August 3, 2012

Manuel Gameros is a Mexican-born sociologist and diplomat who lived in the US for six years. He worked for the United Nations in New York and Vienna and was part in the Mexican foreign service for 12 years.

What’s your earliest Olympic memory?

I was about 9 years old when the Mexican government started to set up for the Olympic games in Mexico City. The construction work, symbols, and paraphernalia that began to appear everywhere fascinated me.

But the strongest memory I have is my father explaining to me that he was going to be an official in the long-jump and triple-jump competitions. He measured the marks in the sandpit. At that time, they had to use a surveying tool called a theodolite to get precise measurements. There weren’t that many Mexicans who knew how to use a theodolite back then. So he was one of the people who measured and remeasured Bob Beamon’s long jump, which remained a world record for more than 20 years. I seem to remember my father mentioning that Beamon was about to be disqualified before that jump.

The broadcast of the games was another significant experience for me. We attended some social gathering with friends and family, and, I believe, that was the first time that I saw live color images on TV.

How excited do you get about the Summer Games: Eager? Hyperventilating? Meh?

Not very excited. Even though I’m not really involved, I can’t avoid noticing the promotional uproar and the endless announcements in different media outlets. I consider the games just another television show that can get boring after a while.

Which events that you particularly enjoy watching? (Or, if you don’t like the Olympics, what do you do instead in August?)

I watch the Olympics more for the general spectacle. I don’t devote a lot of time to the games unless I don’t have much else to do, although I will watch them casually, at a restaurant or with friends. I have a few “negative” preferences: Sports that are too dull or in which I don’t know the specific rules. Judo, for instance.

Are there any sports you watch only during the Olympics?

I rarely see many, unless I can’t sleep. I enjoy watching the highlights, just to stay informed.

If you ran the International Olympic Committee, what sport would you add/get rid of? What rule would you change?

Even if I don’t know how to enjoy some of the events, I wouldn’t exclude them if they are important in different regions of the world. I would consider raising the age in order to prevent children from deforming their bodies in order to become competitive at an early age. Gymnastics, for instance.

What athletes will you be rooting for?

I’m not following any athlete in particular. By the way, I hate the “human side” stories that are compiled to “enrich” the image of sport figures.

Other than the United States, which countries do you cheer for?

None in particular. I enjoy the achievements of those who are underdogs.

Overall, are the Olympics a good thing, or a waste of time and money? An instrument of peace or of nationalist zeal?

Overall the games are a good thing because they promote the idea of doing exercise and practicing sports, but I really dislike the nationalistic emphasis that carries with it a form of exclusionary sentiment. Though, to be honest, I don’t know how one organizes a worldwide amateur competition without using territory as a form of differentiation.

If you could have a ticket to one Olympic event in London, what would it be?

The track and field competition.

“Olympic Talk with Manuel Gameros,” by Bill Vourvoulias.

From “Good Sports,” the August 3, 2012, issue of V as in Victor.

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