It started. Actually it started last Friday. Another opening ceremony like we have seen since 1992. It is always a great show and looked to me quite similar to the London one. Showing the past and the glorious history of a country, its main events and cultural summits are the most common content of such ceremonies.
So like many people, I know what this month of Feb wil be made of when not being busy : Winter Olympics ! And as I do like most of the sports, it is a sort of nice buffet where I can pick up what I like having every day. Such a comfort !
As we are on the 7th day of the event, the race for medals is largely on. Some are winning. Some are loosing. This is what competition is made of.
But how did these Winter Olympics really start ? Well a couple of weeks or months ago with all the negatives obviously : scandalous budget, homophobic laws, restricted rights, destructions of wildlife, expropriations and the list is pretty long.To this the reaction has been pretty clear with demonstrations, critics, boycotts and so on. Most of western countries made their voice clear on all those topics.
Right before the games you had the adventures of journalists arriving to the spot of the games : hotels not ready, poorly installed, hazardous water pipes, holes in the venues, no Internet and all that despite the enormous price they paid for their accommodations.
For the last 6 days the complains came on the quality of the snow, the dangerousness of the slopes, the bad shape of the half-pipe and so on. It had as a result, for instance on snowboard, to the already crowned to be king to fail his games. But all those competitions had winners, and good ones. Unexpected ones ?
This Sunday was a beautiful day here in Switzerland. I mean it was a cloudy morning followed by a sunny afternoon. As most of the weekends I was in the mountain, enjoying some snowshoeing with great people. A beautiful tour where the weather changed from snowy to sunny. At some moment, half way actually we stopped. I jumped in a beautiful white spot, took a shovel out of my backpack and started to build a little wind shelter. You cut the snow, you pile up some, you dig. A great moment of fun ! a very useful fun as it would enable us to get protected from the wind when having our bivouac.
On this same day a lot of people , in Switzerland, did the same. Thanks to their vote , they build a shelter in order to be quiet and not disturbed while they live their life. They voted for a great step back, not only politically but as well in terms of humanity. Afraid and supposedly tired of this place and its benefits getting spoiled and endangered by newcomers, they decided to close the venue. Only the people with the right badge could have access or stay. And new badges will be harder to get in the future.
I heard a lot of comments about the opening ceremony. And some from the Swiss TV commentators. With a disguised laughter they tried to not criticize openly what they had in front of their eyes but they just couldn’t. How come the artistic director dares glorifying the Russian 20th century ? Or how does he dare not doing it and fight the power back ? Other comments where pretty judgmental on the extra cheering and support the Russian Team gets every time it is on-screen : something like come on guys we got it – ok enough now… .
I just realized that if you are shocked by that kind of celebrations, or by the scandals of the corruption and the (ab)use of power, maybe it isn’t so much about the content…but more about the style. It looks to me that the vote we faced here was the silent expression of what other nations claim loudly. To the extroverted show and celebration of the national pride, we saw here the introverted shout of the same pride. Even worse : by not sharing it loudly, you don’t allow the others to take a clear position or at least to see what all is about. To a visible content that allows a critic, we silently decided that our culture, values and history mustn’t be shared any further. And we thought and think that no critic is allowed. It is our business. No peeks allowed.
I figured when watching the opening ceremony that indeed some stuff looked pretty nationalist, but actually as much as any country celebrating their culture in public. You can’t escape from all the stereotypes as 3 hours to talk about hundreds of years of history…well it is quite short. But probably what puzzled western people a lot is the style. It is just the Slavic style. And here, if compared to London, no worldwide known director that could soften the image by giving to it an “artistic” value when the message stays the same : we are proud of what we are and what we have accomplished.
Until recently I believed that Switzerland had the same and even a little plus. They had an idea of what the future could be like, just because of a simple fact : such a long-term stability enables you to be ready to face any challenge. And the surprise of the vote – and disappointment – is that there is no idea or trust in the future. People got caught into the extreme phenomenon of eternal immobility. The “end of history” scheme. When you think nothing more that what has been achieved is achievable and you’ve reached the top of the pop. From there on you only focus on trying to not lose what you have accomplished (with or without efforts, what matters is the status, not the journey anymore). it is even more obvious that when asking already established foreigners, second generation with Swiss nationality, they voted for this restriction of immigration in order to preserve what they have gained.
I can understand such fears. I can imagine what it is to feel like threatened. I actually do, our family history had to face such – for some more rational reasons but well any system is relative ?! What I don’t understand is the hypocrisy and pride related to it. Indeed it is easy to criticize the Russian’s regime and the way they deal with what are their problems. It is far away and so easy to just take a position when there’s no true involvement, meaning it won’t change your everyday or endanger you. When such goes into an established mindset that you expect from foreigners to acquire if they want to stay for a longer period, maybe it is good the vote closed the gates ; it will preserve the fighting and hopeful spirit most of the people of the poorer / less advance / in development countries have and gives them the strength to face hard and humiliating situations in these new places they have to come to in order to survive. Because what a lot of people here forget is that they as well are proud of there they are and would actually do anything to stay there rather than having to quit it all. Some would say a minority of them don’t, well that’s true like it is anywhere.
I remember watching a very nice documentary about the creation of the Air rescue team in Himalaya with the great help of Air Zermatt. When arriving there, the famous Air Zermatt pilot Gerold Biner is asked by the swiss-german journalist , when checking the Nepalese chopper, if he trusts that engine. Gerold has this great answer, first a bit technical ” it is new and in very good shape, of course in Switzerland we would transform and change a lot of stuff in it” and after a second ” of course I trust them ; all these people have family and kids and they don’t want to die”.
I do believe our current scale of measuring the greatness of nations (and therefore its people) is not anymore on how much they have achieved – as let’s speak frankly, most of the countries have great researchers, scientists, artists and historical moments that build their equity. No, what matters is how they can live the present and project themselves in the future. Owning is about past, sharing is about the future.
Most of Western and developed Countries believed they reached the last ever possible level of their evolution. And they easily laugh at others that are on the way to something. They point out all the mistakes they are making, all what doesn’t work and feel much cleverer. I heard during the Olympics, on French public TV, on a biathlon race : ” No No No! Come on a Czech can not come before the French !!”. What should we think ? I believe the words don’t match the thinking and there’s no true racism in there. But there is a state of mind that what had been achieved is better than what is on the way to be achieved. If you train for only repeating and maintain your performance, you will sooner or later under-perform. If you think your practice method you had for years is the best and never looked around, the moment comes when you’re sort of outdated. The bad thing is when you believe that because you achieved something, you deserve it forever. Or there is no other way to measure excellence.
Couple of decades ago, Sting asked himself if the Russians loved their children too ? I think a lot of people still have doubts on the answer…it is a pity…as they doubt it for a lot of other nationalities too..
And it is very unfortunate that the answer for Swiss…tends now half way to the negative…