"The Olympics Aren't Political"
Yes, they are. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said in March, "We do not make political choices, because if we do, this is the end of the universality of the Olympic Games." Two weeks later, Rogge observed indignantly, "Politics invited itself in[to] sports. We didn’t call for politics to come." But after 75 years of watching the political manipulation and exploitation of the Olympic Games, can anyone actually believe this?
Trapped by its grandiose goal of embracing the entire "human family" at whatever cost, the IOC has repeatedly caved in and awarded the games to police states bent on staging spectacular festivals that serve only to reinforce their own authority. Of course, the most notorious example is the 1936 Berlin Games, which were promoted by a network of Nazi agents working both inside and outside the IOC. Pierre de Coubertin, the French nobleman who founded the modern Olympic movement, called Hitler's games the fulfillment of his life's work. As a reward for this endorsement, the Nazi Foreign Office nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the IOC’s history of working with unsavory regimes didn't end with the Second World War. The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City were awarded to a one-party, faux democratic government that hoped to use the games to legitimize its rule. Like the 2008 Games, they were confronted with massive antigovernment demonstrations that culminated with the Mexican Army mowing down 300 protesters. (The IOC has never acknowledged this greatest of Olympic-related political crimes.) The 1980 Moscow Olympics were only awarded to the Soviet Union when, in 1974, it threatened to leave the Olympic "family" after losing its bid for the 1976 Games. The IOC awarded the 1988 Olympics to Seoul in 1981, one year after South Korea's military government carried out a massacre in the city of Kwangju, where paratroopers crushed a citizens' revolt against the junta, killing at least 200 and injuring more than 1,000 people.
Whether unwelcome or not, politics is a part of the games. The problem is, the IOC seems not to have a clue as to what to do about it. Having failed to anticipate the scope of the anti-China protests this year, and lacking any real political clout, the IOC has fallen back on old clichés about Olympic "diplomacy" and its "nonpolitical" mission on behalf of peace and human rights.