An Olympic gold medal — the ultimate personal ornament — is not really made of gold — only gold-plated — and the Olympic Games is not really about sport — only commercial opportunism for some and sentimentalised nationalism for many. For governments that subsidise their athletes — and that’s pretty well all of them — the Olympic Games are proxy warfare.
However, shining through it all from many, if not most, young people are the good qualities which make them so attractive — enthusiasm, generosity and, usually, intensity of purpose which has enabled them to spend years in hard training to perfect their skills.
Young adults– as most of them are — also reflect a deep instinct of the human species — a great psychological need to meet and socialize in small groups. It is this instinctive quality that enables governments so easily to scale up the loyalty of small groups into full-blown nationalism.
Or at least young adults used to be manipulable — say at the time of the First World War in 1914 when millions of volunteers in several European countries went to war and died ‘for their country’. There were microscopically few volunteers when the Second World War came along in 1939.
Today, unless one’s country is actually being invaded, there are no volunteers and governments are even unable to recruit anywhere near enough full-time soldiers and sailors and pilots. The Sea Lords, for example, are dreadfully worried how they’re going to find the three thousand personnel required for the two colossal aircraft carriers.
Young people, as well as the Sea Lords, are fully aware that carriers are highly vulnerable to submarine attack no matter how well they try to protect the vessels electronically.
But returning to the Olympic Games, most young people today are nowhere as interested in active sport as they used to be. They’re not watching the Games on the television channels, but spend their time chatting with one another or playing video games on their smartphones.
The above applies to the young people in the approximate total population of 1 billion in the advanced countries. In the less advanced countries, smartphones are scarcer — at present! — but not scarce enough for them not to be aware of the huge gulf in the way of life of the advanced countries and their own.
They’re not watching the Olympic Games but wondering how to migrate to countries that have jobs or their families are saving up hard to pay traffickers. Just how the Games are going to change — or even die out — in future years is impossible to say.
The whole world situation is a problematique that’s far too complex for us to discern what may happen — still less for nation-state governments to imagine that the ‘certainties’ and institutions on which they presently rely can continue for much longer.