Just thinking about the Olympics and wanting to share some thoughts. As I watched the fanfare and excitement that characterized the various events, I kept wondering why on earth our female competitors across the haul needed to wear such skimpy pants in order to enable them run a good race, do a long jump or participate in whatever event they did do. Perhaps I am a boring old prude to suggest that a bit more modesty wouldn’t be amiss. We’ve become so accustomed to this degree of undress in the whole design of female sportswear that strutting around in the skimpiest, lowest cut sports briefs (don’t know what else to call them), is seen as perfectly normal. Why didn’t we see our male athletes donning similar skimpy wear that to reveal portions of their bum cheeks even! Urrrghhh! Really, someone tell me why sportswear for men is not designed to be as revealing as it has for their female counterparts? Why do we get to reveal our bum cheeks and strut around in the most revealing briefs and not the men? I am no prude, call me one if you dare but I just believe that this level of skimpiness (as visually appealing on many a female competitor as it is to the aesthetic eye, I can’t lie about that), is simply unnecessary. Skimpy perhaps but not that skimpy! I think sports governing bodies should set some sort of standards in relation to how far revealing the these sports designs can get. I guess each person’s notion of decency is as different from one to the other. Perhaps for these governing bodies, even skimpy bottom briefs for our female sports athletes is perfectly acceptable, but I personally believe no one needs to see any one’s half exposed bum cheeks as part of the sporting experience otherwise we might as well expose a bit more and a bit more and a bit more…..you catch my drift. Soon, there might be nothing left to expose, and so just because our female athletes all have fabulous and athletic physiques, is no reason to go slightly berserk with wearing ridiculously skimpy briefs in order to run a good race. I ask again, why does this not apply to the male athletes or why didn’t Usain Bolt for instance traipse out onto the track in the skimpiest of briefs in order to ensure he had the best chance of running his best race? Of course swimming would be the one sport where I would understand skimpy wear being worn but even the female competitors wore one piece swimwear or at least the ones I saw! The men wore briefs but again that would be understandable for that particular sports event.
Perhaps thongs will become the next norm for female sportswear and just as we’ve become accustomed to the current fashion of skimpy and revealing briefs without the batt of an eyelid (save for perhaps mine), so we shall equally become accustomed to thongs as being acceptable sports briefs for women. So I ask, where do we draw the line? Should we even attempt to draw the line about anything and just let the trend to excess run its course – perhaps until we run ourselves into extinction. A bit of a melodramatic analogy I admit but in terms of acceptable levels of body exposure, should we really care? Maybe and eventually, nudity will also become the norm and people might think me a boring old fart of a prude for even daring to suggest we cover up our nudity just a bit. I wait with baited breath. The odd blush would force itself through to my cheeks. Yes you read correctly, I said blush and I didn’t mean blushes of the rouged cheek kind. I meant real blushes and yes I am black, and of course as you are right to think, black women can’t blush! But I kind of blushed in a sort of figurative sense as I watched the way some of the female athletes would sprawl out on the track after a toughly competed race. The camera lens would for just a few blinking moments provide a rather inappropriate view or angle of a female competitor as they were sprawled out in utter exhaustion from the race. Of course no fault of the female athlete themselves as they were totally exhausted from completing a race that had almost squeezed the very life out of them. But I don’t care how fabulous my physique gets, if I were a competitor, I wouldn’t for a millisecond want the camera displaying me in certain angles and in full view of millions. Some angles are best saved for the bedroom – if you know what I mean! Which is why it makes sense to at least have the female sports briefs designed in such a way as to preserve some modesty in those unbidden moments when the worlds lenses invariably zoom in on a an athlete knowingly or not. Or what about when the edges of their skimpy pants become lodged in between their bums because of a certain way they moved or landed on the floor or sand depending on what sport competed. Sorry to put it so graphically but this same graphic scene is what frequently confronted me as I watched these events, so no one can claim to be offended by what was seen on TV in full view of millions. Again, the camera view of was sometimes a trifle embarrassing. I guess I am just a puritanical old fart and I think I’d love to keep it that way as we draw closer to the day when as I suspect, thongs or full nudity in the name of participating in sports competitions will very likely become the norm. Sadly, I don’t hold the same hopes for male competitors ever donning sports thongs or flimsy manhood-encased sportswear. Oh no! Women can expose their derrieres as much as they wish, while we continue to pretend to ourselves that it is necessary to go as bare as possible in order to run a good race. Anyway, what the heck do I know. I am probably just envious of feasting my eyes on lovely physiques that I couldn’t possibly attain in this life and the next. I am too busy indulging sweet teeth and anything else that comes close. Besides it’s a man’s world after all! On a more serious note, did anyone observe the booing directed against Justin Gaitlin on a few occasions when he came onto the stadium or when his name was called. There were other cases of competitors being booed and I think that is so unacceptable for any competitor to have to face a booing crowd for no reason other than they are there to compete as best they can. I can tell you, I was less than impressed with the stadium crowd. Booing competitors needlessly definitely goes against the Olympic spirit of the games and should be discouraged because it is so demoralizing to any competitor to have a whole crowd of people booing and heckling at them at a time when they most need confidence, focus and positive morale as they participate. I think there should some sort of stadium etiquette that people should be made to observe. You either cheer or applaud your competitor of choice or hold your peace, simple. Not sure how this could be enforce d but even intermittent announcements made at these sorts of sports events, discouraging people from that kind of passive aggressive behavior might do the trick as people are made to understand that booing is unacceptable and is considered as a form of anti-social behavior. As for Justin Gaitlin, he might be the villain of the sports world on account of his past history as a drugs cheat, but he served his ban and has been duly punished. He should be allowed to compete in peace from now on. For heaven’s sake, give the guy a break! No one is above mistakes, even stupid ones. The IOC (International Olympic Federation) is proposing that athletes found guilty of drugs cheating should be given a lifetime ban. Well, that’s just silly. I totally deplore the whole issue of drugs cheating in sports and I support all the measures currently being taken to rid sports of this scourge, but a lifetime ban? Are we talking about lifetime bans for murderers, rapists or violent criminals here? In most western countries, these sorts of crimes (i.e murder, rape etc) don’t attract a full life imprisonment even when a court has awarded life imprisonment. Life imprisonment in these parts of the word rarely ever means life. There is always the chance of parole or a minimum sentence that must be served within the context of the award of a life imprisonment after which they often become eligible for release. Now I know a lifetime sports ban is not quite the same thing as life imprisonment but if convicted murderers and rapists can be given some hope of restoration however far-fetched the possibility might be, I think sports drug cheats can also. By all means give sports drug cheats stiff penalties, like bans and other deterrents. I find it hard to believe that any sports athlete who has had those sorts of penalties imposed would upon a return to competitive sports go back to being a sports drug cheat! Possible, but most unlikely. In fact, extremely unlikely in my estimation. For that reason I would say to the IOC, stuff the lifetime ban and stop bowing to the pressure of wanting to be seen to be tough on sports cheats. Impose more sensible penalties instead and ensure that they are strictly enforced. It does not have to take a life time ban to reform a sports cheat! Come on IOC!
Finally, I can’t resist a mention of this. With particular focus on the competing British team. First of all, congratulations to the UK team for such an impressive showing at the Rio Olympics! With a total medal haul of 67 medals, we beat China to scoop up second place on the medals table. No mean feat and I hope we can improve upon this success at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. I found it interesting to see how many black athletes were on the UK team. In fact, the UK relay teams were represented predominantly by black athletes, many of them going on to win medals. Great stuff but I wish we could see as many black faces in positions of influence across the UK corporate spectrum. There is an irritating stereotype that even we as black people help to reinforce. The notion that we are only best at demonstrating physical prowess as reflected in our frequent dominance at track and similar sporting events, compared with a disproportionate lack of representation in influential and senior e positions across UK corporate sectors. Not to undermine the dedication and commitment of our UK athletes, but it is fair to say there are serious issues of under-representation of black people in positions of influence across key sectors UK is a nation that prides itself on ‘creating’ initiatives and incentives designed to ensure black and ethnic minorities are better represented across positions in the workforce. Well, as one who for over 19 years worked as a consultant (strategy/business/management) across the UK industry sectors, I was aware of how often I was the only black face in a room full of corporate executives and senior stakeholders. Make no mistake about it, beyond mid-level management positions in almost every identifiable sector there is an abysmal dearth of black people represented at the top echelons. This bears little reflection with the fact that many of our black men and women are as densely represented across UK universities, studying for the very same degrees as their white counterparts who eventually and years later, go on to secure these top positions. This is an issue that has grabbed my attention for so long – the so-called invisible ceiling that exists where a black person, however qualified they might be, finds it inexplicably difficult to progress beyond a certain career point; perhaps to mid-management level at the most. Beyond this point, it almost a rarity to see a black face occupying any senior corporate positions. How many times for instance, in the UK or in Europe do we see a black chief executive of a major company, bank or organization? I’d say almost next to never! Maybe with one exception in recent times which was the appointment in 2009 of Tidjane Thiam as Chief Executive of The Prudential. Of West African (Ivorian origin) Tidjane Thiam became the first black person to head a FTSE 100 company! In 2015, he went on to become the CEO of Credit Suisse. There might others but I can’t remember any similar appointment in recent times. With the scores of black British brains, brawn’s and talent, nurtured in our schools and universities year after year, this epoch-defining appointment in senior corporate circles was as good as it ever came to be as far as appointment of a black face to such a prestigious role. It’s not much different in senior political circles either. There seems to be an allergy towards having black people in these positions of influence. It seems we’re okay to be bus and train drivers, sales staff, underground staff, athletes, footballers, traffic wardens, social workers, nurses, mid-wives, cleaners, caterers, etc; all of which are perfectly respectable roles in themselves, but what about the top brass positions in the corporate and government sectors? Within the media for instance, there is the tokenism approach where, the ratio tends to be something like one black face in the mix, for every 20 choice positions held by a white person and that again is probably as good as it gets. This tokenism for me is simply a subconscious form of racism (and yes, I cannot help but play the race card if it is hitting me directly in the face!) that is mirrored across most sectors. It should be considered strange in a country that prides itself so much on this ethos of multiculturalism, that time and time again we are confronted with this pattern of acute disproportion. The constant sea of white faces holding top positions that black counterparts have never held and are somehow never considered good enough to hold. Why is this? So, back to the Olympics. Even with the BBC commentary provided during the athletics events in which we saw Denise Lewis, Michael Johnson, Colin Jackson and Paula Radcliffe regular commentators for the track events, anchored by Gabby Logan, the only reason we saw three black commentators in one sitting was because they all happen to be past Olympic medalists for their events and it was therefore unavoidable that they would be the best ones to commentate on track related events. So, while we may be rejoicing at the sporting prowess and dominance of our young black men and women let’s remember that there is another side to the story. It’s the age old pattern of seeming to always be much more appreciated for our brawn’s, or our rap and dance skills than we ever are for our brains and intellectual potential or capabilities. While our young beautiful female athletes are busy strutting themselves in skimpy minuscule sports briefs (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one), let’s remember that the real power and opportunity continues to be denied the significant mass of black people who would simply appreciate parity of opportunities that exist across social, political and corporate spectrum. As black people, we have as much within us to agents of influence and change as we have the power to make a difference in sports or music. As usual, I digress somewhat, but I simply had to get this one off my chest! Anyway, here’s to many more successful Olympic showings for Great Britain; of the future unknown but with much anticipation and hope! Fingers crossed that in the subsequent weeks and months we don’t hear any horror stories about Zika being contracted while in Rio! Keep strutting! Let me know your thoughts. Always happy to share.
From my heart to yours, always,