It’s been three days now, and the Beijing Olympics seem to be coming off magnificently, proving once again that if you need to organize hundreds of thousands of zeks in the construction of the eighth wonder of the world, then totalitarianism is your system. When you think about building a modern Olympic facility, think the Pyramids, the Tower of Babel, the great Persian palaces at Persepolis and Susa, the hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Theater at Epidaurus, the Hippodrome, the Colisseum; and you’ve still got to build venues for kayaking, synchronized swimming, and beach volleyball.

All of the stadia, gymnasia, swimming pools, tracks, courts, rings, bicycle trails, artificial lakes and rivers, water courses with man-made rapids, and land-locked beaches that have been fabricated for the Beijing Olympics, though of no lasting utility, are worthy monuments to those two most noble classes of humanity to which they have been raised: politicians and professional athletes. Perhaps I should not mention them together, lest the politicians take offence. But both the national leaders who mount the games and the athletes who compete in them have one thing above all in common: they are motivated by the purest patriotism. It is for the glory of their respective countries that they have lobbied and taxed and trained so hard.

You can see it on the athletes’ faces, especially, when they parade into the Olympic Stadium behind their country’s flag. You can see it in the dignity with which they lolligag, chew their gum, and snap photos of each other and the adoring crowd.

But for the most ardent patriotism, the gold medal goes to the CBC. Watching its coverage, I’ve learned that though CANADA has entered no team, a CANADIAN company was responsible for trucking in the sand (to a depth of eighteen inches!) that covers the floor of the beach volleyball court! I’ve been able to watch a CANADIAN wrestler come in 69th in his heat, and a CANADIAN kayaker place 73rd. I’ve thrilled to moving background interviews with dozens of CANADIAN athletes, as well as their coaches, trainers, equipment managers, mothers, boyhood and girlhood friends, chiropractors, and kindergarten teachers. And just in case I am in the wine cellar, say, during the CBC’s coverage of the splendid performance of the CANADIAN entrant in the underwater skateboarding competition, I can relax, knowing that every hour or so the CBC will run a segment called THE CANADIAN TRAIL that gives me up-to-the-minute news of the glorious feats of Team CANADA in these Chinese-CANADIAN Games

Many thanks to the CBC for sparing me the agony of watching the Olympics on American network T.V. American sports commentators (like Americans in general) are such flag-waving jingoists that they brazenly televise only the events in which American athletes participate, and ignore the rest of the world. CANADA especially.

 

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