TV Slaves

Sadly, I am not surprised that it has happened again. Oblivious to the chains that bind us, we have again allowed ourselves to be sold and bought upon the auction block to the highest bidder. Our hopes and dreams are no longer our own. What credence has ever been given to the hopes and dreams of slaves? Slaves must work, without pay or complaint for the profit of the master. 

Fuelled by greed and driven by the need for profit, corporations vie for control of the Earth’s resources. However the greatest and most profitable resource that can be controlled is not oil, gas, minerals, or lumber but rather human beings. 

Slaves should at least know who they are working for. The athlete slaves, and the television rights to cover swimming at the Rio 2016 Olympics have been sold by International Olympic Committee and FINA, the world governing body of swimming, to the American NBC television network. NBC a subsidiary of the US-based international Comcast Corporation, which is the largest broadcasting and cable corporation in the world by revenue. 

Sold along with the television rights, was the power to dictate the time when the event will be held in Brazil, to facilitate it being viewed at prime time (8 pm to 10 pm) by an American television audience. 

Against the powerless protests of the world’s coaches and athletes, swimming at the Rio 2012 Olympics will now be swum as late as 12.25 am for the semi-finals and finals sessions which will begin at 10 pm. The preliminary rounds will also start ridiculously late by conventional standards at 1 pm and run as a late as 3.30 in the afternoon. NBC paid US$4.4 billion for the television rights to cover the Olympics through the 2020 Tokyo Games.

According to Yahoo Sports, swimming is the most viewed Olympic sport followed by track and gymnastics. In Beijing, NBC dictated that the finals be  swum early in the morning to be live for prime time in the United States. I am willing to bet that in Tokyo we can expect the same. Why does this time change happen to swimming and never to track? It’s not just about the athletes and the American television audience, but also about the Brazilian people. 

A workforce of thousands of Brazilian volunteers will make the games run, and the Brazilian taxpayers are paying for it by  taking on massive debt to foot the immense bill for the Olympics, which is now estimated to be upwards of 36.7 Billion Reais, or approximately US$16.26 billion.

I must admit that I am surprised that Brazil would kowtow to US corporate hegemony and suffer the inconvenience of staying up past midnight to watch and support their many hometown heroes and medal hopefuls at their own games, instead of viewing it in their own prime time evening television window. 

On paper, swimming at midnight sounds like nothing more than an inconvenience. The reality is this. The latest event is slated to finish at 12.25 am. For the viewers the show is over, but for the athletes there will a needed warm down, massage, possible drug test, bus ride, and dinner before hopefully getting to sleep by 3 am. However sleeping late will be a challenge. The crowded Olympic village awakes early, and the departure to venues of excited athletes and officials is sounded by yelling, door slamming and the loud roaring of buses outside. 

“So what, it’s the same for everyone” some might argue. From the perspective of someone viewing in the stands, yes. Athletes can adapt, thats what they do. However, believe me for the Olympians competing, the true competition takes place in their own lane against themselves. It’s very difficult for people who have never competed to understand the level of dedication and self mastery that is necessary for improvement at such an elite level. 

The goal of every Olympian is simply to be the best they can be, to express and manifest their inborn potential regardless of weather it’s a gold medal or simply a new PB (personal best) in the heats. For this, all we ask is that we are given an even playing field and not put at a disadvantage before we start by swimming at midnight, when it is scientifically proven that our circadian rhythms will have our bodies primed for sleep instead of optimum performance. 

For someone in the stands a personal best time is just a time, something that seems intangible and abstract. However for an athlete that time is tangible. It’s something that they wear around with pride. That time was created meticulously one detail at a time with blood, sweat and tears–one early morning at a time, one repeat at a time for years. Its as valuable as the jewelry that you have locked up at home.

A best time is as real as that diploma that you hang’s on your wall behind your desk. An improvement as small as a few hundredths of a second closer to perfection is like hanging a MSc or a PhD next to that diploma. 

The corporate for profit spirit of  this millennium’s Olympic games bears little resemblance to it’s heroic Ancient Greek roots. The greatest show on Earth every four years is becoming even more of a show and less of a competition.

Now it’s a corporate circus where the host city foots the bill, and the gladiator slave athletes toil for four years, yet never see the indignant profit their labour generates; the very same profit that comes from the premium price of the television advertisements that dictate the adverse conditions under which they overcome in their noble quest for greatness.