What are you doing after the Olympics?

I keep thinking about Jean Baudriallard’s essay on obscenity What are you doing after the orgy? 1.  It’s actually the title itself which I find fascinating – and so apt when it comes to the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics.  In a sense it (the title of Baudrillard’s essay) seems absurd, and of course it is meant to be.  After all, how can there be an after?   Surely, all there is is the build up (foreplay), and then the (sexual) event itself, the orgasmic eruption of enjoyment that must never end.  How could anyone in the midst of such revelries, like the man described by Baudrillard at the end of his essay, whisper into the ear of the woman he is (presumably) having sex with: ‘What are you doing afterwards?’

Likewise, how could anyone dare ask: ‘What are you doing after the Olympics?’  Surely, that was it, the ultimate, the end point.  Of course, in one sense everyone ‘knows’ that this is not true, and the talk is already about the ‘legacy’ of 2012 and how to avoid the fate of the 2004 Olympics.  But as Žižek pointed out in his book The Sublime Object of Ideology  this is a ‘non-knowledge’, which could also be described as a disavowal.2  ‘I know full well  …..and yet I act as if I did not know’.

Some of the newspapers and websites are already advising people how to cope ‘after the Olympics’: the best one I have seen so far is to start preparing for the 2016 ones in Rio!   Presumably, following this advice, the whole country is going to fly out en masse to Brazil in order to re-live the ecstasy of 2012.  The trouble is, it will never be like the first time.

Another approach is to look at the ‘after’ in terms of a process of mourning:  it was great whilst it lasted but now we have to face grim reality of life without The Games.  No doubt we can expect legions of psychologists and, dare I say it, psychotherapists, being interviewed in the media over the coming days so they can advise people how to cope with the traumatic loss, the void in their lives, now that it’s over.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that, for some people at least, the aftermath is not going to be difficult.   What I’m arguing is that the problem lies in the notion of the ‘aftermath’ itself.  More to the point, the problem lies in the fantasy of the everlasting, the idea that it would never end: that there would, in fact, be an aftermath to contend with in the first place.

Of course there is nothing unusual here about such a fantasy: it is the stuff of life, of desire, of great tragedy and comedy.  It’s what keeps those legions of psychotherapists (including myself) in business.  However, the fact that such a fantasy is the stuff of life does not make it any less problematic, or any easier to ‘rationalise’ away.   Yes, we all ‘knew’ that The Games would end and we would have to go back to ‘normal’ life……and yet……

….why can’t it last for ever?

  1. Baudrillard, J. (1983) What are you doing after the orgy? Artforum, pp.42–6. []
  2. Žižek, S. (1989) The Sublime Object of Ideology. London, Verso. []