Posts Tagged ‘Olympic Games’

“Great Britain” – an old concept with a startling new face

August 13, 2012

The phenomenal haul of Olympic medals won by a team named “Great Britain” has changed the way Britons look upon themselves the morning after.

A year ago, a rioting underclass wreaked destruction across London. The notion of Scottish independence was seducing many Scots, and indeed English. “Great Britain” was a term used mainly by diehard nostalgics.

Last June however, the separate components of the United Kingdom hugely underperformed at the European Football Championships. By contrast, a united “Great Britain” has done better in the Olympics than any nation except the U.S. and China, which have much larger populations.

Who today is for a breakup of the United Kingdom, now that a “Great Britain” team has outstandingly demonstrated the effectiveness of internal coherence and mutual solidarity?

And what remains of the idea of the “underprivileged” after the popular British classes have set their stamp on the London Olympics with such panache? Who could imagine that a team drawing on all parts of society, from the lowest to the very top, could work so well together?

Britons can for a change be proud about citizens excelling in a peaceable activity. That’s a refreshing change from focusing on warfaring exploits.

Above all, Britons can celebrate a real achievement, rather than desperately blow on flickering memories of imperial power and victory in world wars.

Successful, classless, united, peaceable? Who knows how long this will last? But I’m abroad on holiday at the moment, and perhaps it’s time to come back.

Olympics – faster, higher, stronger – with the help of substances

August 9, 2012

How do athletes at each Olympic Games reach levels never attained before? New ways of training muscles clearly play a role. In the case of Great Britain, which in Beijing and London has risen close to the top, success ratios were also transformed by massive  National Lottery financing and professional business planning.

For others, new performance-improving substances come into play. Olympic head Jacques Rogge warned participants to steer clear of doping in his opening address. But only certain substances are outlawed. Others may bring a significant advantage without infringing any rules.

One such innovation is a bio-chemical »redox signalling« preparation which stimulates cells to release anti-oxidants and mobilises fatty acids to improve fuel storage and physical capacity. Its producers, ASEA, say a number of Olympic sportspeople are using it in these Games. No names, because who consumes what is a strategic secret jealously guarded from rivals.

Is that doping? No, say the makers – no sports governing body has raised objections. But does it give takers an unfair advantage? That doesn’t seem to matter. The field is open. Whoever can get the best stuff that hasn’t been banned can perform »faster, higher, stronger.«

Unfair perhaps all the same, but it also rewards the smart and the inventive. Top performers know that Olympic competition is cruel. They strive upwards notwithstanding, and take the knocks with the accolades.

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