Why Can't Competition Bring Out The Best?
The Politics of the Olympics
In 1916, the nations of the world couldn’t concede safe passage to each other, and World War I is credited with canceling out one Olympic contest. World War II would follow suit with two canceled Olympics—but first Jesse Owens won three gold medals in Berlin’s 1936 Olympics. Unfortunately, Owens felt more snubbed by FDR then by Hitler; and we had a rather ignoble first for the Olympic torch relay, being the German government’s attempt to promote their ideology by showing national unity.
Exploring the Games from this perspective, I tripped over some unfortunate tidbits about past IOC president, Avery Brundage, which continue to impact the Games today. Arguing against those who expected more of the IOC when dealing with Nazi Germany, Brundage re-stated “one of the basic principles of the Olympic Games: that politics play no part whatsoever in them.” Really?
One can’t be too surprised, though: Brundage is the same leader of the IOC who opposed women in competition—considering them worthless to any sport—and proposed that all team sports be removed from the Summer Games, and that the Winter Games being eradicated altogether.
At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland boycotted the Games because of repression by the Soviet Union of Hungary; in the same year, the Suez Crisis led to a boycott by Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon. More dramatically, at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the “Black Power” salute on the victory stand of the 200-meter, and Muhammad Ali flung his gold medal into the Ohio River after returning home to be beaten by white supremacists for entering a whites-only restaurant. Smith and Carlos were stripped of their medals, kicked out of the Olympic village, and sent home—all at the order of the antihero Brundage. American resolve or not, the United States chose not to make a stand.
Copyright © 2008 Hollywood Jesus. All rights reserved.
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