by Greg Enslen, 08/15/12, gregenslen.com
The 2012 Olympics kicked off in London last week, and LOTS of news has already come out of the big event. And the event has spawned an ever-growing list of controversies, from the serious to the mundane, which are being chronicled on Wikipedia—just search for “2012 Olympics Controversies.” And while some seem trivial, a few have risen to the level of international news.
Mascots and Logos
The logo for the 2012 Olympics displays all the elegance of a platform diver gracefully spinning through the air and knifing into the water…oh wait, sorry. I got caught up in the diving competition. Actually, the final 2012 Logo makes no sense to me at all—it looks like a splotchy, angular bunch of boxes. It took me a long moment of studying it to discover that boxes are actually numbers that read “2012.”
London will actually be using the logo again—the Paralymics, which kicks of August 29 in the same location, uses an almost identical logo. Sounds like they got a two-for-one special. Well, you know what they say—you get what you pay for. And Iran stirred up a related controversy when they claimed that the logo spelled out the word “Zion.” They initially threatened to boycott the Games but eventually attended.
And don’t get me started on Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots of the 2012 Games. Reportedly they are popular with five-year-olds, but the odd creatures remind me strongly of Kang and Kodos, the twin, one-eyed aliens that constantly threaten the Earth with invasion on the long-running animated TV show “The Simpsons.” Does anyone else see the comparison?
Presidential contender Mitt Romney stepped into an international pile of doo-doo just before the Olympics kicked off when he was asked to give his opinion about the London games and their level of preparedness. Now, opinions are like cowboy hats (everybody’s got one), and Mitt chose to give his honest assessment of what he thought of two recent news stories related to security at the Olympics:
1) The New York Times reported on July 14 a shortfall in the number of civilian guards. G4S, the private company contracted to provide 10,400 guards for the Games, was unable to fill all of the positions, and the 3,500-man gap had to be filled with members of Britain’s armed forces. G4S also reported a difficulty in finding enough employment candidates who could speak English.
2) CNN reported on July 19 that UK Border staff were among government workers who were set to strike on the eve of the Olympics, “risking longer lines at Heathrow airport’s passport control” for folks arriving in London for the Games.
Here’s what Romney said, in part, in an interview on NBC on July 25: “There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
It sounds like he’d been just … reading the paper. And he gave what was actually a mild assessment of what he understood to be questions raised about London’s preparedness.
He didn’t mention photos running in the British press showing security trainees falling asleep. And he didn’t mention the myriad problems mentioned in The Daily Mail, a leading British paper, of multiple cases of security trainees “clearing” people through security training without catching them carrying hidden weapons and fake bombs. In one case, the trainees failed to detect a 9-millimeter pistol stuffed into a “test spectator’s” sock.
Truth as Casualty
Truth is always the first casualty in politics, but I’m still trying to figure out what the “gaffe” was. It sounds like he could have been “more delicate” in his wording; but he did oversee the Olympics in Salt Lake City and is entitled to his opinion. But the British press doesn’t feel the same way: The Guardian offered up a story titled “Romney’s Olympic Blunder stuns No. 10” (referring to #10 Downing Street), and The Times of London pointed out that the British “PM rebuffs Romney over readiness for Olympics.”
My guess is that no one likes to have their efforts questioned, especially on the eve of a massive event like the Olympics. So was NBC setting Romney up, putting him in a position where no answer would satisfy the question? Romney gave his opinion and was lambasted for it. But what if he’d taken the politically correct approach, smiling and saying something like “oh, they’re doing a great job—everything is just peaches and cream over there in London”—and then something horrible had happened? Would he have been equally lambasted?
I like it when our “leaders” tell what they are thinking—then, as a reasonable person, I can evaluate whether or not I agree with them. This is why spin and political correctness and half-truths are so dangerous—they poison the well of social discourse, forcing the listener to wade through layers of “BS” to discern the speaker’s point of view before we can evaluate it. Just stick to the facts, and if someone asks you your opinion, give it. The rest is all interpretation.
And speaking of security at the Olympics, did you know they have surface-to-air missiles positioned on top of six residential towers around the city? I hope they turned them off during the shot put and javelin competitions!
Serena Williams’ Crip Walk
After winning her first gold medal in the woman’s singles competition, Serena Williams treated everyone in the stadium at Wimbledon to an interesting little dance on her way up to the podium to receive her medal. Known as the “Crip Walk,” her spontaneous celebration dance has origins in Southern California gang culture—in fact, the “Crip Walk” was made popular by the Crips, a notorious street gang from Los Angeles.
A lot of folks got upset about the dance, saying that it glorified violence and wasn’t appropriate for a dignified setting like the Olympics. That may be, but I don’t find much dignified about the uniforms the men’s crew teams wear, either. Bananas, anyone? Anyone?
Ahem…Ah, Condoms, Anyone?
I’m not even going to touch the “100,000 Condoms Distributed in Athlete’s Olympic Village” controversy, except to say—who’s got the time? Shouldn’t the athletes be doing sit-ups or something ELSE to get ready for the Events? Unless there’s a “whole ‘nother kind of Olympics” going on that I’m not privy to. Do they give out medals for that?
Ah, there just isn’t enough room on the page for all the stuff I want to mention about the Olympics, so this will have to do for now. For example, I desperately want to talk about the Badminton controversy and Mitt Romney’s comments about security. I’ll hit those topics next week.
Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to speak up on Olympics mascots and logos, Mitt Romney, and dances popularized by Los Angeles street gangs. Talk to you soon!