As much as I anxiously await the arrival of the Summer Olympics every four years, this opening ceremony gave me mixed feelings about London 2012. While I sat on my basement couch, decked out in red, white and blue, with an American flag umbrella in my apple pie, I cocked my head in wonder as I noticed striking similarities. Like many girls who submit themselves to the tide of pop culture, I am a self-proclaimed fan of the series The Hunger Games. Yes, I’ve read the books, seen the first movie twice, and even purchased a “People Magazine—The Hunger Games Edition” prior to seeing the film. The movie, I thought, did a great job of representing the books along with the social undertones of the plot line. But on Friday night, as I watched those dressed in costume parade around a cornucopia-esque stadium re-enact the proudest parts of their country’s history, the analogy seemed almost striking. Although the athletes did not enter on chariots, indeed they were dressed in “uniforms” that came from their homeland. The obvious dis-analogy, of course, was that these young people, the Olympians, were not randomly selected, nor were they cascading towards their imminent demise.
Nevertheless, it seems that Suzanne Collins, the author of the series The Hunger Games, may have seen something in these opening ceremonies (or, as she says, other games on TV) that lead to her books. For those who have not read the series (they are really quite entertaining), the take home point is that this imagined community sacrifices children to enhance the sense of nationalism, and more importantly, “district pride.” And it seems that this has more implications with the Olympics than we would like to admit. Beginning with the Opening Ceremony, the Olympics give people across the globe the opportunity to cheer and celebrate their own country’s heritage—and the heroes from their home soil. Once the games begin, a new attitude sets in. Instead of merely celebrating one’s own country and all of the nations coming together, another country must become the enemy. Newscasters quickly feed into this trap, by showing emotional stories of the American athletes, and playing threatening music while the opposing nation’s athletes appear on screen. Though there is sometimes rivalry between American athletes, citizens are still appeased hearing their National Anthem and watching as the American flag is raised above the rest.
I love the Olympics because it brings us together. It reminds us that we are indeed a spectacular country with fantastic resources and people who strive and succeed. Our athletes are some of the best in the world, and by the end of the games, the USA will bring home a huge percentage of the medals (as we have done in the past). But at the same time, The Hunger Games may give us a reason to pause. Of course, the games are exciting for the winners and give many a chance to celebrate. Still, such fierce, aggressive nationalism does not belong in an international arena. It is important to celebrate the U.S. while celebrating the world. With this in the back of our minds, may the odds be ever in our favor.