The Incongruous Olympics

Try as I might—which is, OK, not very hard—I'm having a tough time getting jazzed for the Olympics this year. I get the feeling I'm not the only one. The locals are reportedly grumpy already about the mobs of untrained tourists futzing up London commuters' very own Olympic event, which is predictable enough.  But then Mitt Romney got into the act. Giving us a preview of his smooth idea of international diplomacy—I guess he has been talking to John Bolton—he wondered on his arrival in town whether the Brits really had it in them to properly "celebrate" the games. Being accused of not knowing how to party by Mitt Romney has to sting.

A man who now has a brand-new reason to root for Obama, David Cameron frostily guaranteed that Britain would "deliver," not exactly the most rambunctious of verbs. Even so, I wondered whether, for once in his life, Mitt had a point. Starting with the games' Bizarro World mascots—Wenlock and Mandeville, a pair of one-eyed Pixar rejects destined to give children nightmares—"our pasty compadres across the pond," as Jon Stewart called them on Wednesday's Daily Show, just may not have much of a knack for this kind of thing.  Then again, it's not like we're feeling any too gallivanting ourselves nowadays.

Nonetheless, an Olympics staged in the former Cool Britannia—does that take you back, or what?—is a boon to my much abused soul after the disgrace of letting Beijing host the 2008 Games,  propaganda for an authoritarian regime that left this Olympics fan not only definitely unjazzed but flat-out alienated. (For once, I couldn't even get into the athletes; the oppressive atmosphere was too persistent.)   Even if the widely anticipated snafus materialize, there are worse things than inefficiency.

You can always count on IOC boss Jacques Rogge to find a way of reminding you he's a shithead, though. This year, it's his refusal to permit a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies to memorialize the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago.  Making good use of his clout as the Conscience of Sports TV,  which is easy to make fun of right up to the next time it's useful—just ask Jerry Sandusky—NBC's Bob Costas has vowed that he'll give 'em a minute of silence on the air, Rogge or no Rogge.  And because he's Bob Costas, the network apparently didn't even try to countermand him, which does make me curious about how that will play out.

But otherwise, nah. Sue me, I'm not in the mood. Whatever the heck it is that the games are supposed to celebrate feels unusually incongruous this year, what with the U.K's own economy on Cameron-prescribed bread and water and the Eurozone looking more like Humpty Dumpty every day.  The Olympics are supposed to offer us all a reprieve from that kind of unpleasantness, but what if they end up making it more vivid? Not that I really expect Angela Merkel to rush onto the field and break the Spanish team's kneecaps, but still, it doesn't seem impossible.

And on top of that, my wife is out of town, which casts its own kind of pall. For a man my age to watch women's gymnastics alone is just too unseemly. If I didn't make it my quadrennial duty to root for most comers against the U.S. men's basketball team—I've been doing it ever since the Dream Turn turned us into such a pack of obnoxious chowderheads back in 1992—I'm not sure I'd have the spirit to tune in at all.

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