Olympics Offer U.S. Image Makeover Slightly Maybe

One of the best lead-ins to a news story I’ve read in quite a while comes to us straight from The Sydney Morning Herald during their Olympic coverage. This time, they address the U.S. Basketball team and it’s so clever the way they use the sport to illustrate international opinion of the U.S. in general.

AS YOU might expect from a nation that refers to the winners of its domestic sporting competitions as ‘world champions’, American athletes generally possess the global vision of an earthworm with cataracts.

That is beautiful. I’m sure all the Olympic athletes representing the U.S. are given meaty lectures on how they’re not just athletic ambassadors, but cultural and political representatives of the U.S. as well (the article touches on the whole 1971 table tennis match between the U.S. and China that helped tear down the “bamboo curtain”). For their sake, I’m hoping the athletes can at least name the two major candidates for president.

And, if the less political savvy members of Team USA were not already aware of the political, economic and cultural resonance of this clash between a struggling world power and an emerging rival, then a peek into the crowd should set them straight…

George W. Bush’s appearance courtside will be, according to American officials, the first time a serving US president has watched the American team…

Seemingly aware of both the tough competition they face to win the gold medal and the political sensitivities of their match against the Chinese, this latest Dream Team is striving to present a humble public face…

Couldn’t leave out America’s reputation as materialistic monsters of consumption, could you?

While they chose a five-star hotel instead of the athletes’ village, Dream Team 2008 at least rubbed shoulders with other athletes in the dining hall one day. And, at a chaotic press conference here yesterday, everyone from coach Mike Krzyzewski through to his roster of 12 superstars had been as well drilled in the art of modesty as they had in the unfamiliar “international” rules under which the Olympic tournament is conducted…

(Jason) Kidd said: ‘This is is a well-behaved team. We won’t show anyone up. We are here to play basketball at a high level. There won’t be any showboating.’..

But, before a massive audience tomorrow night, it could be how they behave as a team that creates a lasting impression.

I doubt the behavior of our basketball team will leave any lasting impressions of our country worse than our actual president. But Bush has left the world wanting to dislike us and the view of our basketball team is a reflection of this. I’ve asked myself a number of times how much we owe the rest of the world when we elect our president. I used to think not much, but after the tread marks left across the globe by Bush, I do think we should take into account not just the president that can make my life personally better – but a president that can behave well enough not to leave international opinion of the U.S. on the shoulders of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.


3 Responses to “Olympics Offer U.S. Image Makeover Slightly Maybe”

  1. 1 Marc
    August 10, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Well M,
    I’m watching the US/China game right now, and its looking like clean competitive basketball to me.

  2. 2 Rob
    August 11, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Just wondering what you think about the stuff happening in the 3 or 4 sided war in Russia/Ossetia/Georgia?

    Russia Today seems to be acting more like our media should be acting. What are your thoughts on this, I’ll be interested to see a post about it in the future, I don’t know what the heck is going on over there, it’s like watching a game of Risk and figuring out who to cheer for…

  3. August 12, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Marc – We watched the basketball game, too. I think the smartest decision by the United States Olympic Committee ever was to make Mike Krzyzewski the coach. He is freaking awesome.

    Rob – here are a couple links to some decent articles on the deal with Georgia/Russia. Stratfor has the best insights, but I’m a bit biased, as you know:




    The U.S. has been fairly hypocritical in its policies towards Russia, but of course, our government doesn’t really give a shit when money and security are involved – as they are in this case. Russia, will continue to return to its Soviet ways and we shouldn’t be surprised my any moves they make at this point. As far as who to cheer for, everyone has a legitimate dog in this fight if you put yourself in their shoes. It’s geopolitics, economics and security at its best – there are no right answers and it’s all a complicated maelstrom of sovereign egos. Love it. Except for the whole death part of it.

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