Golden Realities: Politics and the Olympics

Despite the supposed political neutrality that the Olympic Games carries within its very essence, some had come to question the morality and correctness of holding the games in a state with a questionable human rights record.

Nonetheless, the anticipation was tangible.

The city was tended to with the greatest of care, awaiting athletes and competitors from across the globe to come to the nation’s capital city, in awe of the greatest sports extravaganza the world had ever seen.

It was a chance to show off the state to the people of the world, of their model government, to showcase the glories of their culture and achievements of its citizens.

The site: Berlin.

The year: 1936.

Hitler’s Olympics are perhaps the most controversial to date, although that honor, as it were, may be forever surpassed by the games to be held in just a matter of days in Beijing, China.

Or so would the detractors of the Beijing games like you to believe.

For the record, it must be noted that the awarding of the games to Germany was prior to the rise of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (aka the NSDAP aka the Nazi Party) and Hitler’s ascension to the Chancellery, making the choice of Berlin a bit less notorious as one might suspect.

The great alleged controversy of this current Olympiad – the 29th Summer incarnation – is that given China’s record pertaining to human rights abuses, coupled with a distinct lack of freedom and justice, makes the choice of Beijing incompatible with the spirit of the Olympics, and its Charter.

The Charter clearly makes note of the Olympic movement’s desire for, “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

China, given its grevious violations, clearly defies this Article (1) of the Charter.

Stop right there, protest supporters of China. The Olympics are not about politics or internal matters, but merely athletics, and a spirit of camaraderie, in reflection of the ancient games held centuries ago at Olympia.

That’s all well and good, and even perhaps a bit fanciful, but the truth is far more apparent: of course the Olympics are political, they likely always have been, and always will be.

Politics reared its ugly head in the tit-for-tat boycotts 1980s, when the Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles games after the United States and others did not participate in the Soviet games of 1980, as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

And it would seem, no matter the records of individual host nations in the fields of human, civil, political, or even economic rights, the IOC seems less interested in those matters than the ability of the host state to present memorable, stable, successful games.

The Soviet Union was chosen despite its poor showing in the field of human rights (e.g. Berlin Wall).

So why the hysteria over the decision to award the games to China?

Recent upheavals in Tibet and the subsequent crackdown have fueled the angst of those in the West, weary of the Chinese government’s hard hand. Additionally, stories of Chinese espionage in the United States and recalls of made in China goods have fanned the flames of anti-Chinese sentiment.

Are the objections over the Chinese holding the games legitimate? Of course. Will the regime use the games for propaganda reasons? Certainly. Will another state with dubious credentials ever hold the Olympics again? Yes, and many in the international community will point to the following certainty:

it’ll be just a matter of time before the five ringed Olympic flag flies over the United States again.

(References: Gitmo, Iraq, 2003 Invasion of, assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, Iran-Contra, etc.)

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