Shame on the IOC for its scandalous history
The Kansas City Star
After the closing ceremony on Sunday, sports fans around the world will be sad the London Games are over.
This one won’t. The Olympics are creepy. The group that runs them, the International Olympic Committee, is an incredibly secretive bunch of international thugs who fund the five-star lifestyle of a tiny elite by convincing the world’s best athletes to perform for free.
Please understand. Disgust for the IOC doesn’t keep me from taking joy in the athletes who compete. Fans have to be realists, and it’s possible to acknowledge the corruption of a governing body in the sporting world while still being thrilled by what we see between the lines. The London Olympics, though, have been defined by what we haven’t seen.
For instance, we didn’t see any Iranians competing with Israelis. Just as they did during the games of Beijing in 2008 and Athens 2004, Iran found a way to keep its athletes from competing with any from Israel, and so avoid even the hint of legitimizing the “Zionist entity.” Iranian judo champ Javad Mahjoub, the only Iranian entered in an event where it was possible to face an Israeli, didn’t make the trip to London.
We didn’t even see the Lebanese judo team workout with Israelis. Last week at an official training venue, members of the Lebanese judo squad refused to even practice next to Israelis. To this blatant violation of the Olympic ideal, event organizers unconscionably acquiesced by setting up a screen between the two teams.
Most significantly, of course, we didn’t see any public acknowledgment by the IOC of the 11 athletes and trainers murdered inside the Olympic village at Munich — apparently from fear that some Muslim nations would boycott the opening ceremonies.
Ignoring Jewish dead, though, is nothing new for the Olympics.
Anti-Semitism runs deep in the IOC because the organization was built by fascists. And not in the casually insulting way most people use “fascist” today to mean anyone to the right of center. The IOC is fascist in the traditional, political sense — as in people who all wear the same color shirts.
True, the Olympics began as an ideal. They were also little more than a sideshow for the World’s Fairs. That’s until Mussolini. The first modern leader to see the power of sport as political propaganda, Mussolini made Italy under the fascists the first European state with a comprehensive national sports program.
But, like much between the Axis powers, what Italian fascists invented, Nazis perfected. At the 1936 “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin, Hitler’s propaganda minister Joeseph Goebbels transformed the Olympics with a little help from filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl from a sleepy exhibition of aristocratic sportsmanship into the quasi-religious, pageantry-filled, global media event in the service of state and corporate power that we know today.
Nazis even invented the torch relay. That cheesy, faux-pagan rite was concocted to link the glories of Ancient Greece with the Third Reich — and the torch was made by Krupp.
Avery Brundage kept up the IOC’s authoritarian tradition. As president of the USOC, Brundage fought against a boycott of Hitler’s games — calling the idea a Jewish-communist conspiracy. After the war, as head of the IOC for decades, Brundage supported white supremacist rule in post-colonial Africa, and presided over debacles at Mexico City and Munich. Then he handed IOC leadership to Juan Antonio Samaranch, a lifelong supporter of Spain’s murderous Franco regime.
The antidemocratic nature of the IOC is even evident in the odd sports they promote. Baseball, a democratic team game that allows for individual movement, is played all over the Western Hemisphere and Pacific Rim.
Yet America’s pastime was pulled from the Olympics, seemingly in a rebuke to President George W. Bush for the invasion of Iraq. Meanwhile, a contrived event like synchronized diving has been a medal sport since 2000.
And that joined synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics as the Olympic “sports” where the goal is to conform as closely as possible to what someone else is doing — a goal almost inherently antithetical to the implicit individualism of the Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”
So, let others cry for the end of the London Games. The only thing that could redeem the Olympics, now or for Rio 2016 is for the IOC to finally hold a remembrance for those killed at Munich — and to have it during Sunday night’s closing.
Barring that miracle, I’ve had it with the games for good. If I want to feel national pride, NASA’s landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars makes me want to wave the red, white and blue. And if I must watch athletes go unpaid while generating billions in revenue for a corrupt, self-righteous, secretive organization that has the gall to call itself a nonprofit, there’s always the NCAA. College football starts soon.
Hampton Stevens, of Kansas City, is a writer for The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine and other national publications. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.