Thursday, May 13, 2004

An odd thought

Lots of people (starting I think with Arts and Letters Daily) have linked to this article by Elinor Burkett about her experiences as an American teaching in central Asia shortly before and then for a substantial period after September 11. The discussion of her discoveries of just what people do and don't know about America (and what the do and don't believe) is intriguing, but it gets surreal towards the end, when she discovers that it is almost universally accepted in the region that America "cheated" in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and locals feel more vehement about this than virtually anything else discussed in the article

In Bishkek, once-friendly taxi drivers assailed me because George W. Bush had bribed judges to deprive Olga Koroleva of the gold medal in women's aerial freestyle skiing. My students railed that the judges had been corrupted by pity for America -- the only possible explanation for Sarah Hughes's triumph over Irina Slutskaya in the figure-skating competition. And in Turkmenistan, strangers in the market ranted at me about the injustice of Larissa Lazutina's disqualification from the games by Americans so threatened by her cross-country-skiing prowess that they'd trumped up a charge of drug use.

This is slightly surreal at the best of times, but it becomes even stranger when you realise that the women's aerial freestyle skiing was won by Alisa Camplin, an Australian. Apparently, although George W Bush is prepared to screw Australia's farmers at any opportunity he gets, he is willing to bribe Olympic judges so that our athletes can win medals. Great.

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