own nation, and fortunately there are a lot of me, so I will go ahead and continue to enjoy the Olympics sponsored by delicious Pepsi.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:38 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


but the Olympics are also a convenient place to have sex with other elite athletes who are in a different sport instead of their own incestuous one.

...your point being? Do you have any evidence to support that it's any more promiscuous an environment than the average pub? And what's wrong with it exactly?
posted by jimmythefish at 8:48 AM on February 6, 2012


Anyone know the the body text font on that page is ?


#footer, #wrapper {
font-family: "LeMonde";
}


Font resources: http://www.epigram.org.uk/wp-content/themes/epitheme/fonts/LMCourrierStd-Regular.otf and http://www.epigram.org.uk/wp-content/themes/epitheme/fonts/LMCourrierStd-Bold.otf
posted by delmoi at 9:09 AM on February 6, 2012


Do you have any evidence to support that it's any more promiscuous an environment than the average pub?

Hundreds of young, extremely fit, physically attractive individuals living together in close quarters for a month, after which they're going to fly back to the four corners of the Earth?

I don't know about the pubs you frequent, but I'm reasonably certain that there must be a not-insignificant amount of hanky-panky going on in the Olympic village. Also, every four years some (presumably less young and attractive) journalist writes a titillating and slightly envious article about the subject.

Another question is why this appears to irk Mr. Self, of course.
posted by Skeptic at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2012


Do you have any evidence to support that it's any more promiscuous an environment than the average pub?
Other then that it's a widely reported fact? (Google suggested I added the word 'fest' to my search term, by the way)
posted by delmoi at 9:16 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no idea how promiscuous the average pub is (though that story of the athlete's village running out of condoms in Sydney suggests an answer). And I don't think there's anything wrong with athletes having lots of sex with other athletes, assuming it's all consensual etc. But pretending that it doesn't happen -- and that it's not something that many of the competitors look forward to -- is odd.

I have my problems with the Olympics. But whatever they are, the sex lives of the competitors aren't on the list.
posted by jeather at 9:18 AM on February 6, 2012


Hitlerian

It's hard to dispute that. The 1896 Olympics got its inspiration from antiquarians. The games were revenue neutral for the host country. It was genuinely amateur athletics; the marathon was won by Spyridon Louis, a Greek manual laborer. After winning and becoming a national hero, the Greek King offered Louis any gift he could think of, and all he could think of was a donkey-drawn cart to help him in his water-carrying business. (Had he been lugging water around by hand before then? Was he getting in shape Rocky style?)

The original Olympics were highly nationalistic, but ultimately they were a celebration of brotherhood across international lines. (well, brotherhood among Greek males, but it beats war) The ancient Olympics came with a genuine committment to international peace. When the Spartans fought a battle during the Olympic truce they were banned from the Olympics for four years and fined 200 000 drachmas. They paid.

It's the Nazi Olympics of 1936 that gave us the triumph of the will aesthetic, the trumped up international rivalries, the custom of arresting the poor to keep them away from the cameras, the massive government spending and Olympic basketball.*

Gold for the USA, Silver for Canada. The secret to Canadian success at the Olympics is to keep inventing sports which eventually become quite popular. So long as they take a few years to catch on we've got an Olympics or two to clean up.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:18 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Faster Higher Stronger

If there's not a London drug dealer somewhere preparing a strain of Olympic cannabis with with that slogan, then British entrepreneurialism is dead.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 9:29 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you have any evidence to support that it's any more promiscuous an environment than the average pub? And what's wrong with it exactly?

I think the public subsidization is the problem he's pointing at.
posted by jon1270 at 9:30 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


As the father of two teenagers who participate in rarely televised sports, I like the Summer Olympics because it is the only time they'll be able to see the elite of their sports (fencing / equestrian) competing on TV. We are hopefully they'll be more available this time, even if it is just streamed online. (There are a few televised equestrian events...)

A good run by the US has about a 1 year impact on interest in the sports. Fencing clubs are small businesses, the free advertising is very valuable and puts money in the pockets of small business owners in the US. It also exposes kids in the US to sports they will even see otherwise. don't think I've ever seen fencing televised, except during the summer games.
posted by COD at 9:34 AM on February 6, 2012


Other then that it's a widely reported fact? (Google suggested I added the word 'fest' to my search term, by the way)

Uh, yeah. Again, this is one of those things that may be 'widely reported' but I question as to whether it's fact. Any better citation than 'celeblitz.com'? I know dozens of people who've been to the Olympics and I don't know many of them that would have slept around while there. Likely it's just a smaller portion that gets all the attention.

It's the blanket generalization that I object to, and the weird, irrelevant nature of it.

I think the public subsidization is the problem he's pointing at.

By this logic, it should be hands off for everyone attending a university, then. Sound about right?
posted by jimmythefish at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2012


I don't know about the pubs you frequent, but I'm reasonably certain that there must be a not-insignificant amount of hanky-panky going on in the Olympic village. Also, every four years some (presumably less young and attractive) journalist writes a titillating and slightly envious article about the subject.

Another question is why this appears to irk Mr. Self, of course


Because they're keeping all the good genes to themselves. They need to be fucking the general public. Share the gold people!
posted by Fizz at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2012


By this logic, it should be hands off for everyone attending a university, then. Sound about right?

Wha.....?
posted by jon1270 at 9:39 AM on February 6, 2012


Lousy interview ("If the Olympics did not exist, would it be necessary to invent them?"), great interviewee.

I wonder what the chances of staging a peaceful protest while the damn thing's on are. Not high, I'd guess.
posted by Leon at 9:40 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wha.....?

Universities in Britain are heavily subsidized with public funds.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:49 AM on February 6, 2012


I love a good Will Self rant.
posted by Mister_A at 9:49 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Universities in Britain are heavily subsidized with public funds.

Yeah, I get it. I think it's easier to make a case for subsidization of school+sex than it is for sports+sex. At least in Self's eyes.
posted by jon1270 at 9:52 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


By this logic, it should be hands off for everyone attending a university, then. Sound about right?

We could compare the benefits each bring from the taxes.

The Olympics:

(1) Help elite athletes get laid.
(2) Are a venue in which elite athletes can compete internationally, in addition to the other venues in which elite athletes can compete internationally.
(3) Generate some tourist income.

Universities:
(1) Help students get laid. Unethical profs too.
(2) Discover the polio vaccine.
(3) Discover the use of insulin in diabetes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Plenty of anecdotal stories over the years of how Olympic villages are one massive meat market, especially for those who have finished competing.

A friend of mine had a suggestion for improving the Olympics: remove any sport that required judging. This would kill my wife whose favorite sports are judged but I can see the sanity in it.
posted by Ber at 10:04 AM on February 6, 2012


I'll just say this one thing and then step away, before I get too fucking angry about all this:

Making the argument that the Olympics are problematic due to athletes using it to seek sex and sponsorships is so fucking ignorant and wrong and offensive that everyone doing so should probably just back away from the keyboard for the sake of everything that is reasonable and good.

Thanks, bye.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:04 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you guys just elbowed someone right in the religion.

(Me, I'm arguing that the Olympics are problematic because they're going to screw my city's mass transit system into the ground).
posted by Leon at 10:13 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


most of the athletes there are there as cash-strapped amateurs for but one life-long obsession: Faster Higher Stronger

Apart from synchronised swimming and the like.


There's at least one commonplace definition of the word "stronger" that would apply to becoming the best synchronised swimming team in the world. ("In their strongest showing yet...")
posted by straight at 10:13 AM on February 6, 2012


@Potomac Avenue
It sounds like his problem with the Olympics is that capitalism exists and people love their home countries.

I don't think he has a problem with capitalism per se, more the ultra-greedy, unregulated, entitled old boys club that has got the world in the situation that it's in today.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:31 AM on February 6, 2012


There's at least one commonplace definition of the word "stronger" that would apply to becoming the best synchronised swimming team in the world. ("In their strongest showing yet...")

There's also the normal one. It's not like they are standing on the pool bottom people!
posted by smackfu at 10:50 AM on February 6, 2012


There's a reason Will Self is a regular guest in Private Eye's "Pseuds Corner":

Could you explain the principles of pyschogeography and do you think it’s something that can only be applied to urban spaces?

Ooh, big question. I take my lead on matters psycho-geo from the Situationist fons et origio. It’s part of the tearing down of the Society of the Spectacle mandated by late capitalism; unstructured dérives or drifts across the urban landscape cut across the predetermined routes of commercial necessity which were best defined by a graffito I once saw on a supermarket wall outside Yate in Somerset: ‘Work, Consume, Die’. What I think of as ‘the man-machine matrix’ wants you tramelled on EasyJet watching a six-inch screen implanted in the back of another human’s head, wants you stuck in a car coughing out lead particulates, wants you staring at a VDU, doesn’t want you on foot, transgressing.

posted by chavenet at 10:55 AM on February 6, 2012


Health officials in Vancouver have already provided 100,000 free condoms to the roughly 7,000 ahtletes and officials at the Games. That's about 14 condoms per person. But as of Wednesday, those supplies started running dangerously low.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:23 AM on February 6, 2012


(An adoptive Londoner of my acquaintance announced last year that to avoid the security theatre he was going to go and spend 2012 living somewhere comparatively anarchic and lawless—like Singapore.)

I've met these types, those who think Raffles Place is a short metro ride from Canary Wharf. I don't like them much; they're the ones who pay $6 for a fried Mars ball in Singapore and think they've gotten a great deal. Or pay $2.5k for renting a closet at a Marina Bay sails apartment and think they're saving on rent.

I understand the sentiment though; I've had no problems watching the Olympics - love to see those eclectic sports that no one sees otherwise - but I absolutely can't support the modern Olympic movement. I mean, like FIFA, it's clearly a massive corrupt enterprise who's main goal is to get as much new construction built as possible; they tend to lay waste to vast suburbs much like desert locusts do to crops, while at the same time, massaging people's egos: the rulers for bringing a spectacle, the participants for an apparent adrenalin rush from training and achievement, and for the general public who'd be somehow convinced that their countrymen or women beating the competition by a thousandth of a second is not a statistical fluke, but a highly sophisticated and calibrated notion of a nation's worth.

At least till Beijing 08, design / branding was nice, but now I can't un-see Lisa Simpson from the logo, and... I just threw up a little seeing a London 2012-branded Monopoly set being sold in a 2012-themed shop that took only Visa for branding reasons.

Oh well. At least the sitcom had a few laughs.
posted by the cydonian at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Athletes having sex? That's the objection to the Olympics? Bollocks.

My loathing of the Olympics is inspired by the immense disgusting corruption of the process of getting it, the toadying required by the IOC - including primary legislation and VIP-only car lanes, what is this, fucking Russia? - the totalitarian aesthetics, the sponsorship by confectionary and soft drink companies - and I write this as a right-wing capitalist! - and the only-winning-matters drug-fuelled unsporting nature of the whole revolting mess.

I don't want to extend my criticism to honest sportspeople involved: you take the venues you can, and you do your best, and good for you. I would too. You have dedication and talents and a capacity for hard work that I can only dream of.

But the event itself is vile.

We got awarded the Olympics before the financial crisis. I think that one of Brown or Cameron should have looked at the fucking mess and said "Hey, IOC, we're out of cash. We do have perfectly good stadia and swimming pools and cycling tracks already, though. You're welcome to use them, in a celebratory festival of international competition and sport, which is what it is ostensibly all about. Or you can fuck off to Paris. Because you're not getting another gram of coke out of British taxpayers, you corrupt fuckers, and you can take that Official 2012 Olympics Big Mac and Creme Egg Supersize Olympic Meal with Coke Is It and shove it up your fucking arse."
posted by alasdair at 11:39 AM on February 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


I wonder if the Olympics ended as a serious amateur event, once the Americans made professional basketball and hockey players available to play for their respective countries. I know it soured it for me.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:06 PM on February 6, 2012


Look, it should be who can run/swim the fastest, who can throw this thing the furthest, who can jump the highest.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2012


I think it's a good thing that the Olympics is no longer an amateur event. Self financing an athletic career is an expensive hobby. Amateurism restricted the ability of poorer athletes to compete. Of course, events like basketball, soccer and tennis, where Olympic Gold is not the pinnacle of the sport, have no business in the Olympics anyway.
posted by IanMorr at 12:52 PM on February 6, 2012


Look, it should be who can run/swim the fastest, who can throw this thing the furthest, who can jump the highest.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:27 PM on February 6 [+] [!]


Or in Will's case who can take the most smack.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2012


Or in Will's case who can take the most smack.

What a vieux chapeau comment, Sebmojo!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:18 PM on February 6, 2012


staring at a VDU

Self had this rant all typed up and ready to go thirty years ago, didn't he?

The stupidest thing about the Olympics is that godforsaken stadium that they're going to end up tearing down. But that's not a problem with "the Olympics", it's a problem with the English being unable to manage large projects properly.
posted by Fnarf at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2012


So is this cranky asshole fuck the new Hitchens or something?
posted by ReeMonster at 3:52 PM on February 6, 2012


Health officials in Vancouver have already provided 100,000 free condoms to the roughly 7,000 ahtletes and officials at the Games. That's about 14 condoms per person.

I like to think that for some of the athletes from the poorer countries, this might be the first opportunity to treat themselves to a posh wank.
posted by biffa at 4:04 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


By this logic, it should be hands off for everyone attending a university, then. Sound about right?

In theory universities produce doctors and scientists, who contribute to our body of knowledge and actively assist humanity. The Olympics produce people with knee injuries.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:48 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here he is on Newsnight, extending his argument (and discussing his "alternative"--basically, stop killing off local free community sportsgrounds in order to build pointless monstrosities). Added bonus: he's speaking directly into Tessa Jowell's horrified spluttering face.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 6:35 PM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry, but I'm with Will on this one. At least he can rant eloquently.

I think the sex part was slightly (ahem) tongue in cheek.

A large part of the article is about 'architecture' as engendered by the IOC juggernaut, and the effect on host cities once the whole McDonald's circus rolls on to its next victim.
posted by Myeral at 5:25 AM on February 7, 2012


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