from experts in the field:
Alfred E. Senn is professor emeritus of history at the
University of Wisconsin and author of the book Power, Politics
and the Olympic Games (Human Kinetics, 1999).
JUNE DEBATE UPDATE:
Is being neat and
THERE IS NO WAY that politics can be separated from the Olympic
Games or from big-time sports in general.
Sports competition is often surrogate warfare. How many times
have you heard announcers gleefully say, “These guys hate each other”?
We hear “Let’s settle international disputes on the wrestling mat!” It’s
surrogate warfare. And politics come with it naturally.
Consider television’s role. The Olympics are big-time showbiz. Television taught the
International Olympic Committee to dream of billions of dollars. The Olympics are perhaps
television’s best reality show—viewers object to being fed even virtual reality. Television cameras in effect invite anyone with a cause to seize the moment to deliver a message to the world.
The Internet now expands the possibilities of demonstration or protest exponentially.
Countries and cities invest enormous sums in applying to host the games. Once chosen—
and this too is a political process—they invest much more. All for business, tourism and prestige. Then critics find opportunities: raised fists in Mexico City, boycotts of Moscow and Los
Angeles, demonstrations against Beijing’s torch relay, to name a few examples.
Would the Olympics be less political if the athletes competed as individuals rather than
as representatives of their countries? Maybe so, but the vast majority of National Olympic
Committees would surely object. The Olympics are a world event, not just an American event,
and their popularity rests on national rivalries and national pride. The presence of Latvian,
Armenian and Mongolian athletes in the parade of nations constitutes a magic moment for
the citizens of those countries. Besides the complications of organizing and financing competition, elimination of national teams would mean much, much smaller television contracts.
The demand to keep politics out of the Olympic Games is one of the most political
demands a commentator can make. Politics are a natural part of any endeavor where a great
many people care, where there is a great deal of money and where there is great publicity. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by June 13, 2008.
MAY DEBATE RESULTS:
from experts in the field:
Should restaurants have to
disclose nutrition information?
YES: 60% NO: 40%
Percentage reflects votes received
by May 31, 2008.
Giannis Loannidis is deputy minister of culture ( www.culture.
gr) for the government of Greece, with responsibilities for sports.
THE IDEALS THAT EMANATE from the Olympic Games are essential
to the shaping, ripening and strengthening of the values laid down in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Greece,
as the cradle and guardian of the age-old Olympic tradition, plays an
important role in displaying and conveying the Olympic messages.
Noble contest, the idea of fair play, respect for one’s opponent, maxi-
mum effort for victory by fair means, the value of participation and exercise of the body, com-
bined with the promotion of peace and brotherhood, are just some of the supreme gifts
of the Olympic ideal as it was understood and practiced by the ancient Greeks.
The concept of the Olympic truce derives from the conviction that the Olympic ideals
express the desire of humanity for a world based on the principles of justice, humanism, tolerance and the peaceful resolution of differences. It dates back to the ninth century B.C., when the
Ekecheiria (truce) was declared, under which all hostilities ceased for the two weeks before, during and the two weeks following the Olympic Games to allow all those participating in the games
to travel to and from ancient Olympia in total safety. In modern times delegates from North and
South Korea paraded together in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and
athletes from Iraq and Afghanistan were present at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Although the Olympics cannot be a cure-all for the ills that scourge the world, history
suggests that by reviving and promoting the idea of the Olympic truce period, the ideals of
tolerance, equality, fair play and, most of all, peace are further strengthened. Furthermore, the
“opening” of a country to the Olympic spirit by holding the games has the power to bring
The Olympic ideal is bound with the history of Greece, and its elements characterize us
and distinguish us as a nation. We have a duty to nourish the new generation with the authentic
values of athletic spirit and with a return to the ideals of sportsmanship as a means to mankind’s
moral uplifting. The Olympic values represent a universal philosophy, with a moral dimension
of the human at its center. C
Opinions expressed are those of the individuals or organizations represented and are
presented to foster discussion. Costco and
The Costco Connection take no position on
any Debate topic.