TOK and the Games…

I have been considering angles from which the last cohort of SGS TOKKISTS might approach the Olympic Games in their presentations…

Remember, the idea is to take a real life event and consider it objectively from a range of “Ways of Knowing” to produce a central point for discussion. This is the central Knowledge Issue and it should be clear throughout the presentation. The 4 Ways of Knowing are: Reason, Emotion, Language and Perception.

It should be obvious that The Olympics offer a plethora of opportunities here. It is equally obvious that the Knowledge issue has to be identified and addressed, often in the form of a question – “to what extent could the Olympics in London be seen as merely an emotional success?” Might be a good starting point.

This offers a range of approaches: emotions of large crowds, the emotion of the athletes themselves, the use of language to heighten emotion both in the stadium and in the media might be considered, as might the effect of perception depending on whether one was watching in the stadium or more distantly or the effect of watching on ones’ own.

Then there is the rational approach. The games cost a fortune. Can we afford them? Can we justify the expenditure, once emotion is removed? Even if they are a sell-out, will the country recover from the cost at a time of great recession?

If this doesn’t interest you, why not try another direction and focus on the closing ceremony for example. To do this you might wish to study the idea of a ceremony as language and see if what we were served was indeed such an event. A bit picky? How about whether the event was a suitable conclusion to a fortnight of staggering endeavour, achievement and entertainment. The last point here is interesting. Sportsmen and women are as much part of the umbrella of entertainment as are performers on stage and in concert. Some might have noticed a slight discrepancy here. The staggering achievement of the athletes who had trained for years and consistently striven to achieve their best against a background of poor funding and harsh training regimes could be held in comparison with singers from what seemed a slightly arbitrary “last 50 years”. If any of the athletes had performed as badly as some of these – an inability to sing in tune or a simple lack of vocal quality they would have suffered the fate of the Badminton players from China. Is it acceptable for the standard of performance in one branch of the Arts to be this low and paraded emotionally as if it were so good? Indeed several of the acts seemed to be miming. I hope we are a long way from the day when athletes simply send in tapes of themselves running or jumping…

My point is not to belittle the Olympic closing ceremony – -this is a TOK presentation after all, and it was fun and rousing and would always seem anti climactic after the events of the previous days, but to consider the nature of sport and art, or even sport AS art. If art is meant to inspire, to provoke awe, to move one emotionally, then sport IS indeed art. What worries me about this selection of performances if how few were art worthy of the event that preceded them. “To what extent could the closing ceremony be considered a work of art?” might be an interesting starting point, particularly if the Opening ceremony was used as a contrast. That show, with its clear narrative thread, may well have come closer to being Art. I hope one of you might explore this area for me.

Finally, another thread might be this: There seems already to be a feeling that the new football season, arriving so close on the heels of the Olympics will help to show football up as the sordid sporting world that many consider it to be. It is not the players fault that they are overpaid and could probably write of Greece’s debt by donating one months wages to the ECB, but it is their fault that they are so regularly held up as examples of all that is rotten in sport. The preen, they pout and they sulk- mind you so did certain US and Russian gymnasts, but worse, they feign injury, they seek to have opponents removed from the field of play and they show no respect whatsoever for referees and their assistants. After a fortnight of utter respect – An Iranian embracing an American, Bolt and Farrah linked in mutual admiration we will no doubt swiftly encounter the first tawdry reports in the press of players essentially cheating to achieve their own ends while football’s governing bodies – themselves mired in corruption scandals, are powerless to do anything about it. Two sides of the same part of the entertainment industry – sport… Is sport art? Does our perception of the ethics of sport depend upon our emotional involvement?

Once you’ve done that, get going on the linguistic minefield that is “legacy”!

Get thinking Y13 – it’s over to you.

P.S. I loved the Olympics and am in awe of the athletes from all countries who took part. It was wonderful and I became a proud Londoner as I watched the coverage in Florida… my perception might be tainted by NBC’s coverage, but nevertheless, I stand by my points.

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