Over the past decade and a half or thereabouts, I have published occasional columns pointing out that there is more going on in terms of worldview at the Olympic games than good sportsmanship and keeping a stoic outlook no matter how disappointed one might be at the outcome of a particular event. These worldviews often come closest to public light in commemorations surrounding the games such as the opening or closing ceremonies.
For example, in an audio commentary I noted the blatant paganism at the 2006 games in Greece where the ancient gods were not so much depicted as curiosities of mankind’s religious history with the possibility of a few moral axioms derivable occasionally from these myths when approached as literature. Rather, adoration of these entities was approached as a viable system of belief around which humanity could draw ongoing sustain inspiration moving the world towards cultural unification.
For the most part, such ideological manipulation was aimed largely at a generalized audience irrespective of age. Now it seems Olympic organizers may have more carefully targeted their indoctrination efforts towards children.
During each Olympiad, mascots are created as appealing embodiments of each unique set of games. For example, the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles were represented by Sam the Olympian, a bald eagle clad in red, white, and blue which alluded to Uncle Same and the highest ideals of the American people.
It has been a quarter of a century since then and the practice continues. It is doubtful, though, parents with a lick of sense about them will be as enthusiastic about what is being pushed now as adorable imaginative companions.
The first outrage is really more economic than anything else. Though cluttered over with all the nauseating sentiments about international cooperation and competition being the focal point of the games, ultimately under the banner of these spectacles, significant amounts of money changes hands.
No doubt, nice checks went to the firms and/or artists creating the mascots of the Vancouver games. What the artists this time deserve are gold metals for the least amount work possible going into the artistic rendering of an Olympiad’s mascots.
For example, Sam the Olympian was rendered with the skill, precision, and appeal for which 20th century Disney characters were noted and adored for by the public. One does not need to go into a lengthy backstory to figure out what Sam the Eagle is and what he stands for.
This is not the case of the mascots of the Vancouver winter Olympics. In fact, the firm that designed the characters should have been paid no more for these rendering than one would a doodler in a high school art class. In the high school art class I was enrolled in, one would have received a grade not much above passing had one handed in something looking as ridiculous and simplistic.
What becomes really questionable, however, is in regards to what the mascots represent. The following comes not from conservative or even Christian fundamentalist conspiracy theorists, but rather from the Wikipedia entry for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paraolympic Games mascots.
Of the trio, the most realistic is a Sasquatch named “Quatchi”. That isn’t too bad as for decades as the Sasquatch or Bigfoot has been a cryptozoological celebrity of the Pacific Northwest.
However, it today’s world, it’s never enough to let characters be huggable and adorable in and of themselves. Why waste an opportunity to manipulate young minds away from the values decent parents are trying to inoculate into their children?
Those that look closer at Quatchi will notice that there is a tattoo on his bicep. With over a third of the population mutilated and defaced in this fashion, do children of the world really need additional peer pressure as to this questionable form of bodily ornamentation?
The free spirit who are of a live-and-let-live mindset regarding every questionable practice with the exception of questioning the live-and-let-live mindset will respond, "Why are you fuddiduddies making such a production out of a simple tattoo that no one is going to notice?"
Oh really? If the bio-graffiti was not going to be noticed by spectators, the why did the artist take the time to add this particular design element? It takes so long to produce a finished artistic work that has to go through multiple editorial reviews that it is doubtful that any detail would be overlooked. And if the marking is not there for any particular reason, then why does it need to be there at all?
However, a tattoo strategically placed upon a mascot is not the only aspect about these characters designed to subconsciously lead Western children away from the values of their forefathers. For even though the games are presented as belonging to the world, only Westerners of a multiculturalist inclination would be deluded into thinking that Westerners wouldn’t be the only ones with enough leisure time to soak up the ambiance of the games as well as enough disposable income for all of the assorted trinkets pushed at spectators. After all, though they might excel at warm weather sports such as running, sub-Saharan Africans aren't exactly renowned for their alacrity to ice and snow.
The other mascot of the Olympics Proper is Miga, a mystical sea bear that is part orca and part kermode bear. In other words, unless the poor creature is languishing in a laboratory somewhere, which one shouldn't put past some deranged geneticist just for the Sheol of it these days, it doesn't exist.
Perhaps the most questionable mascot is Sumi. According to Wikipedia, Sumi is "an animal guardian spirit with the wins of a Thunderbird and the legs of a black bear who wears the hat of an orca whale." In other words, it is a mishmashed critter that likes to cross dress.
Though there are numerous jokes that could be made about these two, the important issue is the role guardian spirits and orcas that transform into white bears play in American Indian mythology and belief systems. From as much hoopla that is being made about so-called "native populations" of the Pacific Northwest, one would assume that not Whites lived there or at least ones that did not go around with their shoulders slouched and their heads hunched for simply being White. Since Whites pay taxes too and are less likely to be on the public dole, shouldn't they get some kind of honorable mention for contributing to the culture or at least the economy of the area?
Olympic organizers are no doubt playing up the animistic belief of the area's history for the very same reason that the Athens Olympiad played up that culture's pagan past. For the thing with the amorphous religiosity of the New Age movement under which both Greco-Roman paganism and American Indian shamanism both find acceptance is the idea that the realm of the spirit is coterminous with the physical world. As such, in this system, there can be no authority higher than the earthly institutions that embrace such a mindset.
As an antithetical perspective, monotheism cannot be countenanced since its God exists transcendent to the socio-physical order. God decrees what is and is not right and good. He does not take the findings of committees into consideration and as such the authority of any committee is circumscribed by Him.
This column should not be construed as a blanket condemnation of the imagination. For as a fan of speculative fiction myself, I don’t even hop on the anti-Harry Potter bandwagon with the unreserved enthusiasm demanded by many rigorous theologians and Bible scholars.
Rather, what is being called for here is a notion of epistemological equality. It is quite obvious that a mascot with a Christian or even Hebraic background or origins would not be put up with.
At the Copenhagen Global Warming Summitt, though the God of the Bible had the last laugh as He socked the proceedings with a blizzard, theophobes complained about evergreens planted in front of the conference center because some kook might misconstrue them as Christmas trees. The trees had to be removed in order to prevent any appearance of an endorsement of any particular religion at a UN function. Yet these very same environmental bureaucrats would support multiple layers of laws and regulations ranging all the way from international treaties down to the minutest municipal statutes that would prevent you from removing trees from your very own property.
Proponents of the Olympic games might claim the festival is all about friendly competition and the pursuit of athletic excellence. Realists will point out that it has just as much or even more to do with money and power.
At the global level, the boundaries between government and big business grow increasingly blurred. Thus, at some point in terms of either direct sponsorship or roundabout subsidies, taxpayers around the world are at some level financing the Olympic games out of their own pockets.
Often, even if there is minimal public money flowing into a government agency or even a private organization, these administrative entities must go out of their way to guarantee that they in no way exhibit any kind of preference for one religious system or spiritual belief over another. This standard is especially applied to Christianity.
Though initially founded as a celebration in adoration of heathen idols, theoretically the contemporary Olympic games could be held strictly as a secular competition in terms of philosophical neutrality if its administrators distanced the celebration from its questionable past and stuck to officiating races. Whatever path is decided upon, it will be a deliberate choice.
If those trusted with overseeing this event insist upon pursuing a manipulative mysticism, those redeemed by the one true God should first and foremost boldly warn what is rally going on beneath all the pageantry and excitement. Only then is the individual able to make a truly informed decision in keeping with their conscience.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. He holds a BS in Political Science/History. Frederick earned a MA in Apologetics & Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary. Frederick holds a Doctor of Practical Theology through the Master's Graduate School Of Divinity in Evansville, Indiana. Dr. Meekins is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics through Newburgh Theological Seminary. His books are available in print and electronic formats through Amazon.com. His ministry site, Issachar Bible Church & Apologetics Research Institute, can be found at http://issacharbiblechurch.blogspot.com/. The Twitter page of Dr. Meekins can be found at