Games Monitor

Skip to main content.

Article

Bread and circuses: the shady business of the International Olympic Committee

Corporate Games graphicfrom Corporate Watch


| |

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)


| | | | | |

More lying about the Olympic regeneration of East London

Nick Whitten recently posted a guest contribution by Matthew Black of estate agents CBRE on the Estates Gazette Olympics Blog. On their website CBRE describe themselves as 'key property adviser' to the now defunct London Development Agency in relation to the London 2012 Olympic Games bid.

In his contribution Mr Black wrote of the Olympic Park:

It also had its issues including heavily contaminated ground, buildings that were no longer fit for purpose, electricity pylons crossing the whole site and Europe's largest redundant fridge mountain. This was an opportunity to revitalise an area of London that had suffered from a lack of investment for a number of decades and the Games was the opportunity to rectify this and bring it back to becoming a core part of London again.


| | | | |

Tourist numbers in London down 30%

David Cameron is giving upbeat press conferences about how well the Tube system is working despite the influx of 100,000 Olympic visitors. Transport for London say passenger numbers on the Tube on Monday were up 4%.


| | | | | | | | |

Local Heroes

By Leah Borromeo

The motto of the Games is "inspire a generation". However, not everyone is enthused. Londoners from the poorest parts of the city facing major upheavals from losing their homes, livelihoods and public spaces to the mercy of a few weeks of medal-chasing over the summer. They believe that the Olympics gave local councils and big business an excuse for a land grab - in which the community had little or no say. When they voice their opposition, they are hushed by the machinery of bureaucracy, the suppression of protest and the reality of losing the roofs over their heads. But their concerns are as real as the Games itself, which have received some £9.3bn in UK public funding. Community life will continue long after the athletes, the fans and the confetti have gone. I spent a week listening to and gathering the stories of Londoners shouting at the walls of an Olympic Jericho.

Joe Alexander: Photo: Leah BorromeoPhoto: Leah Borromeo

Joe Alexander, 38, is in property maintenance. He lives on the Carpenters Road estate and is vice chair of the local campaign group Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans. I spent the day with Joe - a quiet, eloquent divorcee and father who moved to Stratford in London's East End in the hopes of starting a new life


| | | | | | | | | |

AdiZones: Rewriting the 2012 Olympic Legacy as Permanent Branding

By Alberto Duman

Right from the outset, the notion of “legacy” has been predominant in articulating the value of hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games in East London, the argument being that the long-term regeneration benefits would ultimately prevail over the aggressive land restructuring, everyday disruption and unbalanced socio-economic shifts characteristic of the years leading up to the 2012 Games. Subsequent to the awarding of the 2012 Games, the emphasis placed on such explicit non-sporting benefits as added long-term values has been confirmed as one of the most decisive assets of the London bid, contributing a great deal to the final awarding decision by the IOC.[1] This legacy, we are told, is why the London 2012 Games will be “unique” and “different”, a pledge clearly spelled out through “five promises to set the scale of our ambition”:

  1. To make the UK a world-leading sporting nation
  2. To transform the heart of East London
  3. To inspire a generation of young people
  4. To make the Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living
  5. To demonstrate the UK is a creative, inclusive and welcoming
    place to live in, visit and for business.[2]

Although the national dimension of these ambitions is clearly emphasised, a more specific focus is placed on “transforming the heart of East London”, to “create a well-planned and well-managed environment in and around the Olympic Park which will attract business investment and promote recreational and cultural use for years to come”.[3]


| | | |

Olympic Laws - A Short Guide For Trouble Makers

by Kevin Blowe

A number of people have asked me to clarify what impact Olympic-specific legislation may have on local people and anyone promoting protests or making political statements during this summer’s Games. Here is a short guide.


| | | |

Syndicate content