It's 7:30pm in Sydney right now, and if you believe the news, more than half the world (3.6 billion) is watching the opening ceremony. But frankly, I'm having a great time noding while listening to Dream Theater and really don't want to watch it.

It seems that the Olympics long ago grew out of a sporting event and has instead become a religion. You have to admit, it's a uniquely modern religion, though.

Allow me to put forward my case. Alexander Downer, Australia's horrifically inept foreign minister, at one point refused to allow the Olympic torch through Fiji (which at the time was in the midst of its whole parliament being held to ransom by George Speight) because "the Olympic torch is a symbol of democracy and we can not allow it to visit a country where democracy is under such a threat".

During the Olympic torch's journey through Sydney, it has been watched by almost everybody while the city's normal operation comes to a grinding halt. Of course, only the "honoured" are allowed to carry the torch, decided by the "elders"; while everyone else watches on in adoration. This seems a deeply religious ritual.

What disturbs me, is that many of these people watching the flame go past are the same people who get stuck into other religions for having "empty ritual".

The Olympic festival is watched by billions around the world, rather like how ancient pagans would celebrate midwinter. All else in Sydney comes to a stop. Courts stop operating, government departments close, libraries stop lending books; making it a true "holy day" (or holiday as it is now known).

A Roman emperor once said that to control the masses you needed two things: bread and circuses. And indeed the Olympics are a circus ... a five-ring one.

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