December 5, 2001

Game On

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Recently, President George W. Bush rejected a plea from International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge to institute a cease-fire on the bombings in Afghanistan during the upcoming Salt Lake City Games.

To President Bush: Thank you, for defending the sovereignty of our nation and for having the courage to show the world that we are deeply resolved to fighting terrorist who threaten our very existence.

To Mr. Rogge: Your not fooling anyone. For a man heading an organization engulfed by greed and corruption, you certainly should have more pressing matters to attend to. But before taking the next bribe from some city official bidding on the Games, perhaps you should think twice before using the United States to divert attention away from the true problems facing the future legitimacy of the Olympics. Until you can manage your own agency, please refrain from proffering such international mandates as, “We will, as usual, call for an Olympic truce,” adding, “We believe that sport is an answer to violence.”

Mr. Rogge, a man whose ethical bankruptcy may only be surpassed by his predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch (who always held himself to the highest standards of integrity) clearly seeks to delude the public. While attempting to promulgate the idea that the Olympics engender a spirit of international harmony and peace, his call for a halt to military action masks the corporate-dominated, greed-infested spectacle the Olympics have become.

The United States should not be asked to jeopardize its national security for the Olympics. First, the Games no longer represent global cooperation; more aptly they have become profit-driven and frequently platforms for contemporary political conflicts played out in athletic competition. Second, the IOC has a hideous record of allowing countries with the most egregious human rights records to participate and in fact permits the participation of many countries engaged in long term wars. Finally, the experiences of the 1936 games and the 1972 Munich Massacre illustrate the utter antithesis of Rogge’s assessment.

Holding aside the millions of dollars that have flown out of city coffers in fruitless efforts to host previous Games, an examination of the record shows the even the IOC itself, regards the Olympics as little more than a money making enterprise. By its own account each set of winter and summer games reigns in $10 billion. In 1983, no doubt in an effort to promote global peace, Rogge oversaw the establishment of a New Sources of Finance Commission. Its primary goal? Capitalizing on the profit possibilities surrounding the Olympic Rings — “the most valuable unexploited symbol in the world.” In 1996, the IOC drew in $400,000,000 in sponsorship revenue, to say nothing of a new $3.5 billion television deal. These the actions of a man who unabashedly proclaimed the Olympics to be “the most important contemporary social movement.”

Moreover, the competition at the games has mirrored world conflicts. One need only look at the intense rivalry between the Russians and the Americans during the Cold War period. For years, Eastern Bloc countries spent inordinate amounts of resources to train their athletes to defeat the hated Western democracies. The deep-seeded Arab-Israeli conflict was fatally reenacted at the 1972 Munich games, when terrorism claimed the lives of eight Israeli wrestlers.

The call for the cease-fire was an outrageous act of hypocrisy. I understand that Mr. Rogge and others, might have a hard time coming to terms with the fact the United States has an unconditional right to defend itself against aggression (even if with force [gasp]). It amazes me that given this concern for the conditions of humanity, that he would permit nations like North Korea into his sacred Games. There’s a model country for the world: an unscrupulous dictatorship whose leader denied a French missionary group access to a starving group of children in 1999. This says nothing of Libya, a country whose government had been cited for “summary executions” of its citizens, which is invited. How also does Rogge explain the inclusion of such countries like Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Angolia and Somalia who have been involved in perpetual states of war. Shouldn’t they also call for a cease-fire?

Historically, the Olympics have always turned the cheek on far worse international situations than the current war in Afghanistan. In 1936, it was deemed acceptable to hold the games, in Munich. Why should it matter that as Hitler watched the games, millions of innocent people were being tortured in ovens in his concentration camps? I wonder how the Olympic officials forgot to ask him to stop the genocide. In 1972, five Palestinian terrorists perpetrated an unspeakable massacre in the Munich Olympic Village against eight Israeli athletes. A day-long ordeal ended with the terrorists bombing the helicopter used to transfer the athletes who had been taken as hostages. Even after this blood bath, the Olympic officials simply proceeded with the games, prompting one reporter to compare such actions to “having a dance at Dachu”

Apparently the Olympic officers in charge of the Munich games, interpreted Rogge’s call that “sports are an answer to violence” in the most literal terms.

Archived article by Gary Schueller