Reading Stitches
Books, Poetry, Things I Wish I Knew For Sure, and not all that much about Knitting

Jun 22, 2012

U.S. Olympics Committee Deeply Offends Millions of Knitters - Why?

The Olympics are not what they used to be.  Many of us grew up watching the Olympics with our hearts in our throats, with still fresh, elementary school images of ancient Greek athletes coming together to outwit and outrun their competitors in grand matches of skill and bravery.  The spirit of the Olympic Games was one we all carried within us through long summers and longer winters, because as children everything was possible and nothing was unreachable.  We understood the hardships, the training, the sacrifices these athletes endured in order to compete at the top of the world against the best of the best.  And in each child’s heart, that heart that does not die within us, no matter how old, we felt the struggle, the desire and the drive to push the limits of human endurance and personal potential as far as they might go.  What child does not feel that potential waiting for its time to be tested?

We have never forgotten that the Games were founded as a great experiment of peace between nations.  How beautiful, how pure, how civilized and equitable, this experiment!  It instructed us, as few examples in our history have, that there are alternatives to war.  These were lifetime lessons that would seem impossible to sully.

The tradition of knitters coming together to share and refine their craft is also very old.  The indelible images in our hearts have not been etched by elementary school textbooks, but by the legacy of generations of grandmothers and great-grandmothers; of ancestors in old and new countries hand stitching ageless heirlooms of craftsmanship, many with millions of tiny stitches created with knitting “pins”.  The image of the knitter or crocheter is a part of the fabric of our lives; not just for knitters themselves, but as one of the world’s cultural icons - as taken for granted in the United States as a bible in church, a child’s baseball, an apple pie in the kitchen - an afghan for your bed, a thick sweater in winter, a pair of mittens on a fall day.

The fact is, because of their inviolable place in our hearts and minds, the spirit of the Olympic Games and of knitting can never be owned by any one of us.  They will always belong to all of us.  This is something that trademarks and media, or consumerism and profit cannot change.  The fact is, knitting will last as long as humankind exists.  I worry about the Olympic Games and their longevity.  Unfortunately, the need for money becomes the only lasting legacy of so many things in our world.  Such is life.

When the United States Olympic Committee wrote that a very large group of organized knitters - celebrating what is essentially the spirit of the Olympics within each of us - were possibly denigrating the athletes and the Games by calling their own consumer-less “games” Ravelympics, the USOC was not so much insulting knitters, but precipitating a clash of very old and very preciously-guarded comforts of the human heart.

The idea of knitters expressing their outrage in such a vociferous mass would seem comical to many, precisely because we all think we “know” who knitters are - the way we all think we “know” what the Olympics are.  Knitters are, and have always been, individuals, of all sizes, ethnicities, genders, race, color, age - very young to very old - and do not have much more in common than their love of crafting with pointy sticks.  If the Olympics draw these diverse people together to celebrate their love of their craft, in honor of the spirit of the Games - to essentially knit while watching - we are witnessing a coming together of two peaceful legacies that reside in the human heart.

“Owning” the Olympics changes the Olympics.  We all understand that, no matter how sadly distasteful it might be.  A well-known blogger and knitter wrote that the angry knitters’ “feelings are hurt”, by the insulting language of the USOC.  I think it is much more than that.  It is simply that knitters take their craft as seriously as its tradition is precious.  Many of us are used to feeling that precious private ownership of the Olympics, too.  The insult to knitters, with words about “denigrating” the Olympic spirit, expressed by a faceless committee invested in the protection of a trademark, seemed to jolt a still innocent, childlike part of these knitters‘ hearts.  I think instead of “feelings being hurt”, we could say our spirits took a shock.  It happens.  It might just mean it is time to stop believing in another Santa Claus, in the scheme of things.  But, like knitting and Santa Claus, there is always something deep in our hearts that we love deeply about the Olympics.

And now, let’s try to catch some of the highlights of the Olympics, which will be based on what sponsors and NBC decide we should see - if we haven’t purchased enough cable.  Now, it’s back to your regular program.  Nothing more to see here.


Mary Ann said...

You always say just the right thing so eloquently.

Cyn said...

Thank you, Mary Ann! I very much appreciate your feedback.

LiteraryLadybug said...

I read this and went storming into the bedroom to rant at my hubby about how INSANE this is. Wasn't it JUST the last Olympics that they were talking about the hand knit sweaters the Olympiads were wearing? OOOOH! My feathers are seriously ruffled!

And I agree with Mary Ann - This was just so very well written, as all your posts are! Thank you for writing this!

Cyn said...

Thank you for your wonderful compliment! I think the challenge of our time is reconciling our unprecedented freedom of expression - in this 24/7 world - with the need to respect the language we use, now more than ever. I am hoping that, because of this "glitch", the USOC and others might now have a better grasp of the importance of the words we use.