In recent debates about whether or not journalists should comment on an athlete’s looks, many people expressed the view that to do this would be demeaning to most men and women of the sporting profession.
Looking at pictures on my laptop of the Olympic athletes competing in Beijing however, it only enforces my opinion that the human body is a beautiful thing that should be complimented. Far from shying away from writing about the excellent bodies and looks of these five star athletes we should be making more of them. In an age where obesity is rife and the idea that skinny is fashionable prevalent in nearly all fashion publications then why not sing praises over the honed athletic perfection that we are witnessing at this Olympics?
Athletes have impressive bodies however this standard is only achieved because sport and exercise is their profession, it should not be the view that everyone should look this way. Wouldn’t it be more productive however, if people should aspire not to look like fashion model twigs but more like healthy sports personalities, appreciating athletes for their aesthetic as well as for what that aesthetic can do?
The issue is when specific athletes are always singled out and also the nature of the comments that are made. When it becomes evident that an athlete is getting praise just because of his or her looks then there is a problem. I can understand the opinion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that one persons Cinderella is another’s ugly sister but why not find something in everybody to celebrate? There is no problem with complimenting the way certain people look but there is a problem with deriding the way others look. This sort of attitude creates a sense of worthlessness in people who have less complimentary attention.
Of course I am not talking about society at large but for those in the sporting profession. People in the public eye will always be subject to aesthetic criticism whether it is politicians through newspaper caricature cartoons or pop stars who often actively try to ‘package’ themselves through their appearance. Athletes however should be looked up to in terms of appearance. They are trying to better the workings of their body not their sex appeal and this should be accepted and rejoiced in whatever the subjective opinions of individual journalists. Singling out individuals and making sexual innuendos will always be tactless and tasteless; appreciating athletes as a whole on the other hand is a completely different story.
So, next time you sit down to watch an Olympic event feel free to enjoy it in whatever way you choose. Sport is also about personality and physicality as well as performance and no one should be made to feel guilty for appreciating all three elements. I can’t think of a healthier way to look at sport.