IT’S ALL IN THE GAMES
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is
As I saw a video of a friend’s kid performing at his annual sports day, I finally understood the reason for the lengthy gap between major sporting events such as the Olympic Games or the football World Cup. It isn’t to ensure that champions have a longer reign or so potential champions can train or indeed to give officials the time to fight with one another till a few emerge on top. No, it is to give host countries enough time to work on their opening and closing ceremonies.
Faster, higher, stronger is only one aspect of the Games. There is, too, weirder, stranger, more musical. The first applies to the athletes. The next lot to the dancers, choreographers, schoolchildren, contortionists and other random performers who strut their stuff at the opening and closing ceremonies.
It is bad manners to criticise cultural extravaganzas. You have to say nice things – it shows you are a person of culture. Just as the performers do a lot without saying anything, those who write paeans in praise are trained to write a lot without saying anything. Words like ‘colourful’, ‘heartwarming’, ‘unique’, ‘incredible’ have to be included in such writing or you will never be invited to another extravaganza again.
It is easy to let the Olympic spirit get to you. For a few days following the Olympics, everybody runs pretending he is Usain Bolt or swims convinced he is Michael Phelps. All to the good. But if we imitated the other aspects of the Olympics, we’d be in trouble.
Imagine throwing a dinner party, and forcing guests, when they arrive, to sit through a cultural extravaganza. I know this happens often – the three-year-old daughter is forced to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep, the eight-year-old son to bowl like R Ashwin… But what if it were to go further? Complete with an enactment of future dinners planned, excerpts from recent movies seen, parodies of relatives?
And then dinner is served, at which point the real business of the evening
Saying NICE things about cultural extravaganzas shows you’re cultured. Just as performers do a lot without saying ANYTHING, those who write paeans in praise are TRAINED to write a lot without saying anything
– the eating – gets underway.
As soon as the first guest makes the noises associated with goodbyes, with thank yous and we-must-do-this-agains, imagine holding everybody up with a closing ceremony. Sure, not as formal or structured as the opening ceremony, and with the accent on mingling and joking with newly-made friends.
The Olympics, of course, do the ceremonies better than anywhere else. But when other sports borrow that idea, and indeed when school sports days open with opening ceremonies and close with closing ceremonies, I think we go too far.