Discover more from Christopher Titmuss - The Buddha Wallah
Olympic Games. We need a new kind of athlete. Part One
Welcome to the O-limp-ic Games in Rio
Oops. Welcome to the Olympic Games. We need a new kind of athlete.
Part One of Two
A FAMILY STORY
THE SACRIFICES OF ATHLETES
THE IMPOSITION OF THE 0-LIMP-ICS
I have a family interest in the Olympic Games. The father of two of my grandchildren ran for Great Britain in the European and World Championships in the 100 metres. He had been training virtually daily since he was 12 years old to compete in these 10 second races in international competitions. He ran in these races in his late teens and early 20’s at the end of the last century and start of this century.
You need the daily discipline of an austere yogi to become an international athlete.
A couple of years ago, an amusing incident took place on School Sports Day in Stanmore where my grandchildren go to school. As traditional in Britain, teachers invite fathers and mothers of the schoolchildren to run a 100-metre race against each other at the end of the sports day.
About 12 men of various ages and sizes lined up to race and then the women followed in their race. The parents run 50 metres, turn around and run 50 metres back. I suspect the school does not want parents to have a heart attack in their efforts to impress their children. So parents have to slow down halfway through the race in order to turn around.
Jonathan, the father of my two grandkids, didn’t hear the instruction and ran 100 metres in a straight line.
Having completed the 100 metres, he realised his mistake, and sprinted back, and still won the race. Much to the delight of his cheering two children.
A teacher went over to Nshorna, my daughter at the end of the race and asked her: “Has the father of Milan and D’nae ever run races before?”
I recall attending a meeting of Gaia House Trust in south Devon. We were discussing fund raising for the new centre. One trustee invited me to run half a marathon with sponsors for every kilometre I completed. I said foolishly: “Why do things by half? I’ll run a whole marathon.”
Aged in my early 50s, I ran ta total of three marathons during the mid-1990s. The marathon raised more than £7000.00 for Gaia House. I trained for more than six months – having jogged regularly since disrobing in the 1970s as a Buddhist monk. I trained for the marathon by running 10 kilometres per day for six days and had one day off. The following week, I ran 12 kilometres per day and one day off. The third week I ran 14 kilometres per day and one day off. I carried on until I reached the marathon distance of 42 kilometres.
While teaching retreats, I would get up at some unearthly hour for the distance training before starting teaching in the morning. After the training, my sitting meditation consisted of watching various sensations, mostly aches and pains.
Some days, it was agony getting out of the cross legged posture after a sitting meditation in the front of the Dharma hall. Some participants thought I had injured myself. Some came up to me wanting to help get me onto my feet. Others wanted to put their arm around my waist to walk me back to my room. I would very slowly leave the hall – unaided, of course – to offer the inter-views. After a couple of days, I told the yogis that I was training for a marathon to raise money.
Some thought I was slightly mad at such an age. So did I.
I ran the 1996 Berlin marathon. It was the flattest course I could find in Europe. I couldn’t bear the thought of an incline to run up, let alone a hill. Finished in 3 hrs 51 minutes. I ran half marathons after that with half the exhaustion. For the past six years, I go to the gym for weight training and use the bike on the tracks and local lanes.
The Sacrifices of Athletes
Around 11,500 athletes from numerous sporting disciplines travelled to Rio for the current Olympic Games.
They have spent years, not months, in training with exceptional determination. They have to deal with injuries, health issues, personal and family problems They had to stay at home when they failed to win the trials for a place in the Olympic Games. Hundreds of thousands of athletes worldwide failed to win a place in Rio. Only a tiny number in Rio would win a medal.
One can only admire the tenacity and commitment of athletes.
Athletes will get up at 4.30 in the morning, go out running, travel to a swimming pool or gym, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out. They often start such rigorous training in their teens and keep on training – going through pain, elation and grim determination. They race against time. They race against themselves. They race against others.
One rower told BBC interviewer that he and crew of four had practised 350 days per day year for the past four years, as well as years before, for their six-minute race in Rio.
One American father said his daughter, who won an Olympic gold medal in Rio for swimming, spent more time in the water than on land.
Another athlete said he had received more than 500 hours of massage as part of his preparation in the last few years.
Another athlete said she spent countless hours with a sport psychologist working through various mental blocks that made her doubt herself and her efforts.
Another athlete had to keep as still as possible for six months to quicken the healing time of an injury with a physiotherapist working daily to speed up recovery.
Athletes live with a very tightly controlled diet, use the most sophisticated sporting equipment and some train in a variety of countries at different altitudes. They make immense sacrifices in their determination to win a medal. Their families and loved ones also make immense sacrifices. For the vast majority of athletes, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games.
Most athletes return home emptyhanded. Winners and losers have to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives after the high and the low of participating in the Olympics.
The Imposition of the O-limp-ics
€€€ billions get spent on the Olympic Games with little reference to the plight of the Brazilian people.
Rampant and desperate poverty, street and domestic violence on a daily basis with widespread corruption among politicians and corporations in Rio. There is ongoing destruction of precious tropical rainforests and pollution of land, water and air in Brazil.
A local friend told me the other day that he and the mother of their two sons have returned from Brazil to live here in Devon as they fear for the safety of their boys if they continued to live in Brazil.
Sports commentators for TV, radio and the rest of the media descend on Rio for the Games. They live a bubble with the athletes for two weeks, largely unmindful and disconnected from the harsh surrounding realities.
The Olympic Games serves the interests of the middle classes – namely those who can afford to attend or can afford to own a television. People of Rio have turned their back on the O-limp-ic Games. There were a mere 2000 people in the 60,000 seater Olympic Stadium for the start of athletics. Number of spectators in the stadium gradually grew to 11,000 during the day. Athletes tweet that there is no atmosphere in the stadium. Other venues for the athletes never look full with numerous rows of empty seats.
It is hardly surprising. The poor could not afford the ticket prices ranging from €30 to €80. Many would probably not want to go anyway since they pay for the O-limp-ic Games. The staggering sums of money could have gone to support the social, educational, housing and health needs of the millions of poor who live in the slums around the stadium.
The Brazilian authorities are now giving away tens of thousands of tickets, selling tickets very cheaply in a desperate effort to get bums on seats to create an atmosphere of excitement.
It is a salutary reminder that the venues for the Olympic Games have become more and more out of touch with the immediate environment.
The Olympic serve the entertainment desires of the privileged middle classes. Governments and Corporate sponsors run the Games. The athletes have become slaves to name and fame as well as wage slaves. Their sporting careers last a few years, if they are blessed.
A tiny, tiny number of athletes will return home with a medal or spend years coping with feelings of failure, even if they won a silver or bronze medal. They will worry what they will do next after they years of such commitment to training and sports competitions.
Today’s sporting heroes become tomorrow’s forgotten people – like soldiers who leave the army. New athletes join the training programmes while the retired athletes have to create a new life.
Athletes inspire the very young to go through their same process with the same outcome in the brutal world of Darwinian competitiveness and survival of the fittest.
The Olympic Games began as a noble ideal to bring athletes together but it has ended up as the O-limp-ic Games – a tarnished brand at the expense of the poor, and at the expense of many athletes, too.
There is far more to life than living in a world of winners and losers and success and failure.
We applaud the incredible striving of athletes to reach the pinnacle of success in sport.
Every expression of sport refers narrowly to a form of human movement. Athletics concerns a movement of the body in time and space. No more. No less.
What truly matters exists outside of success and failure. Athletes compete with others to triumph in a form of human movement.
We need a new kind of athlete who remains committed throughout life to a form of human movement on a much bigger scale than the self.
The O-limp-ic Games belongs to the last millennium. The IOC has lost their way. It is time to for the old guard to go.
The world deserves a totally fresh vision.
May all beings make wise sacrifices
May all beings live with compassion
May all beings live with wisdom
Olympic Games. We need a new kind of athlete. Part Two of Two
ATHLETES HAVE BECOME SAINTS AND SINNERS OF THE SELFIE CULTURE
A NEW KIND OF OLYMPIC GAMES
A NEW KIND OF ATHLETE
SPONSORS, PATRONS AND GRANTS FOR THE NEW KIND OF ATHLETE