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Zika, Zika, Zika – Oi, Oi, Oi!

By Dan Hutton on August 16, 2016 in Sport

“Together we can change the world”, the Olympics website boldly proclaims. It is a noble message, especially when paired with the prerequisite hashtag: #OlympicPeace. If only hashtags could change the world. If only the bad guys were listening.

They are wonderful sentiments and you won’t see them touted for any other major sporting event, but it is a sad indictment on the modern world that they have been massively overshadowed in the lead up to Rio. Barely spoken of, even.

Perhaps it is just because I’m getting older and more aware, but the incessant stream of negative media, both social and otherwise, has seemed particularly vociferous for these Games. Fears about the Zika virus, dirty water and violence constantly force their way into our consciousness, and one could be forgiven for thinking that anyone who travels to Rio is going to come back either sick or shot, if not both.

Are we all so cynical that we can’t allow a bit of naive joy into our lives? For once I would just like to be able to switch off and enjoy something without worrying about deformed babies and class-driven poverty. Ignorance is bliss, after all. But then that’s just sticking my head in the sand, isn’t it?
It would be nice to simply appreciate these Olympics as a unifying spectacle; to see some enormous people throw discs and heavy iron balls through the air for no other reason than good old competition. I can’t imagine any of them are actually having fun, are they? Could shot put ever be considered ‘fun’? It’s great if you win, sure, but otherwise it seems pretty dull and painful.

The invasion of professional sports and overpaid athletes with ‘a dream’ has definitely taken some of the fun out of the Olympics. Ironically, with all their money they cheapen what the Games is about – the history of which is really quite interesting. Stretching back almost 3000 years, it’s dotted with great stories and incredible human endeavour. Yet professionals just don’t seem as human. They are nothing like you and me, or the Aussie farmer who happens to be unnervingly good at ping pong.

We all loved Iceland’s unlikely run in Euro 2016 recently, because of their against-all-odds underdog story and the fact that their goal keeper was only a part-timer. I want to cheer on an accountant from Ballarat, not a finely tuned machine with a huge pay packet and even bigger ego.

Australian golfer Adam Scott made a lot of sense when he explained why he wasn’t partaking in Rio. He was refreshingly honest in saying they’d be much better off leaving it to the amateurs.

So for these Games, I am going to throw all cynicism aside, forget the world’s troubles and get behind the amateurs who have dedicated their lives to ridiculous things like competitive walking. They are the real sporting heroes.

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