The Olympics is meant to be about human performance at its finest – faster, higher, stronger, as the Olympic motto puts it.
Every four years we see people who have dedicated their lives to training heir bodies and perfecting their skill, celebrating and receiving due recognition for their remarkable achievements.
But there’s also the inevitable dingy underbelly – the drug cheats who are banned, the embarrassing need to feature “reject doping” messages even in the Opening Ceremony speeches and, most distastefully, the accusations that are thrown at the best performers.
This latter trend has come out in a particularly ugly way in the case of Ye Shiwen. The Chinese swimmer has wiped the floor with more established opponents, prompting some to accuse her of doping without a shred of evidence other than her staggering performances. It is outrageous that even before any retrospective test results come back, and having passed previous tests with apparently flying colours, her name should be dragged through the mud like this.
While some are unduly slandered, others of course do cheat and some presumably get away with it. Particular sports like cycling have historically been notorious for being riddled with performance enhancing drugs.
Isn’t there a better way than our current approach to reduce these problems?
Why not introduce a new layer of the Olympics – the Augmented Olympics?
We would still have the main event, the Natural Olympics, where you compete unaided by drugs or excessive technology. But we would also have another contest, where you can take all the performance enhancing, eyesight sharpening, foot enlarging drugs you like, and you can wear swimsuits made of the latest nanotechnology or carbon fibre springs.
Just as the Paralympics is separated into different categories for each event, you could have chemically, biologically and mechanically augmented events.
As well as making it far more attractive for today’s drug cheats to opt out of the current Olympics and enter something where they are not risking their entire careers by cheating, thus making things fairer for the honest athletes, this would also have beneficial effects in terms of technological and medical development.
Just as Formula 1 produces cars that aren’t intended for the roads but generates huge technological trickle down performance, efficiency and safety improvements in the mass market, the Augmented Olympics would do the same.
Experiments in increasing lung capacity or oxygen absorption in swimmers offer clear benefits for those with breathing problems or lungs that have been removed due to cancer. Bionic exoskeletons for weightlifting would undoubtedlybe useful to increase capacity and safety in the military and heavy industries. Exploring safe ways to boost muscle growth or speed up reaction times could have all sorts of applications from the recreational to the medical.
The incentives offered by the potential of such research and development would surely be likely to attract more private sector sponsorship for sport, too.
The temptation to cheat will never go away, and those too weak to resist it will always be with us. That is the nature of the human condition. But if there is a way to reduce that temptation, and unlock wider benefits for science and society at the same time, we should consider it.
Dan Hannan MEP draws attention to the latest propaganda video from the European Union:
As he points out, there are some pretty dubious racial undertones in the way that the non-European blocs are represented.
But there are other insights into the Brussels mindset here, too.
The first is the EU’s view of trade. When these snarling attackers advance on the innocent white young lady representing the EU, they are waving swords, spinning roundhouse kicks and yelling. They are, of course, meant to represent China, India and Africa’s economic growth. That’s right – far from viewing the rise in prosperity and the improvement in industrialisation in the developing world as an opportunity to trade, share innovations and collaborate, the EU views them as a threat.
When Brussels sees the rest of the world as would-be assailants rather than a route to further prosperity, it is small wonder that a protectionist Fortress Europe has been constructed, to our great cost.
The second is the shift in the way the EU is trying to make its case to the disengaged and unenthused peoples of Europe. Ten years ago, the EU’s propaganda was all sweetness and light, absurdly saccharine promises of the sunlit uplands of federalism. Now, as I predicted back in December, they are shifting their rhetoric to one of fear and scaremongering.
Fundamentally, this is because people have realised there is little to love about the EU project. Endemic corruption, overbearing regulation, arrogant and out of touch technocrats and – worst of all in these tough times – devastating economic harm done to member states and ordinary citizens, all these factors have dispelled the myths the EU elites once peddled.
All Brussels is left with is a message of fear. Internationally, that means videos like this, stirring up fear of the foreigner in a return to the loathsome “yellow peril” rhetoric of a century ago. Domestically, it will mean predictions of civil war and a return to genocide in Europe if anyone dares to question why Brussels should be so powerful despite its lack of democratic mandate.
When a political movement – and the EU, for all its pretensions to superhuman impartiality, is a political movement – resorts to lashing out like this, it is a sign that it is in its death throes. The worrying question is how much harm it will do to all of us before it finally expires.
While all eyes have been on the News of the World, the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has deepened severely over the last few days. Italy’s stock market has taken a hammering, Chinese ratings agencies are warning of a potential credit downgrade, and a new corruption scandal has emerged which may potentially threaten the Finance Minister’s position at a crucial time.
EU President Herman van Rompuy has called an emergency meeting to discuss how to prevent the contagion worsening.
The problem the EU is discovering is that no matter how many times you say things are fine, you can’t buck the basic reality of the markets. If you don’t have the cash, then eventually you’re bound to come unstuck.
It’s remarkable that this story isn’t getting more attention in the UK. If you doubt that it’s a big one, try this quote from the embattled Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti for size:
If I fall, then Italy falls. If Italy falls, then so falls the euro. It is a chain.
Can it get much bigger than that?
Yesterday was the 10th of March – the 52nd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, in which over 80,000 Tibetans were killed by the Chinese authorities for daring to demand liberty an self-determination.
As a supporter of the Free Tibet movement, I’ll be helping to commemorate that event and support Tibetans’ demands for freedom at a march tomorrow, Saturday 12th March, from Victoria to the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place. The full details, times and route are online here. If you’d like to come along too, either I’ll see you there or comment below or tweet at me, and we can arrange to meet.
For those of you who haven’t been to such an event before, the Free Tibet movement is brilliant – a friendly alliance of Tibetan exiles, Buddhists, hippies and anti-Communist freedom activists pulling together in a common cause. If you’re free tomorrow, please come along.
Those big brains at the Pentagon seem to be losing their touch a bit – at least when it comes to the pressing issue of China’s military growth. Obviously with the economic contest between the USA and China powering away amid speculation that America’s crown is about to be nicked, the darker issue is whether China might be able to seize military dominance in the Pacific.
Unfortunately, the spooks who are meant to be keeping an eye on these things are apparently a bit, err, misinformed. here they were on January 6th:
And here they are with egg on their faces a mere five days later:
Hattip to JM
Today is the 65th anniversary of the first use in war of the atomic bomb, which destroyed Hiroshima. 145,000 people died. On the 9th of August another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and on the 15th Japan surrendered, ending the Second World War.
There are, of course, major memorial ceremonies taking place for those who were killed in the bombing. It’s right that that happens, and no-one would deny the pain and suffering that occurred as a result of the bombing.
But for all that, after 65 years for the world to reflect on the dropping of the atomic bomb, I cannot think anything other than it was the right thing to do.
While we remember today the people who died, we should also remember all the people who were saved as a result of the dropping of those two atomic bombs.
The war was brought to an almost immediate end, whereas it would otherwise have ground on for months or more. A war of attrition and island-hopping, ending with an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands and lasting into 1946 or even 1947 would have claimed the lives of untold servicemen and civilians on both sides.
Millions were freed from slavery – not just the 100,000+ Allied POWs who even with the early end of the war suffered an estimated 25% fatality rate, but the 4 million+ Javanese, the 10 million+ Chinese and the 5 million+ Koreans forced into slave labour by the Japanese military, and many more.
The novelist JG Ballard, whose childhood experiences in Japanese internment camps were immortalised in Empire of the Sun, was a teenager caught in a mad world of death marches, torture, murder and starvation on the Chinese mainland when the bombs were dropped. As he wrote later:
“the atom bombs…almost certainly saved the lives of myself and my fellow internees in Shanghai.”
So while we remember today those who died in the flash and poisonous aftermath of those bombs, let us also remember all those who were saved and freed as a result. The decisions taken 65 years ago were horrific, but they were also the right thing to do.