The circle of life has spun around and, once again, we find ourselves immersed in the “limplicks”. (That is what my children used to call this event. I’m just being careful. The thing is so heavily sponsored by big corporations that in some cases just mentioning the “O” word could get a person sued.) Is it just me, or has some of the joy been sucked out of it?

There are still some inspirational moments. There are plenty of athletes who are thrilled to be given the opportunity to take part and represent their country. For example, I saw brief footage of a chap gamely rowing his single skull, struggling to hold on to his oar, grimacing with pain and effort, while all the other competitors had finished long before. The spectators were cheering him on as if he was going for gold. For me, that’s what the limplicks is all about. I wish we could see more of that sort of thing: someone, proud to represent their homeland, doing their best.

On the down-side, I saw a lovely young Chinese archer with hideous yellow tape plastered all over his cap, because it wasn’t made by one of the big sponsors. PUH-LEASE! He probably couldn’t afford the sponsor’s cap; not many of us can. If it was such a big deal, why didn’t the official cap people give him one? Was it because they weren’t expecting him to do so well? I saw a Japanese hurdler, right leg heavily bandaged, limp his way to the finish and then collapse onto the ground. No one…I repeat no one ran to help him. Not one other athlete lent him a shoulder to lean on while he struggled to leave the ground. Not one official offered assistance. Perhaps he was one of those “amateurs” who didn’t have a sponsor, so therefore he wasn’t important.

If a dedicated young Aussie swimmer gets silver, she’s reduced to tears and feels she has to apologise for “letting us down”. It’s silver, baby; that’s brilliant! A young man, still in the early days of his career and with lots of potential, is made to feel as if it was all his fault that a relay team didn’t win. (Note to everyone: there are 4 – count ’em – four swimmers in a relay team.) Yes they didn’t win, but they did their best on the day. Hooray for them, I say.

The trouble is, as always, money. The limplicks needs money or it won’t survive. I mean, it’s the biggest single world event for our planet. It takes serious cash. The poor Greeks are in the proverbial financial toilet as a result of hosting one in 2004. (Ok, there were other factors involved, but the limplicks tipped them over the edge.) The organising committee needs the big corporations to put up the dough. Good on ’em. It’s just that if you dance with the devil, you pay the consequences. Those same corporations, and the advertising companies, all demand their pound of flesh.

So, the talented athletes find they’ve been sold to the highest bidder. They’re no longer just competing for their country, their families and themselves. They’re running/swimming/riding… for their corporate sponsors. It’s no longer good enough to simply take part and do their best. They must win; and nothing less than gold is good enough. It’s a sad, sad thing.

I’m a huge sports fan and I’m a proud Aussie. I cheer when the hockey/basketball/beach volley-ball/rowing/sailing/swimming teams win. When an Aussie swims/runs/shoots/rows/rides/lifts weights, I shout at the television urging them on. I would be sad to see the limplicks disappear. There is something amazingly beautiful about an arena full of people from almost every nation on the planet, gathered together celebrating life. However, the raison d’etre for the limplicks has changed. And, in our endeavour to keep it all going, I think we’ve lost some of the joy and wonder.