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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEditorials | Opinions | August 2008 

The Olympic Games and Attendant Struggles
email this pageprint this pageemail usAllan Wall - PVNN


 
It's that time again, that special time that rolls around every four years - the Olympics. It's that great sports fest in which all the world puts aside politics and cheers on the noble athletes coming together.

The only considerations are peace and the Olympic motto of Citius (faster), Altius (higher) and Fortius (Stronger). Well, that's the idea. But back on Planet Earth, the Olympics are fraught with controversy, political maneuvering, corruption and even sometimes violence. And oh yes, it makes a lot of money!

The very definition of which type of athlete should compete has been contentious. Should they be amateurs or professionals? Nowadays, how do you tell the difference? What about athletes using a little chemical stimulus to help them be faster, higher or stronger? That leads to the doping problems.

Olympic officials have, from time to time, been accused of corruption, and probably will be again.

Then there is the long history of Olympic boycotts.

In 1956, some countries boycotted the Melbourne Olympics to protest the Soviet suppression of Hungary, while others did so to protest the Suez Crisis. The 1976 Montreal Olympics were boycotted by many countries protesting the presence of New Zealand in the games. Why New Zealand? Because its rugby team had competed with that of South Africa, which was banned from the Olympics.

China doesn't like Taiwan to compete, especially under its official name "Republic of China." But now Taiwan can compete, under the name "Chinese Taipei," with a special flag designed by the IOC and only used at the Olympics! Iranian athletes compete in the games, but are forbidden from competing against any Israeli athletes.

In 1980 the U.S. and many other countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Four years later the Soviets and allies returned the favor by boycotting the LA Olympics.

Three scheduled Olympics have been cancelled, one during World War I and two during World War II.

For a country that is chosen to host an Olympics, it's a great honor, and is seen as a great public relations coup. Adolph Hitler showed how this was done in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which he used as a propaganda event to glorify the Nazi regime.

After World War II, the Rome Olympics of 1960, the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, and the Munich Olympics of 1972 were opportunities for former Axis nations Italy, Japan and West Germany, to show that they were changed nations.

In the Munich Olympics the West Germans went so far out of their way to show how nice they were that they were lax on security. That allowed Palestinian terrorists to kidnap and murder Israeli athletes. In 1996 in Atlanta, American domestic terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph set off some bombs.

The 1988 Seoul Olympics were an opportunity for South Korea to show how much that nation had progressed. Since the Olympics are heavily publicized, internationally, the games provide a platform for protesters, hoping to attract the world's attention, to promote their causes.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics, now beginning, are very important to China and the image it wants to show the world. But that's easier sad than done.

China has dissidents it wants to keep on a short leash during the games. In fact, it has jailed some potential Chinese protesters, planning to keep them locked up until the games are over. The desire to avoid embarrassment even extends to some foreign athletes who have been excluded from the games. The Chinese government has also clamped down on Tibet and Xinjiang, where many non-Chinese people don't want to be part of China anyway.

Forty years ago, the Olympic Games were held in Mexico City. That too was important for Mexico and the Mexican government of the time, the authoritarian PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) regime. It was the PRI's chance to prove to the world that it had made Mexico a success, and was determined not to be embarrassed.

The result was the horrible massacre in Tlatelolco Plaza, occurring shortly before the games. Mexican police and military fired on demonstrators and bystanders, killing hundreds, some even say thousands.

There's a well-done Mexican movie called Rojo Amanecer, which portrays the massacre from the perspective of a family who lived in one of the apartment complexes surrounding the plaza. The Mexican government though, was able to keep a lid on things, and the Olympic Games opened on schedule, ten days later.
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at AllanWall.net.

Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.



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