Tuesday, August 31, 2004

My friend Aymen just got back from the olympics, we met up for lunch at the work canteen with Tanya and Sara. Aymen was positively beaming from ear to ear. He said he had a fantastic time, and that the atmposhere was brilliant. He even managed to get on Greek national TV, mostly due he says to his mixed up identity: a Sudanese-Londoner who lives in France.

But he got most excited in his reporting when he told us about all the boos the American olympic competitors were getting. He said that during the men's 100m, the crowds were booing the American Justin Gatlin for over 15 minutes. Apparently, the organisers had to replace his name on the stadium displays with a notice reading, please be quite you are delaying the start.

I asked Aymen if the spectators were mostly Greek. He said they were very mixed, people from all over the world as you might expect. He then went on to tell us stories of similar booing chorusses happening at other events. There was not a shadow of doubt in his mind that the boos were as a result of Iraq.

I had a look on the internet to see if I could find any papers reporting this. There wasn't much. I did find ESPN with a report entitled 'Americans encounter boos on the field, warm welcome on it'. However, their report carefully avoided giving any indication that the boos may have been a political statement against American foreign policy.

Instead, they just write a cheery piece attributing all the booing to normal crowd support for the underdog countries up against the superior US. They quote the coach of the women's football saying as saying, On the field, I think they're cheering for other teams... But one of the common denominators of all cultures is they cheer for the underdog.

I expect this is just media distortion, and don't believe for a minute that the Americans present didn't know why they were being booed. Aymen was even at the 100m with his American friend Erica, and he tells me she was keenly aware of the hostility and the reasons behind it.

So, the thing I like about this story of booing is the image it gives of the people from across the world giving a clear statement of their opinion to America.

But I have several American friends, and know full well that they are also against what is happening with their country. I really like the Americans I have met so far in my life.

We certainly should tell the Americans very clearly what we think politically about their country, but we will only be causing more friction if we forget that individually, they are human too.

The Americans who can listen to us trash their national ego are probably already listening. It's the other ones we need to worry about, and the lying media they listen to.

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