Politics of the Olympic Spirit
The Olympics are back...so let the medal counting begin. I know people have strong opinions about the role and scope of the Olympics and I'm waiting to hear therm. I've heard the argument that the Olympics are just another forum to perpetuate international rivalries, increase national pride and justify higher military spending. On the other hand, I think many consider the Olympics an event that unites the world under the umbrella of sport and does nothing more than showcase the planet's greatest athletes.
For me the Olympics are a melange of NBC feel-good stories and something exciting to do at work (toggle between live streaming videos). However, I can't deny the politics that contribute to the controversy (and mystique) of the Games. After the USA men's basketball team lost to the Soviets in 1988, the U.S. responded with a campaign to allow professional basketball players - the much famed original Dream Team - in order to assure that they would never lose again. Much of this motivation was not rooted in the teams loss, per se, but that the loss came against the mighty Soviets. (The controversial gold medal loss earlier in 1972 only fueled the fire).
In Athens, Arash Miresmaeili of Iran will not be participating in the Judo events because he was paired with an Israeli for his first match. (Arash carried the Iranian flag into the Opening Ceremonies).
The governments of Russia, China, the U.S. - and I assume other countries, although I'm not sure - all offer direct monetary rewards for medaling. For instance in Russia a gold medal will earn you $50,000 (at least in the Winter Games). The average monthly income is just under $200/mo. These countries obviously place great weight on high medal counts. I'm just curious how interested these governments are in patting their athletic programs on the back vs. promoting an image of international dominance.
What do you all think about the political implications of the Olympics? Is it right for a 1980 semifinal upset in hockey to feed America's anti-Communist sentiment? Where is the border between the celebration of athletic success and the promotion of political agendas? President Bush's latest campaign advertisement makes reference to the Iraqi national soccer team and says that, thanks to President Bush, another free nation has joined the Olympics. Is this okay? Should hockey and soccer be tools for Cold War politics and the War on Terror? Obviously I'm a little concerned and I want to hear what you have to say about it.