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Kolby Solinsky

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Sorry, But These Aren't "Everyone's Games" Yet

Posted: 08/13/2012 2:14 pm

Brian Williams (the Canadian one), on Sunday, said that while not everyone could win a medal at the London Games, the real winner was equality. Lisa LaFlamme, in her ensuing feature story, said much the same. It's been called the Games for everybody.

But, this is not true.

Women are not equal to men in the Olympics, and it needs to be fixed. It can't be lied about, or glorified for what it isn't. The Olympics are not equal, and to insist they are is insulting to equality and women.

Now, I love the Olympics. I love the sport. I love the passion. I love the montages set against old British rock tunes. I love the culture we see, and the gushy celebrity interviews that come out of them. I love how the Queen welcomes James Bond to her office and then parachutes with him onto thousands of people waiting below. I love seeing Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps torch their competition for the second straight time.

I even loved watching the Canadian women get screwed out of a gold medal game, and I even loved that unbelievably excruciating scene on Saturday, when Canada's 4x100 metre men's relay team was disqualified for the loose feet of Jared Connaughton.

I can feel the sport in it all. I can feel the national pride, even when it doesn't work out.

We can all feel it. If you're from England, you have your own heroes. If you're American, you feel it in Ryan Lochte's painful-to-watch broken English. If you're South African, you feel it in Oscar Pistorious's re-created, mechanic legs.

There are wonderful parts to the Olympics but -- unfortunately -- they're limited to the athletes themselves and to us, the viewers. Unless you're American, in which case you didn't see what happened until eight hours later.

This is the not the place for broad political or social commentary, because it can't apply. Not in a world where the IOC has become a vast commercial empire that casually and conveniently glazes over various human rights violations in Beijing. Not when the world's most infamously financially disastrous country was driven so far into debt in advance of a teetering global economy that it can practically feel its breakfast coming out its throat.

Not when the only countries able to deliver the Olympics, from now on, will be the ones with the biggest pockets, regardless of the amount of violent unrest or internal catastrophe they may bring with them.

What's that line? "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Well, sometimes the crime doesn't even bring fortune with it.

You can preach the glory of sport and the Olympic oath, but it doesn't mean anything to the rest of the world, does it?

So, if you're going to tell us that the Olympics are now a gender-equal spectacle because Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei threw out a couple women who should have been there all along, in an effort to meet some kind of pressured-upon-them-by-the-international-community quota, I respectfully disagree.

I find it insulting that we're supposed to believe this, and I find it detrimental to the advancement of the Games.

Yes, it's a good start. It's a step in the right direction. Yes, these kind of cultural revolutions and societal betterments happen because of international pressure. It doesn't matter why things change, as long as they change. After all, it was external pressure that brought an end to Apartheid, and to the Soviet Union (although I wouldn't call Vladimir Putin's Palpatine-esque rule the end game they had envisioned).

That said, if it's only a good start, then it should only be reported as a good start.

(Thankfully, many others have noticed this, too.)

There is too much work to be done. There is always a massive cleft between the beginning of change and the end result (for example, now that Blockbuster has bit the dust, how do you rent movies?), and gender equality in sport is not the only societal clash we need to fix.

After all, it's been almost 57 years since Rosa Parks was denied a seat at the front of a bus in Montgomery, and black-white relations are far from perfect in the United States.

Sport is sexist by nature, yes, but, we are not talking about TV viewers opting for the NBA over the WNBA, or the underrated legacy of Pat Summit. We are talking about an international body with more power than God and its ability to take a real stand against an outdated and medieval form of oppression that is far too present in most parts of the world.

If the Olympics acts pedestrian to the problem, or makes any more half-baked attempts to recognize a change that isn't yet happening, it's only harbouring the problem.

Oh, congratulations, Saudi Arabia. You sent two women. Do you want applause, a high five or a slap on the ass?

We will wholeheartedly clap for Sarah Attar when she finishes her 800-metre heat, because she deserves it and she should be a hero to the young women in her country, but don't think we're cheering for you, S.A.

Listen to what Attar said in this Globe and Mail video: "Well, I think it really shows that there's progress on its way... it shows that more steps are going to come, and that's just an amazing thing. For women in Saudi Arabia, it can be inspiring."

Yes. Progress. Inspiring. But, there are conditions. It's dependent on the belief that "more steps are going to come."

You may think I'm being pessimistic or divisive for divisiveness' sake, but am I really supposed to believe that the IOC couldn't fix this if they really tried? There isn't a more powerful athletic body in the world -- besides Patrick Willis's -- and if they wanted to, they could bring the house down.

They could put more pressure on countries that didn't comply. They could have told them years ago -- not just right now -- that they aren't allowed to participate if they don't really participate.

Until equality is really met, every news story that proclaims "we've arrived" from a female standpoint is shallow and semantic-fueled. It's a Hallmark card given to a terminally ill patient. It's like a really good song at somebody's funeral.

"Yea, this is nice for all of us in the audience, but couldn't we have been playing this tune all along?"
The good news, in this case, is that more work can be done. More work has to be done. We're just getting better, and progress is progress.

But, let's keep it up. Let's keep it going. Let's see Lisa LaFlamme report that story.

This article was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.

 

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