Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Going green over Rio's Games

Kidnappings, zika, algae and capybaras. Rio has something for everyone. Photo / AP
Kidnappings, zika, algae and capybaras. Rio has something for everyone. Photo / AP

Olympism isn't a word you hear much. Not even, oddly, during the Olympics. But when you look at what it means according to the "Fundamental Principles" section of the Olympic charter, it's no wonder.

"Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind ... Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on ... respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of Olympism is ... promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

Which doesn't seem to have a lot to do with events occurring in Rio De Janeiro.

To the sports-averse, these are the Olympics we have been waiting for. There is so much to see and ponder that has nothing to do with sport.

The environmental degradation that athletes and spectators have encountered has been in a class of its own. Leaving aside the body parts that washed ashore on Copacabana Beach near the volleyball, there were enough eco-unfriendly disasters to occupy Greenpeace until the next Games, from super-bacteria in the water to swimming pools changing colour in the middle of competition.

After one or two early kidnappings, people go in fear of their safety with good reason - like the bus of journos randomly shot at while travelling between venues.

There is no end of freakish sidelines.

The return of golf to the Games after 112 years has been marked by headlines such as "Large rodents roam greens as golf tees off". The capybara, the world's largest rodent, is described as being a cross between a wombat and a dog.

Golf, by the way, is being played not on one of Rio's old courses but on one built over the habitat of several rare butterflies.

An Australian team ban on visiting Rio's slums briefly cast world attention on the city's poor, the real losers at the $10 billion Games. World attention then turned to the next diverting topic, leaving slum dwellers no better off for their brief moment in the spotlight.

The return of golf to the Games after 112 years has been marked by headlines such as: "Large rodents roam greens as golf tees off".

New Zealand has put in its typically lacklustre performance. Fortunately, our ability to treasure our defeats was able to be put to good use following Sir Mark Todd's performance. You know things are grim when reports have to play the dignity card and ruminate on what a great career this has been. We have been reminded yet again that when we do take on the rest of the world head-to-head at anything we are no match in financial resources, sheer weight of numbers and willingness to embrace performance-enhancing drugs as long as detection remains difficult. Speaking of drugs, the pre-Olympics fuss over who would be allowed to take part because of doubts over their drug-free status was whittled away in confusion and doublespeak.

Meanwhile, the breakout star of the Games didn't earn the description for his sporting performance but by slathering himself in coconut oil and carrying a flag in a circle.

With swimmers from different countries calling each other out for cheating, and sledging in general having been added to the unofficial sports, global unity at the Games is as remote a possibility as a Kiwi gold in athletics.

So although Olympism, as technically defined, may not be in evidence in Rio, in fact the Olympics have brought the world together by cramming every pressing issue of our age into one location for two weeks.

The Rio Olympics are a perfect reflection of everything that is wrong with our times.

- Herald on Sunday

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