Friday, August 8, 2008

Sport and Politics: The Beijing Olympics

aryans, berlin olympics 1936 Rene Roch, president of International Fencing Federation (FIE), said in Beijing Friday that the Olympics should not be mingled with politics. "No one should capitalize on the IOC to boycott the games," Roch told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 2008 FIE World Championships, which kicked off in Beijing on Friday. "We should look ahead in a long term and avoid conflicts," he said. source: Xinhua

Many commentators have echoed this sentiment; wouldn't it be nice if we could just enjoy the games and avoid all the political unpleasantness. If only the issue was so simple. In May 1931 the IOC decided that the 1936 Olympic games would be held in Berlin, Germany. This was a great moment for Germany; it gave them a chance to show the world how great and powerful they believed they were. For some people in Germany, like the rising Nazi party, this was also a chance to show the world that the Aryan race was superior to all other races. (Hitler was incredibly annoyed when Jesse Owens' achievements contradicted this). While the Chinese can't quite be compared to the Nazis, their motivation is similar; to increase national prestige and to promote trade. source: Bloodshed and Politics Over the Olympic Rings

hitler, berlin olympics 1936During the rebel cricket tours of South Africa in the 1980s, most players used the 'let's keep politics out of sport' excuse to justify their involvement. The South African government's involvement in the tours was politically motivated. The matches served a propaganda purpose, helped to split the solidarity of the international campaign of isolating South Africa, and satisfied white South Africans' desire for international sport.

The fact is that involvement in international events and politics is inextricably linked. Involvement tacitly supports the policies of a regime. The decision to award the 1936 Olympics to a country with a human rights record like Germany now seems highly questionable. A more politically aware approach to such decisions is essential. Boycotting the games might not be the answer, but raising human rights issues is a moral responsibility.

Anyone who watched the coverage of the opening ceremony would realise that the olympics is indeed not about politics, or sport. It is about the sydication of television coverage. Athletes have to pass through media cordons before reaching events and there are more commercials than action.


Jenny said...

Don't forget about when the Springbok team came to Australia. An all white team from South Africa. I was there being dragged by the hair by police on horseback. No, sport is never about politics :)

Liam said...

I do actually remember the Springbok tour, although I was a bit too young to demonstrate. I think people are much more aware now than they used to be and much more likely to question events like these.

iWalk said...

Samaranch has already changed Olympic game from a sport game to a big business game.
Politics is another kind of business.:)

Bikran said...

The sports should always be unbiased and untouched by the politics but its the bad luck that even Olympic has been dragged into the dirty game .