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Olympics Studies

The Five Ring Circus - Myths and realities of the Olympic Games


"The Olympic Games, once considered the pinnacle of athleticism and fair play, have become a cesspool of greed, backroom deals and the wholesale trampling of civil liberties. In Vancouver, preparations for the 2010 Games have had a substantial negative impact on the environment and have resulted in the 'economic cleansing' of the poor and homeless.


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Olympic Industry Resistance

Olympic Industry Resistance provides a critical update of Olympic issues in the post-bribery and post-September 11 era, as well as documenting the work of Olympic watchdog groups. It presents a detailed examination of the Olympic aftermath in Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney, and provides analyses of Olympic impacts and community resistance in Salt Lake City, Athens, Vancouver, and London, as well as in the unsuccessful bid cities of New York and Toronto.


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on the wrong side of the track

It was something of a joy last night to attend the launch at the Institute of Education of Phil Cohen's East London and the Post Olympics. Part of that joy for me was meeting up with commonKnowledge tovarich John Wallett who spoke briefly and featured in the film shown, Lights on for the Territory.


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Lies and ignorance about the legacy - it's not academic

No wonder people get confused about Stratford City, the Athletes’ Village, the Olympic Park and the Legacy. Earlier in the autumn we had the fiction from the Centre for Economic and Business Research of the 'highly rated' E20 postcode's Chobham Academy even though it hadn't yet opened. Recently the Academy opened its doors to children who wanted to apply. The Evening Standard told us the Chobham Academy is an Olympic Legacy, forgetting to mention that it's the community school described in the West Leyton part of the Stratford City project, created under a separate non-Olympic planning application and not an Olympic legacy. Another commentator, the recently launched London Olympic Park Watch, which describes itself as an 'independent...constructively critical observer', says the school is 'in the Olympic Park' which of course it isn't. Stratford City, where the Academy, like the Athletes’ Village, is situated, is not in the Olympic Park but on the Stratford Rail Lands, the large piece of land which includes the Westfield Shopping Centre.


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Use our global reach - but don't ask us to pay

They’ve been discussing hosting the Olympics at a conference in Dubai.

One speaker was Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Emirates, who was clear about what corporations expect:


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Babes are born and cauldrons bubble

Now it's the Telegraph's turn to recount the miraculous capacity of the Olympics to boost fertility! And just in case anyone should doubt its truth even science is recruited to provide an explanation for the baby boom. Janice Hillier, a consultant clinical psychologist at the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships informs us:

“When you experience feelings of novelty, interest and motivation your brain releases dopamine and noradrenaline, which in turn increase levels of oxytocin and vasopressin – chemicals associated with arousal. On a neurobiological level, the Olympic baby boom makes sense.”


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Boris does Flag Fan Dangle Thing

Perfect casting for being hoist by his own petard. It's not everybody has their own Petard. The rich fat bastards have all the fun. That's not raw talent you know. They have the breeding you see. And the fagging. That and centuries of de Feffling about on a wet Saturday indoors with the croquet mallets.


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Baron Pierre de Coubertin - No More Mr Nice Guy

There is a theme running through the social democratic discourse about this elitist, militarised, privatised and commodified Olympic Games which has arrived in our neighbourhood as a vast invasion of strength through joy missionaries. It is that if only we can get the responsible authorities to understand that they should pay attention to a widely shared desire to return to the humanist ideals of the original Olympics as created by the enlightened Baron Pierre de Coubertin we can all calm down and carry on.

However the ideals behind Coubertin's successful co-opting of many pre-existing strands of fictional revivals of ancient Greek Olympic Games, towards the end of the nineteenth century, were far from genteel. According to a great deal of scholarly research into the writings and activities of Coubertin, conducted by Ljubodrag Simonovic, the development of a super-fit elite class of visionary white male leaders was essential to Coubertin to prevent French and European civilisation falling under the dire influence of the emerging organised proletariat. The promotion of these ubermenschen was essential also to carrying forward the sacred task of the imperialist colonisation and exploitation of other races across the World.

The myth of Coubertin is based on the assertion that he devoted his life to the creation of a "better world" governed by"peace" and "cooperation between nations", and that it was the reason why he "restored" the ancient Olympic Games and inspired them with a "new" spirit. If that is so, the question is: why are the works of Pierre de Coubertin - whose written legacy amounts to over 60,000 pages - unknown to the public? How is it possible that in most countries, in which the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games was pompously celebrated, not a single line from Coubertin's writings has been published? To make things even more bizarre, the main censors of Coubertin's work are the official "guardians" of his Olympic idea. The major reason for the Olympic gentlemen to assume such an attitude towards the "divine baron" lies in the fact that in his main works Coubertin appears as a militant representative of the European bourgeoisie, who elaborates the strategy and tactics of dealing with working "masses", women and "lower races". Coubertin's political writings are political instructions to rulers of the world how to efficiently deal, by means of sport and physical drill, with the struggle for liberation of the oppressed and establish a global supremacy. It is one of the main reasons why, even six decades after his death, the gentlemen from the IOC, together with those from the national Olympic Committees, do not consider publishing Coubertin's collected works, presenting instead to the public excerpts from his writings in the form of "Selected texts" ("Textes choisis"), from which almost everything indicative of the true nature of his Olympic doctrine has been omitted. Since Coubertin openly stated that capitalism was an unjust order - something that the bourgeois ideologues attempt to hide at all costs - it is quite clear why the bourgeois theory systematically "ignores" Coubertin's work.

As far as the popular thesis about the "apolitical character of sport" is concerned, even those who glorify Olympism and its "founder" think that Coubertin's real "greatness" lies not in his contribution to the development of sport, but in making sport the "means of establishing bridges of cooperation between nations". Coubertin's Olympic engagement became the symbol of a "policy of peace", and Coubertin himself - a "politician of peace". It is therefore quite understandable why the last decade of his life, during which Coubertin openly appeared as a promoter of the Nazi regime, was not included in his 'biography, and why one of the leading interpreters and propagators of Coubertin's Olympism Yves-Pierre Boulongne, trying to "explain" Coubertin's blind devotion to the Nazis and admiration of Hitler, proclaimed him a "schizophrenic". The preservation of the myth of a "peace-loving Coubertin" - who was in reality a fanatic advocate of authoritarianism and colonialism - stands before the ideologues of Olympism as an impossible task. Thus, one of the main concerns of coubertenologists is how to protect the Olympic myth from the "father" of the modern Olympic Games: in order to preserve the "credibility" of the copy, the "followers" must destroy the original.

According to the same criteria by which Coubertin was pronounced the "divine baron" and "one of the greatest humanists of the 20th century", the Nazis should also be regarded as "humanists" and "peacemakers". Were the Berlin Olympics not held as a "symbol of peace" and "international cooperation"? Was it not Hitler who at the Berlin Olympics said the "famous" words: "May the Olympic flame never be extinguished!"? Were the Nazis not those who completed the archaeological excavations of ancient Olympia, with Hitler's generous contribution of 300,000 Reich marks? Was it not Hitler who instructed his architect Albert Speer to design plans for the largest Olympic stadium in the world with a capacity of 400,000 people? Were the Nazis not the first to have organized the carrying of the "Olympic torch" from "holy" Olympia to Berlin, which symbolized the organic closeness of Hellenic civilization and fascist Germany and was to become one of the most significant symbols of the Olympics? Was it not Coubertin who declared that the Nazi Olympics, which according to him were "illuminated with Hitler's strength and discipline", should serve as a model for the subsequent Games, and that Hitler was "one of the greatest constructors of the modern era"? Was it not Coubertin, together with the gentlemen from the IOC, who fervently supported the Nazis, and bequeathed to them his written legacy, with an appeal to protect his Olympic idea from distortion and a "mission" to bury his heart in ancient Olympia?

As for Coubertin's fanatic endeavour to protect the "pureness" of sport, as an idealized embodiment of the original principles of capitalism, from the disastrous influence of commercialism, it has been clear from the very birth of the Olympic Games that it is a lost battle. From its beginnings, sport has been part of the capitalist system of production and a means of integrating man into the capitalist order. In this line Jean-Marie Brohm commented: "Historically, sport followed the development of industrial capitalism. From the very beginning it has been closely connected to the mechanisms of investment, circulation and reproduction of capital. The institution of sport immediately came into the hands of trading capital and was used as a source of profit. The sale of sports spectacles and betting did not emerge together with sports professionalism, but with the first forms of the institutionalized organization of sports competitions."

As capitalism entered the final stage of its development ("consumer society"), sport has become entirely commercialized: instead of displaying national banners, the Olympic Games are becoming increasingly dominated by the symbols of capitalist companies; instead of religio athletae*, reigns the spirit of money; instead of a "Church", the Olympic Games are becoming a "fairground"; instead of embodying the "sanctity" of the Olympic ideals, sportsmen have become "circus gladiators"; instead of being the honorable "guardians of the Olympic spirit", the gentlemen from the IOC have become unscrupulous merchants who turned the Olympic Games into a dirty "business" worth billions of dollars.
Lubodrag Simonovic, Philosophy of Olympism, Introduction, (pub. 2004.) by Ljubodrag Simonovic, Belgrade, Serbia

* "The first essential characteristic of ancient and of modern Olympism alike is that of being a religion."

Pierre de Coubertin, The Philosophic Foundation of Modern Olympism,p131, In; P. de Coubertin, The Olympic Idea, Discourses and essays, Carl Diem Institut. Ed, Karl HofmannVerlag, (1996)


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