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Monday, April 21, 2008
Those who don't learn from history . . .


(H/T: Andrew Sullivan)

Twice actually--history has forgotten that the 1936 Winter Games also were in Nazi Germany, in Garmisch-Partinkirchen. We also let a brutally repressive totalitarian Communist regimes host: the Soviet Union (Moscow) in 1980 (my mistake as to Munich), plus a "less repressive" Communist regime in Yugoslavia in 1984.

Historically, in fact, the goal simply was to avoid offending the host nation. Thus, in part, did U.S. Olympic Committee officials, namely head Avery Brundage, replace Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller (two Jews) with Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe (two African-Americans) on the 400-yard (these were pre-metric days) team (Jews being more offensive to Hitler than blacks). And we remember Owens in part for the political context of his on-field achievements--in a sense, his greatness embarrassed the host country. This also is why the U.S. boycott of rhe Moscow games in 1980 (and the U.S.S.R.'s responsive boycott of the Los Angeles Summer Games in 1984) was such a big deal politically--it infused politics in a way that embarrassed the host country.

I have not been surprised by the ever-increasing uproar over China hosting the Games and I hope the International Olympic Committee, which made the decision, is not surprised. We are more aware of, and concerned with, human rights issues than we were even 25 years ago. There are more people, organizations, and nations talking about human rights. And, with technology, more ways to talk and hear about it. The protests and calls for boycotts that have arisen around the Torch relay, the Opening Ceremonies, and the Games themselves were inevitable. The IOC historically either had a tin ear or was too arrogant to care. That cannot be the case any longer.


Munich was in West Germany...

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/21/2008 9:33 AM  


The IOC would rather have an event that is superbly organized, with a minimum of dispute. That, by definition, gives the edge to authoritarian/totalitarian regimes over nations which allows more open protest and individual right to protest. The illusion that athletics is apart from politics has been fantasy from the earliest days of the Olympic movement.

Many American wanted to boycott the Berlin Olympics and the movement was growing until Brundage (who headed the USOC, and prior to that, the AAU) was able to "convince" Americans that things would not be so bad in Germany. In fact, Hitler wanted the Olympics to be permanently hosted in Germany -- with a 400,000 seat stadium built for that event. If events turned out otherwise, he could have had his wish.

Blogger Mark Conrad -- 4/21/2008 4:52 PM  

Aaaaaaah yes, olympics and China... quite the popular topic right now. While I have to agree with Mark that the IOC's preference of an event that is superbly organized, with a minimum of dispute would tend to give the nod to totalitarian regimes, I'm not sure that gives a complete picture... And as of right now, I can't say im impressed by how the "Torch Tour" has turned out, in fact, the protesters seem to have disrupted it enough to make the chinese beat red.

To add fuel to the controversy fire, I'd also like to point out that the IOC is anorganization with a deeply rooted history of corruption, which, I suppose would also tend to give the nod to more totalitarian regimes and dictatorships. Of course, I'm sure that was the Olympics of old, and there is probably no more bribary and corruption in the IOC... ehh... wait... nevermind...

Personally, I find the idea of the Olympics in China laughable, since the IOC charter states in part

Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion,
politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Now that makes China a perferct nation to host the olympics, does it not?

and the what happened to the pride the olympic movement took in putting pressure on the Apartheid regime in Southafrica, and even banning the country from participation...

I'm far from a civil rights ideolog, but I for one fail to see anything positive coming out of the olympics in China.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 4/22/2008 8:32 PM  

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