Olympic aftermath

I noticed during the Olympics a fair distribution of druid opinions both for and against the event, for all kinds of reasons. Concerns about the meaningless noise, the fake-feel-good, the corporate angle – all those unhealthy food and drink sponsors seemed a bit odd. There were political issues, social justice issues – it’s hard to see the Olympics as a single event, because there’s so much other stuff going on around the sport.

Mostly, I can do without the other stuff. So for the sake of not writing a small epic, I’m going to skip thinking about anything not sport related.

I have mixed feeling about competitions. That’s as true of bardic contests as it is of running. On one hand, that competitive spirit can beget divisions and enmity, bring feelings of failure and cause misery. On the other, competitions drive us towards excellence, push us beyond our boundaries and enable us to celebrate success and brilliance. I think in an ideal world, both competitive and non-competitive spaces are needed for true flourishing.

Winning is great. Knowing how to win and lose gracefully are even better. The person who can win without crushing and the person who can lose without feeling bitterness, are giants. When personal excellence is more important to you than whether you won, and when doing all that you can is all that you ask of yourself… then you may be onto something.

I wonder how many people have sat on their sofas around the world, swigging beer and feeling an achievement based on the actions of others. I wonder how many people have been inspired to try something. Here in the UK, I rather expect bike sales will go up this summer. And how many of those aspirations to physical fitness will fade away once the extent of the work called for becomes apparent? But even if only a handful of extra people make it onto a path of personal excellence, this will be a win.

Excellence is not the same as winning. It does not have to be competitive, although it can be. It doesn’t even need recognition. Its just about giving everything you have, passionately, repeatedly, for the sake of being the very best that you can be. That might not mean running at high speeds. It may mean making the best cakes, or saving abandoned dogs. It may be all about the compassion you show in daily life, or the beauty you bring into the world. We can, as Bill and Ted so finely put it, be totally excellent to each other, as well.

So, what happens next? Will we carry on with our sporting heroes, or will we saunter back to the celebrities who are famous mostly for being celebrities, and to whom the term ‘excellent’ cannot really be applied? Will we be inspired to acts of excellence in our own lives, or will the moment pass? Are the Olympics just a cheerful distraction and a fad, or will we undertake to make a meaningful Olympic legacy here in the UK? I shall try not to be too cynical….

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Olympic aftermath

  • Alex Jones

    The ancient Celts would have identified with the Olympic spirit, they loved their own games of skill, strength and display.

    I hope that Britain will build upon the foundations of the Olympics to create a suitable legacy for current and future generations.

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    I agree (@the Celts identifying with them.) It was also a bit necessary to life. In today’s Olympic think, here in the USA, (but we know it is a lie) – It was often stressed by our commentators about how it was (per the athletes) – all about the honor of COMPETING (in). Being able to be a part OF – with all the other chosen. Not the winning only.
    I can get behind that. I was really glad to see England go way out on representing the cultural aspect – (the authors, the proud ofs, etc.)
    That got me going, because part of the Olympics was also to honor the arts, and that has rarely been something much televised or mentioned over here. To see England make it a part of the opening and closing with such Gusto, (and in their own inestimable style! lol), I clapped and cheered, and am proud to claim direct English 1st generation heritage. (but then I am an anglophile anyway, what can I say?) Sure, medals are nice, but I actually enjoyed just watching the beauty and grace of the athletes, – so they all won as far as I am concerned. So my definition of a competition is a meet of the nominated chosen, and screw the politics and stupid sponsers (arghhh).

  • silverbear

    My wife and I celebrated the renewal of our handfasting quite recently (27 July) and have decided that as our anniversary every year we will be holding Lughnasadh games at our home in Maine. That’s my kind of Olympics…lots of spirits both non-corporeal and liquid imbibed in friendship.

    As far as the Olympics themselves go, I have little interest for some of the above mentioned reasons. I find that they are too corporate and I get tired of hearing about the “Gold Medal Count” of America and whoever we happen to be most pitted against.

    Ultimately though, even the ancient Olympic games were political to an extent and the same is true now even if the athletic prowess of a single participant is unlikely to convince other nations that we have the gods on our side at the moment of victory. The Olympics is hardly about warrior strength or prowess if it ever was. I think the ancient Celts are unlikely to have given Michael Phelps a second look unless he could have killed a few boars for the clan. Of course, we’ll never really know, all we have is supposition. Most of these athletes are so far removed from who I am and where I am that the idea of getting overly excited about them winning a gold medal seems beyond me. I appreciate their athleticism but beyond that there are all sorts of things going on both here and abroad that seem more important to donate my energy to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: