The Guardian September 13, 2000


Editorial:
Restoring the Olympic spirit

The opening ceremony in the main Olympic Stadium at Homebush, Sydney on 
Saturday 16, will mark the official opening of the 25th Olympic Games to be 
held in the modern era. The original Olympics were held in Greece from 776 
BC to 394 AD, a period of more than 600 years. The original Olympics were a 
contest among the young men and women of Greece in sport, poetry and music 
and are credited with bringing conflicts to an end during the period of the 
Games. For 1500 years, no Olympic Games were held. They were revived only 
in 1896 but far from stopping wars, the Games were suspended during WW1 and 
WW2.

In the post-WW2 period, the Games became a victim of the Cold War with 
boycotts imposed by the US and other countries against the 1980 Moscow 
Olympics and the machinations which led to Sydney receiving the vote for 
the present Games over the other contender, Beijing. Heaven and earth was 
moved, (by that one should read the exercise of vote buying), to ensure 
that Beijing, which had been the foremost contender for the 2000 Games, 
should be eliminated.

Irrespective of the good intentions of the overwhelming majority of the 
world's people, the young sportsmen and women who come to contest their 
skills, the modern Olympics have become largely captured by big 
corporations and by governments that use the Games to promote nationalistic 
sentiments. The Australian Government has used the occasion to give the 
Federal Government powers to bring troops onto the streets of Australian 
cities.

The big corporations become sponsors by putting up relatively small sums of 
money while the people, through the particular governments of the time, are 
called upon to put up the shortfall that runs into millions upon millions 
of dollars.

So we have Telstra, McDonalds, Nike, UPS and many other big corporations as 
sponsors. In return, they get Olympic contracts and reap many millions in 
profits in return for their sponsorship dollars.

The sponsors also buy some of the sportsmen and women who emblazon their 
tracksuits with the names of this or that corporation. Channel 7, the 
Packer-owned station, is given exclusive rights to transmit the Games, 
while McDonalds is given exclusive food rights at the various Games 
facilities. McDonalds have about doubled their normal prices in exchange 
for this "privilege".

In this climate, it is not surprising that the International Olympic 
Committee, and doubtless, various national Olympic committees have become 
shot through with corruption. Only a small part of this has been exposed 
and it will never be thoroughly rooted out while the Games continue to be 
an opportunity for commercial interests to take over the running in so many 
important respects. The first fully privatised Games were those held in 
Atlanta which set up a private Olympic Committee.

The modern Olympics have been captured by the Western imperialist powers 
that use their economic power to ensure that the Games are held in 
countries acceptable to them. Of the 25 Games actually held in the modern 
era, 14 were held in Europe and six in North America. American cities have 
hosted no less than four Olympic Games. Only two Asian cities have held the 
Games, Africa none and South America none.

Undoubtedly the Sydney Olympics will be a magnificent spectacle. 
Overwhelmingly the sportsmen and women are imbued with the true Olympic 
spirit of sportsmanship.

Sooner or later the Games will be rescued from the corporations and the 
nationalism that has been assiduously cultivated to the point where the 
only thing that matters is for this or that national sportsperson to win a 
gold medal.

The private enterprise system will have to be replaced in many more 
countries before that transformation is achieved. When that is achieved, 
however, it will be possible to hold the Olympic Games in the spirit of the 
Greek Olympiads of ancient times.

The Olympic Oath reads: "I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic 
Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true 
spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our 
teams."
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