At the Games

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am

Be careful the next time you cheer your country on at a sporting event. One Chinese fan discovered that the hard way after shouting 'Go! Go! Go!' during the BMX competition won by Hong Kong's Steven Wong.

After cheering lustily, the fan found to his horror he was unable to close and open his lower jaw. He had dislocated his mandible.

Perhaps, he hadn't read the guide book on etiquette handed out by Games organisers many moons ago.

Now doctors are advising fans not to shout too loudly because their chops are in danger of being dislodged, as if that is going to help the poor guy now.

Wu Jinhui, a doctor at the Guangdong Armed Police Hospital, said this was a common occurrence at sporting events.

Wu said people should prop up the lower jaw when yawning and should avoid opening their mouths too wide.

This story just goes to highlight the serious nature of sports these days. Some people regard it almost like going to war. Winning does matter, but winning with dignity matters more.

During the ancient Olympics, a truce was called between warring Greek states for the period of the Games. That ideal has been adopted by some cities hosting the Olympics today. Earlier this year, Canada asked the United Nations to pass a resolution calling for all countries to 'promote the ideals of peace' during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Why only during the Winter Games? Shouldn't we try to pursue such ideals for 365 days of the year rather than for just a fortnight. Maybe it should be the other way around - war for two weeks and make peace for the rest of the year.

In an interview in a Chinese newspaper, Wei Jizhong, a former secretary general of the Chinese Olympic Committee who is now a vice-president for life with the Olympic Council of Asia, said sports should stand for peace.

'I believe sport is the only way to achieve a peaceful planet,' the 74-year-old Wei was quoted as saying. 'Since all sports and games have regulations and rules for all the participants to obey, there are no issues of race, religion or nationality.'

I have met Wei many times and respect him greatly. He was one of the main people involved in the organisation of China's first Asian Games in 1990 in Beijing.

While sport can be used as a tool to achieve peace, his views on race, religion and nationality are simplistic.

Obviously, he hasn't come across fans, athletes and officials who treat sport as nothing else but confrontation and war. There have been many cases in Guangzhou these past few days where the ugly head of nationalism has been raised.

One such case involved a Taiwanese taekwondo athlete who was disqualified after it was claimed she had used extra electronic sensors in her socks. She had apparently used it to register more hits and make scoring points easier.

Angry at her dismissal from the competition - there have been insinuations of biased judging from mainland officials - the Taiwanese government has got involved and has threatened legal action. Taiwan's minister of sports affairs has said the island would take the case to the International Court of Justice unless they receive a reasonable answer from the Asian Taekwondo Union.

The reasonable answer would be to go fly a kite.

He is asking the world court in The Hague, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, to take time off from deciding whether the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territories is legal or not and instead rule on the smelly socks of an athlete.

Let's have some perspective here. Sport is not a matter of life or death. It cannot be on the same page as events unfolding in war-torn nations like Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries who are represented at these Games.

People who think an athlete's perceived misdemeanour should be the matter of a high court, even if it is toothless most of the time and has no way of imposing its judgment, are of the same bent as those jingoistic fans.

Yes, sport is big business and carries all sorts of other ramifications for the individual athlete as well as the country he or she represents. But in the end, it's just a game.

In war, you can lose you life. All you can lose in sport is your pride. The two are poles apart. So the next time you cheer, just take it easy - or you run the risk of losing your senses and hurting your jaw.

And by the way, that fan is okay. He went to hospital and Wu took only two minutes to put his jaw back in place. And doubtless he is cheering again.