Various people on the BBC keep telling me that "We've won lots of gold medals." I'm a bit confused about this. I haven't been anywhere near the Olympic Stadium or any of the outlying venues and, anyway, as there isn't a funny photoshop event, I wouldn't stand any chance whatsoever of winning anything if I did enter. In fact, it would be more embarrassing than Eddie the Eagle on a bad day.
As far as I can make out, in each event one person wins a gold medal. They are all exceedingly good at their chosen sport and must have trained really hard for a long time. I'm glad they are so happy when they win although I do feel sorry for all the competitors who don't. Imagine putting all that work in and getting nothing for it at the end of the day, which I don't have to because I know exactly how it feels. If I was in charge I would give everyone a gold medal. But, I am not in charge and in these Olympic Games it is definitely only the person who comes first who wins a medal, not me and not anybody else.
In all seriousness I do not like all the patriotism that surrounds competitions like the Olympic Games. I don't want to be proud of the fact that somebody from Sheffield who I have never met has just won a gong by proving himself to be better at something than everybody else. I really don't like all the triumphalism that follows the event. The whole thing stinks of warfare, oneupmanship and capitalism to me. I don't like the way that everything is being turned into a competition nowadays. There are shows on television where people compete to be called the best cook. There are national and international prizes for best books and best films. Completely talentless people are being duped to make fools of themselves on television by cocking up things they couldn't do in the first place. It's about winning at the expense of everyone else losing.
It's not that I am against winning per se. I try to win. When I put together a service or write a blog post, I want to win. But not "win" as in being better than anybody else, but "win" as in succeeding. Back in the day when I was a lorry driver I went for the win. It's a pretty mundane job but I got pleasure out of doing it well, never having an accident and never breaking the rules of the road. Most days I went home feeling like the job was well done. When great artists paint a great picture, when great authors write a great book, when great ballet dancers dance a great ballet, they shouldn't need to be told they are better than everyone else, they certainly don't need to be told they are not quite as good as someone else. Winning should be a personal thing and never comparative.
Last week I posted a piece on the difference between pragmatic people and idealists. I suggested that they were two distinct types. It seems to me that another two distinct types are those who get wanting to win by beating others and those who perceive such endeavour as "non-sporting" in the extreme. People who enjoy competition, being involved in it themselves or watching it, think it is as natural and good for you as breathing in fresh air. Those of us who avoid competition just don't understand why competitors want to get their kicks by rubbing the noses of those they beat into a big, stinking pile of "you loser!"
However, it does appear to be a competitors' world that we live in and if you aren't prepared to compete with everyone else, including colleagues, friends and family, you end up with nothing. Perhaps we lionise gold medal winners because it justifies the lengths many of us will go to in order to come first in life. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jesus was in charge of the Olympic Games the medal ceremonies would consist of Our Lord calling all the competitors together after each event and telling them, "You've all done very well." And leaving it at that.