Olympians and Their Cameras

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Opening CeremonyAt the bar last night I found something new to bother a friend about.  It was Olympians in the opening ceremonies carrying cameras and phones.  It is my opinion — which I value quite highly — that strolling through the ceremony while looking through the viewfinder of a camera is tacky.  And I’ll explain why.

Never mind that these athletes are guests of the event.  Certainly they earned the privilege to be a part of the games, but no one gets there without someone else choosing them for the team.  It is my opinion — and it is a good one — that this is an honor that should not be treated like a self-serving spectacle.  Wait until you get on the Wheaties for that.

But that in itself does not make the camera faux pas tacky.  It is simpler than that.  This is a global event featuring a tiny, tiny number of people fortunate enough to be recognized before the entire television-owning world for a few brief moments all because of their ability to play a game.  That is great.  But rather than proceed through the ceremony — waving, smiling, soaking up the recognition — some athletes have to film it.  It makes it all about the self.

Filming it is another layer of narcissism.  From your little camera phone it says “This is what I saw” when in fact I think the truly special aspect of the entire event is being seen by the world as a whole.  In other words, it isn’t enough that the world sees me, the world sees me and I care about what I see.  It turns a heel on the honor and makes it the self-serving spectacle.

Want proof?

Imagine for a moment that you know an Olympic athlete who captured his or her fifteen minutes on wmv file.  How long would you sit through a showing of that video at a house party?  Yeah, it might be cool for a minute and I have never been there, but being there and being a part of the show is a memory that thousands of athletes before the age of portable cameras enjoyed, cherish, and remember without the help of a camera.

1960 USA Olympic TeamThe act of filming one’s experiences is inherently a subjective one.  You are capturing not just the moment, but your moment.  In the case of the Olympics, it takes a world event and turns it into a me event.  It is the sort of thing Vladimir Putin would do.

I think this is the reason it bothers me.  The Olympics is about bring people and nations together in a global event.  The me event does not square with that.

Because I was distracted by a beautiful young woman to my left, I did not see every team in the opening ceremony promenade, but I did see many teams walk without one team member carrying a camera.  But many did.  The worst offender?  The United States.  Very disappointing.  But the United States does exalt the self, however deserved it is.  (Killer George Zimmerman has been tapped as a “celebrity” for a celebrity boxing match.)

I suppose I could not resist a discreet photo of a spectacle of which I am briefly at the center, but to parade with a camera rolling strikes me as juvenile and tacky.  It’s a display of me, my possessions, and my ego.  Even Miley Cyrus resists the temptation to talk twerking selfies while on stage, why can our athletes be half as dignified?

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