Olympic depression and commodification of players

In recent times, during the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a visual realisation, if not representation, of decreased immune health due to a sedentary lifestyle. Best yet, it helped us in understanding the importance of mental health and periodic training, which would benefit anyone over stress and burnout any day.

Maybe, this might be the right time to evaluate and understand the relationship between the sport and sportsperson. The main question everyone (spectator or not, we contribute to sport directly or indirectly) should ask themselves is; in the name of forceful entertainment, are we taking away the humane identity from our beloved sporting individuals? If so, in this rat race, what is the difference between them, and the research objects used in the laboratory?

One such recent example where the Olympic players come out and discuss their mental health issues is through The Weight of Gold – an HBO sports documentary exploring the mental health challenges that Olympic athletes often face. This film released last year, August (2020), when the covid-19 pandemic has postponed the 2020 Tokyo Games. This is the first such postponement in Olympic history.

"The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Tokyo Olympics will have to be cancelled because of the coronavirus," the Times of London alleged, "and the focus is now on securing the Games for the city in the next available year, 2032."

However, the Japanese government insisted the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead this summer 2021, despite reports like The Times one – which state that the already postponed games will be cancelled, amid the increasing cases of covid-19.

As we can see, amidst these sports and entertainment politics, this HBO documentary, if not wrong, talks about how athletes force themselves to work and give their best on that one day, and that is it! Several of the athletes died due to this post and pre-game stress and depression.

"Get a gold or not, we do not know what to do later, maybe because our lives are around the sport, just around the sport and nothing else", says the interviewees (Olympic athletes, including Michael Phelps, Apolo Ohno, Shaun White, Lolo Jones and more) in the film.

The main takeaway from the film, which we can see in several other, almost all the sports are, how the player's mental health is ignored. An interviewee in the film mentions how even after approaching several people in the academy, she did not get the necessary support and was in return suggested to look out for a therapy session in her locality all by herself! Moreover, this harsh reality is not a problem in one sport. From FIFA to Olympics, and best, an audience favourite, the national diplomatic identity – Cricket.

In this context, looking at the commodification of players for the generation of money, let us get straight to the point of "sensationalism". If anything, The Weight of Gold serves as a call to action to fans/audience and athletes alike. So long as the infrastructure in place is designed to support a constant churn of winners, the people who dedicate their lives for this glory are treated as commodities. They will be torn up and thrown out just to feed a beast (authority) that should not exist in the first place.

The idea of sensationalism, especially keeping in view all the references above, is about how media/ill-gotten money-making mongers destroy an athlete's life with one rotten headline about one of their bad performances in their career. As athletes say, if one wins, it is on-air for a day, and people forget about it as they move on to a new sensational performer.

However, if one loses that too on bad terms, no one cares about their image – those episodes of dismay and misrepresentation will haunt them forever. With all these issues, where are the ethos of being true to the sports – athlete, if not a true fan, going? A literate, let alone well-versed, can tell what in entirety is wrong with the "spirit of the game" concerning the idea of money-making.

Blame game strong; we as fellow humans, if not sports fans, should hold up before the so-called authority comes behind us saying, "They asked for it. If there is no viewership, this could have never happened!".

Helpline Resources:

Mental Health in Athletes: 45 Resources to Help You Cope: "[...] even those who perform seemingly superhuman feats struggle sometimes and need support."

All views, posts and opinions shared are my own.


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