2012 Summer Olympics: The Virtues of Contradiction

The Olympics are obviously a contradictory event, says David Brooks. An opening ceremony which celebrates virtues of unity and equality are shortly followed by fierce competition.

What's the Latest Development?


When the summer Olympics open tonight, the ceremony will be a considered celebration of humanity's positive qualities: unity, friendship, compassion and equality. But the spirit of togetherness with which the games will begin can be expected to end sharply the following day when competition starts. "After the opening ceremony is over, the Olympics turn into a celebration of the competitive virtues: tenacity, courage, excellence, supremacy, discipline and conflict," says David Brooks at the New York Times. "The smiling goes away and the grim-faced games begin."

What's the Big Idea?

These seemingly contradictory stances should not bother us, says Brooks. Quite the opposite. The tension of the modern games is a mirror of our complex society and demonstrates the necessity of complex solutions. Brooks regrets the polarization of politics in which virtues are pitted against each other as though they were mutually exclusive. "One party becomes the party of economic security and the other becomes the party of creative destruction. The right course is usually to push hard in both directions, to be a house creatively divided against itself, to thrive amid the contradictions."

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