The human element

There are two sides to the Olympic Games: the flashy world of advertising on the one hand, and a more pragmatic realm of silence, secrecy and whispers on the other. The first is polished, enthusiastic, idealistic; the other is bitter and disappointing, a world of waste, thirst for power and vested interests. These two worlds have nothing in common and will never meet. The first polished world does not even acknowledge the existence of the other, real, world which exploits its ideal counterpart to trap and mislead, presenting megalomania as a «great vision.» Everything is wonderful in the advertisements we have been bombarded with recently. While the bulldozers were razing Schinias in order to build a rowing center on the site of the Battle of Marathon, we watched a television actor play a mild-mannered Olympic-environmentalist saving a lost tortoise. And it has been nearly three months since the launch of a promotional piece on television that tries to infect us with enthusiasm for volunteerism by mixing semi-authentic footage of [Juan Antonio] Samaranch’s September 1997 announcement with the agony and subsequent elation of actors playing «everyday people.» «We will reveal the human element of the Games,» a voice assures us. But this human element has already reared its head in the real world of ministries, committees and propaganda – and it is a grim reality, completely different from the one we are being exhorted to show off in the summer of 2004.