COMMENT

The Hunger Games

By Nikos Konstandaras

It appears that Greece will reap a meager harvest of medals at the 30th modern Olympics. This is not the fault of our athletes nor of the agencies involved in their preparation; it is the fault of the Games themselves, which are a wretched anachronism recalling a time long past. We Greeks created the concept of athletic competition and we made a gift of it to humanity. Now we are headed for grander things.

Today?s Olympics are a gross commercialization and a warped exhibition of old warrior virtues and skills, which now involve an elite few and do not reflect the concerns of the many. We could change this and, from the bottom of the pile, we could leap to the forefront again, instituting new Games more in keeping with our age.

With the aim of determining and distinguishing those who are most skilled in arts that are useful to us, to our city and our country, we could establish new sports. Running and equestrian events could be replaced by a series of new competitions. Among them: the delivery scooter slalom, with a telephone in the jockey?s one hand and a frappe between his knees; getting to a meeting on time while using only mass transportation; getting a sick person to a hospital by car when the streets are filled with protesters.

Wrestling, boxing and other confrontational events would be replaced by tests of endurance under conditions faced by Greek workers and the unemployed. This category would include transferring ownership of a used car, with repeated visits to tax offices, banks and Transport Department offices; the survival struggle of new pensioners, who have to wait for two years before getting their first payment, only to discover that it keeps shrinking; a patient?s efforts to get treated in a hospital and his or her struggle to receive medication. The new pentathlon would include the above sports and would reflect the effort to meet ever-greater expenses with ever smaller incomes.

The essence of the Athenian Games (in honor of our capital and inspiration) will combine personal skills with the skills stemming from the storied DNA of the Greeks. The modern marathon will be measured not in kilometers but in years - in the lifetime of each citizen. The prize will go not to those who finish first but to those who endure, who do not succumb to despair, who do not break out violently against themselves or others. Winners will be those children, women and men who can survive repeated disappointment, unexpected temptation and endless obstacles. With the odds against them, the victors will be those who survive, who can still hope. That?s where we?ll be unbeatable.

Online