Afrika (Nike) Shox

Dromology, Paul Virilio's term for the logic of speed, shares a common root with the word dromos, Greek for 'running' or 'race'. So it comes as no surprise, then, that dromology finds its sportocratic manifestation in Baron Pierre de Coubertin's modern revival of the ancient Greek Olympic Games.

Citius, altius fortius — the Olympic motto urging one to be swifter, higher, stronger — is in each of its facets a quest for speed: citius, the flat out speed of a race over some geographical distance; altius, the accelerating speed of an individual in search of escape velocity on a vertical leap; fortius, the ability to twitch a bundle of muscle fibres to move an object and then quickly recover for the next potential action. The imperative element of the Olympic motto — swifter, higher, stronger — suggests that the Olympic Movement, and its modern notion of Progress, commands us to ever-higher degrees of speed.

For the most successful in their quest, speed and capital become interchangeable in a process that began at the climax of Cold War sport and politics, the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. With the Cold War's denouement, and the corresponding acceleration of global capitalism, successive Olympic Games have come to embody a new de facto Olympic motto: citius, altius, fortius, copiosus. As Maverick and Goose exhorted in the hypermilitary Hollywood movie Top Gun, which hit theatres shortly after the L.A. Games ended, we must "feel the need, THE NEED FOR SPEED!"

Their message is far-reaching.

Our chrysalis digitalis, the silicon silk that numbs us to conscious engagement with the new Olympic motto while protecting us from comprehending our posthuman metamorphosis, does not currently extend to the developing nations of the planet, which makes the sight of the African marathoner all the more poignant. He understands the message.

The marathon, that tragic run of the soldier Pheidippides, who brought news of a Greek military victory over the Persians before his collapse and death, is today equally as dramatic as a quest for speed, though this quest for speed is measured over a much greater distance than the fast-twitching, explicitly techno-scientific cyborgism of the sprint races.

Citius, altius, fortius, copiosus still holds true over the 26.2-mile distance, and in this regard the African marathoner serves as a metaphor for the developing nation: multitudinous at the front of the pack, each one vanishingly lean, desperately, stoically, questing for speed/capital, but having such great distances to overcome relative to the hypermuscular sprinter and the lipidinous spectator. The more desperate this particular quest for speed becomes, the more this multitude disintegrates before our very eyes.

Courtesy of Chris Cunningham/Leftfield
Courtesy of Nike
Courtesy of Chris Cunningham/Leftfield


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