Friday, August 10, 2012

Compete This

As there are no Olympic competitions for poker, cigar smoking or the occasional hangover, I’m afraid my characters such as the semi-homeless Vietnam vet Magrady to O’Conner, the guy who shows up on a failing motorcycle and squats in a foreclosed house in a once ritzy sub-division in the upcoming Warlord of Willow Ridge, would be out of the running. 
 
Though I can imagine one of my shady characters getting kicked out for trying to fix a badminton match...or two. And really, isn’t Badminton the perfect Dickensian-like name?     
 
But I digress Criminal Minds sports fans for did you know from 1912 to 1948, the Olympics had medal competitions in sculpture, literature, painting, music composition and architecture.  The piece featured in the graphic to the right is called the Knockdown and was done by Mahonri Young – grandson of Brigham.  His piece won a gold medal in the sculpture category in the 1932 Olympics, held in Los Angeles. 
 
Today there’s still this cool statue in front of the Coliseum in South Central near where I grew up from that time.  Anyway, also at the ’32 Olympics, John Hughes of Great Brittan won gold in the town planning category and Josef Peterson of Denmark nabbed silver in literature for “The Argonauts” (he’d also gotten silver in Paris at the 1924 Olympics).  Literature was limited to 20,000 words in any language, as long as the piece was accompanied by a translation in English or French.
 
In the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin, while black speedster Jesse Owens took it to the “Master Race” theory as applied in sports, seems according to Ashley Petters in her article for The Atlantic about this period in the Olympics, those damn Nazis frontloaded the arts competition what with 29 German judges versus 12 from other countries.  In keeping with the original spirit of the games, the arts competitions were restricted to amateurs.  While this would be altered in the coming years in terms of the sports end – giving us such efforts as the U.S. basketball Dream Team composed of NBA star hoopsters and the Williams sisters dominating on the tennis court – the powers that be as Petters quoted determined, it was “…illogical that professionals should compete at such exhibitions and be awarded Olympic medals.”
 
This sentiment coupled with incredible inconsistencies in how someone was labeled pro versus amateur killed off the medal competing after the games in London in ’48.  They’ve since been replaced by the Cultural Olympiad, a series of Olympics-related cultural events that take place in the host city during the games themselves.  On the NewsHour this past Wednesday on PBS, there was the sparkly Priscila Uppal with a laurel of many tiny Canadian flags in her hair doing her thing.  She’s the poet in residence of Canadian Athletes Now, an organization supporting her country’s athletes and she recited her pretty cool “Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder” piece.
 
Now that’s the spirit.

3 comments:

Meredith Cole said...

I like the idea of giving a gold medal for literature, Gary! I don't think the judging could be any more or less subjective than the gold medals they give out for sports like synchronized swimming...

Reece said...

Really interesting, Gary. I agree that writing is more of an athletic event than most people realize. It's not easy to keep your butt in the chair for such extended periods.

Gary Phillips said...

I can just see it now, the gold medal for writing endurance -- who can grind out more coherent pages without distractng themselves...