“I remain convinced that sport is one of the most forceful elements of peace, and I am confident in its future action.”
— Pierre de Coubertin
The Big Picture
by Glynn Wilson
Pierre de Coubertin was just 30 years old when he founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894. He then went on to establish the modern Olympic Games in 1896, about the same time Adolph Ochs moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee to New York and started transforming the New York Times into an “objective” newspaper in the scientific sense.
Now the modern Olympics Website touts the slogans, “when sport can change the world” and “find out about the Olympic ideal and its dream of peace,” where athletes from just about every country on the planet are trained to keep alive Pierre de Coubertin’s dream of “peace and brotherhood.”
Coubertin dreamt of changing the world through sport and giving a universal dimension to the games, but you would not know that from watching the opening ceremonies in the United States, at least not on the commercial network NBC, the National Broadcasting Company, which holds the contract to broadcast the games (delayed for prime time) in the United States.
At least NBC News has now finally broken its Web partnership with Microsoft, so the network now has its own Website at NBCNews.com. It is no longer known as MSNBC, and the commercial network NBC now has its own Website too at NBC.com. The network has its own domain name and Website for the Olympics as the official U.S. network with the contract to broadcast the games, at NBCOlympics.com.
But will you find any information about the history of the games or the “true meaning” of the Olympics? No.
Will Fox News tell you that the purpose is about ending wars between nations and forming bonds of peace among the peoples of the world? Don’t be silly. Fox favors war. It’s in their economic and political interest.
Will the New York Times even talk about this anymore? Of course not.
The world we live in now is driven by commercial exploitation of sports and athletes, especially by the corporate media, and even the opening ceremony speeches no longer mention anything about the original purpose of bringing back the games, which were inspired by the original games in ancient Greece.
So it is up to independent new outlets like us to tell the real story. Here it is.
“Wars and conflicts have cast a shadow over the 20th and 21st centuries,” according to the official Olympics teaching guide on the Web. “But rays of hope can shine through when people come together to play sport. Relief emerges and antagonisms fade. The history of the games is full of examples.”
The Berlin Games in 1936 were a showcase for Nazi arrogance and racial hatred, according to the Olympics committee, “but we will remember them for the friendship born, above and beyond any ideologies, between Black American Jesse Owens and Germany’s Luz Long.”
When Jesse Owens and Luz Long competed against each other for the gold medal in long jump in an exemplary sporting spirit during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Long was touted as the alleged “prototype” of the “new Aryan man” promoted by the Nazi regime. But of course the medal was finally won by Owens, an American black man and the descendent of slaves, with a jump of 8.06 meters on his last attempt.
Long, who had broken the Olympic record in the preliminary round, had advised him not to go too close to the foul line when taking off — a great gesture of fair play. Finishing first and second, the two athletes went on to do their lap of honor, arm in arm, in front of the dignitaries of the Nazi regime.
“It took a lot of courage for him to express his friendship to me in front of Hitler,” Owens said later. “You can win all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace victoriously.”
We also remember when two Germanys had a single delegation, in 1956, 1960 and 1964, and when two Koreas marched under a single banner in 2006.
We remember “courageous ethical decisions” like the exclusion of South Africa from the games for 30 long years from 1962 to 1992 as a way to condemn its apartheid policies.
“Sport gives a face to everyone and gives the opportunity to nations who are practically unseen on the international stage to express their identities,” the Olympics committee says. “This spirit of universality is especially visible during the parades of opening ceremonies.”
Today, the world of sport is regularly confronted with issues of violence, corruption, discrimination, excessive nationalism, cheating, doping, etc.
“These issues are still in a minority, they can be very damaging for athletes, sports institutions and the image of sport in general,” the committee says. “By promoting a philosophy of life based on the values of excellence, respect and friendship, Olympism seeks to correct these abuses and shows that sport can help to build a better world.”
Olympic athletes are, by their very essence, “bearers of hope,” according to this philosophy, “both collectively, as they can become platforms to promote peace, and individually, as they enable skills to be developed.”
This works on the political level and in the societal dimension, since the Olympics provide tools for civic education, which help to develop important individual and social competences, “and thus to know one another better and live together better.”
“Sport in its purest form offers possibilities of dialogue, camaraderie and exchanges of ideas,” according the philosophy, “in a spirit of mutual respect and fair play, which everyone can apply on a daily basis well beyond sports arenas, thus contributing to building a better world.”
Now there you have it. The Olympic Games are not just about some of the world’s best athletes competing with each other for medals so that corporations can make a fortune exploiting them with television advertising. It is not a competition to see who the best country is in the world.
If the media that is also making a fortune from that corporate advertising would use the platform to educate the public about the original purpose and dream of hope and peace, maybe we could build a better world.
Will it happen? Of course not.
Our world today is so commercialized and the world population and national populations are so divided by ideology and religion that the entire Olympic Games — and their coverage on television — will be misunderstood by most of the people of the country and the world. They will just watch their favorite sports events and cheer for the home team, because that’s what they think sports is about.
Dividing up into tribes and competing with one another is in our genes, after all, developed ever since our ancestors lived in hunter-gatherer bands on the African Savannah a million and a half years ago.
It takes strong cultural influences to curb those baser instincts and to find common ground as one people on planet earth. The modern Olympics were started for that very purpose. How can they accomplish that purpose if people don’t find out?
Now you know.
© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.