To What Extent Are the Olympic Games More Than an Athletic Competition?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
August 8, 2008
2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

August 8, 2008 marked the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, in a ceremony viewed on television by more than an estimated one billion people worldwide. About 11,000 athletes from 205 countries and other areas will compete in this year's Games.

To what extent are the Olympic Games more than an athletic competition?

Comments

Comments

mandar
|
United Kingdom
August 13, 2008

Mandar in U.K. writes:

I think they are more than just an athletic competition.

More about country pride here.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 13, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A.

Well, I see what you are getting at, but I'll lay a response to that aside for the moment.

I've gone back to examine the time-line and look at the facts, while trying to sort out what is known from what is un-known, and what is assumed. Of course, it is difficult to get a grasp on the context when you don't speak the language but I've applied my limited understanding of military theory and this is my tentative hypothesis:

Georgia engaged in a military assault because they felt they had no choice otherwise, probably not realizing the extent that Russia had already prepared for, and probably instigated, this contingency.

Months ago, Saakashvili, believing S. Ossetia and Abkhazia to be rightfully theirs, proclaimed the goal of re-taking those territories. To this end, improved the alliance with the U.S. and requested military assistance.

Russia, having already considered the area de-facto theirs, judging by the amount of money and effort poured into it (2/3rds of S. Ossetia's economy is subsidized by Russia), decided to pre-empt the attack. Having already issued passports and solidifying their control with personnel, with a wary eye on U.S. expansion, concocted a strategy for the Olympics.

What is unknown is who fired the first shot on August 1st, but since it would be foolhardy to start an advance before all the troops were in place, it seems probable that Russia staged a covert attack on S. Ossetia and used that to escalate the war. The very fact that in the same breath they claimed a soldier was killed by a sniper and then pointed to the 40 Ukraine and 120 U.S. sniper rifles supplied to Georgia -- increases their culpability. Georgia's repeated pleas for ceasefire and proclamations to make S. Ossetia and Abkhazia an autonomous region signify that they were probably not the aggressors of this conflict.

On the 3rd Russia moved 2,500 to 5,000 troops through the N. Ossetia and S. Ossetia tunnel. It takes a while to mobilize that many people so they were probably already on alert or at least near-by on the 1st. (considering the military build-up in Georgia, seems reasonable).

Once they gauged that Georgia would use a full army emergency attack they pulled out their big guns. They probably already speculated on the reaction and were already prepared to plow into Georgia.

A lot, but not all, military ventures are designed to force diplomatic concessions from a fallen foe. With Russia's demand that Georgia sign a pact to not intervene with force in those area, it seems this was the case. If Georgia signs the pact, their designs for reclaiming those areas will be sealed shut. Especially considering that Russia has stated that they should incorporate S. Ossetia "for their protection from Georgia." Looks like Russia has won this round.

Zharkov, as for your implication that this reaction was a result of American expansion, I would say: it's possible. But I would also say that the Russians were already strategizing on how to reclaim their lost territory. The implementation of the oil-pipeline and military build up only sped up this encounter.

Ron
|
New York, USA
August 13, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Olympics of Global Ethics

Each country competes for awards in meeting the Millennium Development Goals...Reducing Poverty, Disease, Environmental Harms, etc.

Corruption is now the key issue facing humanity. see: www.iacc.org.

John in Greece: Thanks for the compliment on the "Birdcage in Razorwire" idea. The Olympics is now a symbol of the hermetically-sealed ideal; in world of enormous challenges to human security.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
August 13, 2008

SNP in Syria:

@DIPNOTE:
No it is not real, because it was Arial shot from a copter (unless yours was space satellite photo). What they did is produced digitally animated version of the fire works and that is what they fed to TV tube as live. They did use some fireworks in low profile but the presentation people saw on T.V. is digitally enhanced and recorded in studio. So what the attendee saw live fire work show is different from T.V. viewers. They were concerned about the copter and crew flying amongst that saturation of firework for real shot.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 13, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Kirk, the fact that the US helps train and equip soverign militaries is not exactly relevent to this situation, though Zharkov asks a fair question.

The Poles, Romanians, Ukraine,...those that have membership in NATO or are planning to become members are required by NATO to have standard interoperable weapons and amunition.

So upgrading their equipment is a natural and logical process to enable these nations to a) protect their soverign territory. b) To be able to take part in joint NATO excercises, and deploy as part of NATO in areas such as Afghanistan.

Training on the equipment is also logical, so we provide that, along with other training such as counterterrorism as part of a nation's role in the global war on terror.

The fact that Georgia recalled its troop from Iraq during this crisis was their decision. The US provided air transport to assist in their return, and that may have been as per a pre existing agreement to provide their transport to and from Iraq.

The US Ambassador to Georgia indicated that they had no prior warning of impending action by Georgia in S. Ossetia.

To imply as Zharkov did that "US expantion" is at fault is totally without basis. 1) Nations choose to join NATO of their free will. 2) Nato may "Expand" in this process of adding members, but to say the US is expanding is to imply a completely false and misleading intent on America's part.

Democracy is expanding among nations too, but that doesn't imply any US hegemony over it, as folks are doing this on their own volition for themselves. Freedom sells itself, but we are conviniently blamed for it....(chuckle).

Zharkov's question regarding any miscalculation on Bush's part assumes the Georgian president took advantage of US military assistance.

First of all, we were not arming Georgia to try to match Russian military power. And while it's a safe bet that the Georgian's miscalculated the Russian response, it's also safe to say that we hadn't provided enough weapons to make a difference, let alone give the Georgian president any illusions of grandure what his nation's capabilities were.

I'm sure the Georgians have probably been told that we don't like unpleasent suprises, and that it would have been good of them to at least warn our embassy so we could take appropriate measures to protect staff and family members. NGO's, etc.

From my understanding the Georgians were reacting to a broken truce agreement signed a few days prior, broken by rebel shelling of Georgian positions in S. Ossetia. Georgia responded in kind and things got out of hand from there on.

One thing's for sure, now that the boil on the backside of this region has burst, folks need to apply some antibiotic humanitarian measures to reduce the inflamation and create a fair minded framework for the area's long term stability.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 13, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A.

If I'm mis-characterizing your sentiments, please correct me, but I think they may be summed up by saying: "Look at how our actions abroad are seen as aggressive provocations! We need to be more careful about how we reach our goals and consider how they affect the other countries." Is that correct? If so, then I strongly agree and I think there is a deep flaw in our foreign policy that needs to be addressed.

I think this flaw is a one of time perception. The U.S. sees things on such a short time scale and a lot of other countries do not. Consider that elections come every four years and that time constraint affects the minds of those who lead. Those that come into power, first have to re-invent the wheel so to speak, and then they have to advance America's position on the global stage before their time is up. Knowing that their predecessor will often work to undo what has been done, leaders hurriedly cram to get things locked in. This process repeats it's self every 4 or 8 years and because of it our foreign policy swings from one side of the political spectrum to the other. This results in strong aggressive maneuvering that ends up alarming other nations (like arming Georgia). I think what we need is a way that encapsulates the general consensus of American's foreign policy goals and keeps them relatively stable through the shifting political dynamics.

I'm no expert so you can take all that with a grain of salt, but I will rely on a higher authority:

To quote Plato:

"The curse of me and my nation is that we always think
things can be bettered by immediate action of some
sort, any sort rather than no sort."

A country like, say, Russia, does not suffer from this time constraint. Despite adopting the facade of elections, the real power remains in place until ousted by another powerful faction, and not set by time tables. It is only a minor inconvenience for some one like Putin to sidestep the electoral demands by installing his protege and then calling the shots from the Prime Minister's position. Who knows how long one can stay in that post? This gives them the option of viewing things from a long term perspective. Again, I can't claim to have any special insight into the Russian mind, but it seems clear enough that when one is not beleaguered by having to abdicate power after 4 or 8 years, they can focus on much longer scale of time.

Do you know the best way to catch a fly? It is not to snatch it out of the air because a fly experiences time at a rate hundreds of times faster than humans and can easily out-maneuver us. It is to open you palm well before you advance and move every so slowly towards it's resting form until the time of the descent of your hand is shorter the time it can get away, and then snatch it. A fly cannot perceive the approach of the hand because it moves so slowly.

I would like to ask our policy makers:

Are we the hand or the fly?

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 13, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ SNP, have you ever heard of a "fisheye" lens ? Well, you are looking at the results in the photo above.

Nothing special, and nothing doctored. A "fisheye" lens gives an almost panoramic 360 deg. view, which is why you see an appropriately distorted photo.

I kindly suggest, along with others who have objected to your rhetoric that you get off your soap box and get a grip.

I don't care what your personal problem is, but don't take it out on folks here at Dipnote.

I'll simply be forced to drop a verbal Nuke on you if you persist....(chuckle)...so fair warning.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 13, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico

I agree with all of your points. Though I didn't know that about the NATO equipment requirements.

Admittedly, I throw around words like "U.S. Expansion" with a cavalier attitude because it lends a personally amusing Grand and Conspiratorial slant to the writing. I guess it would be more accurate to say the expansion of Democratic values in other countries. Like you, I made similar point about countries' personal choices in the "Counterterrorism: Recovery, Justice, Prevention" thread. However, if I were standing in the shoes of a rival nation I could only see the turning of another country to a pro U.S. stance as an extension of the U.S.'s power. Democracy does sell its self, but we also provide some pretty tasty incentives.

I don't really think the U.S. sought to counter Russia by assisting Georgia with military investment since, as you pointed out, investment is common practice with our allies. I do think that because of Georgia's designs on their break-away regions they were more than eager to facilitate that alliance and all its benefits. And, I also suspect that Georgia had a knee-jerk reaction to the aggressions of Russia and fell into a premeditated trap.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
August 14, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@ Susan in Florida -- Anti-Americans? not. SNP is Anti American policies that serve few elitists gang and sacrifices the Nation future, prestige and moral standing in the world, most Americans are clueless about what went on since WWII, what is going on now, and what will be transpiring in the future. At least 73 percent of Americans including large percentage of Jewish Americans shares these sentiments about the policies American voted their representatives to carry on, yet they act as they have nothing to do with it all. You have the power to vote, if you can not exercise it as an educated grown up, a concerned and active citizen, then maybe you should be ruled by another system, one that you are told what to do. Maybe the Elitists have the right idea, know better and we should support them in the master plan.

Anti-Semitic, well, honestly, we are not crazy about these people (Arabs or Jews). We just don't like them, period. What have they contributed to humanity history other than endless and continual mayhem, they found the elitists Judeo-Christo Zionist Crusaders gang to be perfect partners in crimes and mankind in 2008 still having the same endless hellish wars and conflicts of 2008 B.C. E.

Look at the bright side, at least we recognize the right of the Jewish Semite to live in peace in Palestine, or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter of fact, and we recognize their right to Jerusalem as undivided Hebrew City they can call capital if so they choose. Now how is that anti-Jewish, let me know.

Wiseman
|
Syria
August 14, 2008

Wiseman in Syria writes:

Why don't we all level to the challenges we face and learn something from the Olympics (we all still human beings)?

This olympics is great example of our international failure to confront the global threats.

Can anyone tell me how many mouths this (40 billions 8 hours celebration) can feed in Africa instead China sucking africans oil fields dry in order to afford such expensive celebration?

And we still dare to speak about global hunger?

We must be ashamed of ourselves.

Chinese still have a chance to prove their goodwill (one world one dream) and donate the Olympics end ceremony to Africa.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 14, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Kirk in Kentucky -- Kirk, Sorry I was butting in to your response to Zharkov..."U.S. expansion" being his words, not yours...(chuckle).

Yes indeed it is a popular illusion...urban myth perhaps.

Considering the fact that democracies usually don't go to war with each other, yeah there's some tasty incentive.

Is it the hand of U.S. influence, or simply the old and bold idea of freedom that is buzzing around folks ears like some bothersome fly, only to be swatted down by tyrants? (I speak in general terms, as there are many examples).

NATO uses a .223 round as standard caliber ammo. Former Soviet states have long used .762 (AK 47 standard). So equipment requirements like having a common caliber simplify logistics in the field. Any prospective NATO member would have to make the conversion.

U.S. training of Georgian forces actually helped solve Russia's problem of Chechnyan fighters some time ago (2002?) as greater Georgian capacity to engage them drove them out of their safe haven. Ending one problem between Russia and Georgia. Russia had no complaints with the U.S. over training Georgian forces to aquire the ability to police their own sovereign territory. Nor do they have reason today.

Further training has involved Georgian deployment to Iraq (third largest Coalition force after the U.S. and U.K.).

Like you, I'm no expert...just trying to sift fact from fantasy.

Ever read "The mouse that roared."????

Well this isn't nearly as amusing, but Georgia going up against Russia is reminicent.

Bush has studied Plato, and he's been patient enough to speak today with fair minded firmness, with the free world at his back, in support of French (EU) diplomatic efforts and the territorial, economic and political integrity of a democracy at risk.

Folks are saying Georgia's practical claim to both disputed areas is no longer viable under the circumstance.

May be, but when a UN sec. council gets it in mind to send in a UN peacekeeping task force that also calls for Russia's withdraw as a "peacekeeper" force in these regions, then Russia will gain more respect that it currently believes it will lose by doing so. Pardon my twisted logic on this, but I think time will prove its merit.

Any veto by Russia in the Sec. Council may be overridden by 2/3's of the UNGA by the vote.

The problem with over-reaching is that one is liable to get their hand slapped. In this, Russia has miscalculated.

We're going to deliver humanitarian aid, and Russia will get out of the way to let it through. Their international obligations have just been made quite clear to them in this regard, as well as the fact that the U.S. military is doing the delivering, via sea and air...

Now if the Russians have a problem with that.....

It would be the blunder of the ages.

Stanley
|
Texas, USA
August 15, 2008

Stanley in Texas writes:

The Olympics have turned into a media frenzy and commercial branding extravaganza. No longer are we celebrating talents and skills of these individuals, we are basing their fame (and amount of air time they get) on looks and flash. It kind of makes me sad. For example, the most media attention is being given to Michael Phelps and his achievements, and since he is the "poster boy" of the Olympics right now, Visa is tying itself to this sports hero after his accomplishments by creating a commercial exclusively for congratulating Michael Phelps for his recent success. Visa is already the only accepted credit card accepted at the Olympics so this is just another advertising ploy by a big corporation to leverage a global audience viewership.

Zharkov
|
United States
August 15, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Assume you saw your next door neighbor coming home from work every night with an armload of new automatic weapons, cases of ammunition, gas masks, night vision equipment, etc. Would you not worry about this development?

Russians are more frightened and suspicious of the Western powers than we are of them. This is why ordinary Russians demand strong leaders for Russia. They still relive the Nazi invasion of Russia as if it happened yesterday. Russians are afraid of invasion today. Nearly every Russian has a relative who died in WWII.

Russians trust Germany more than America, because, according to them, President Reagan promised President Gorbachev not to expand NATO toward Russia and every American president since then has broken that promise, among others, most Russians believe, rightly or wrongly, that NATO is an American puppet organization created to carry out American policy in Europe.

After the Soviet collapse, Russia was in chaos and Russians were frightened for the future and extremely suspicious of Western intentions. They still are anxious about their future today, and despite their bravado in their news media, they understand that they are not militarily strong compared with America or China, and never were, despite having nuclear weapons. Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia is mostly small farms and villages similar to America of the 1920's. In some parts of Russia, they still drive horse carts.

Russians believe western powers are intent on breaking up Russia into controllable regions to exploit their natural resources. We may find it strange, but Russians believe that the US government intends to pave the way for western oil companies to take over Russian oil fields, Russian mines, and Western control over Russian territory.

When an entire nation has this kind of mindset, one moves slowly and carefully in order not to send the wrong message. Quickly encircling Russia with NATO members is definitely the wrong message and Secretary Rice knows this, but as you say, there is little time left and the Bush Administration is rushing far too quickly for the Russian mind to comprehend.

Russians don't believe Georgia's leaders were properly elected in a fair election and they see Georgia's government as another US puppet regime. Under the circumstances, the best foreign policy would have been to accomodate Russian leaders and back away from encircling them with NATO members and missile bases. I think there are enough countries that hate American leaders today without adding to the list.

The Russians say Georgian troops started this war. Even if one disbelieves their version and assumes they set up a provocation in order to invade Georgia, some fault for this war falls on the Bush Administration for pushing Russia into a corner with broken American promises about not expanding NATO into Eastern Europe, unwanted missile bases near Russia's border, severing Kosovo from Serbia, a constant barrage of criticism from the U.S. State Department about Russia's political structure, and more. Russians view the murder of Russian soldiers and deliberate attack on Russian citizens by Georgian military forces as the last straw.

President Bush and Secretary Rice had been warned about Georgia repeatedly by Putin, and they ignored the warnings, and they just don't seem to "get it" that Putin wasn't bluffing when he said if the trend continues, Russia will be forced to react. Obviously, Georgia joining NATO would be unacceptable and Russia would rather occupy Georgia than have NATO occupy Georgia.

Now all of this could have been avoided if Mr. Bush had shown only a tiny bit of understanding of the Russian psyche and offered even a trace of courtesy by agreeing to forget the missile shield, reunite Kosovo with Serbia, and stop meddling in Russia's backyard. Encourage democracy yes, but stop fixing elections so that "our guy" wins. The US government should get real, get honest, get some integrity, and get the CIA out of foreign election campaigns.

I cannot blame Russia for reacting to what they perceive to be a genocide against their own citizens in Georgia. The problem is not what Russia is doing, but how the US is reacting to it.

I think that without NATO membership dangled before Saakashvili, Russians would ignore Georgia. We pep them up, cheer them on, and then sit in the spectator stand while Georgians get killed, and we have to stop doing this.

We can sell tiny nations the weapons they want without promising to defend them if they become aggressive. We don't have to make mutual defense agreements just because we want a missile base in their country.

Mutual defense and arms sales are two separate issues. We don't have to commit our sons and daughters to a future slaughter in order to sell a few thousand rifles.

Ron
|
New York, USA
August 15, 2008

Ron in New York writes:

Olympic values...

McDonald's is the "Official Restaurant" of the Beijing Olympics!

Roger
|
Florida, USA
August 15, 2008

Roger in Florida writes:

@ Ronald in New York and Stanley in Texas -- I've been enjoying these Olympic Games (Go Team USA!) but I can't help but agree with you. I understand that corporate endorsements help make the Games possible...but has it gone too far? I guess economics trumps politics (again). Read about Coca-Cola's "Red Around the World" campaign in "Coca Cola's Communist Tribute" by Mike Boyer at http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/8697.

Couldn't have said it better than Boyer myself:

"I'm all for the forces of capitalism and target-specific marketing. But somehow, kowtowing to Beijing by trumpeting the spread of Communist red just doesn't feel like a victory to me."

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 15, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- Zharkov wrote:

"Russians are more frightened and suspicious of the Western powers than we are of them. This is why ordinary Russians demand strong leaders for Russia. They still relive the Nazi invasion of Russia as if it happened yesterday. Russians are afraid of invasion today. Nearly every Russian has a relative who died in WWII."

Look Zharkov, don't you think 65 years of collective paranoia is enough? Folks should be demanding group therapy, not fear-based leadership that can only draw example from the last century to deal with problems in this one.

NATO isn't the problem, America isn't the problem. Independance of former Soviet states isn't the problem, nor their limited defensive capabilities.

If Russia's fear of freedom of others is manifest as armed oposition to it, then it's like holding a gun to their own head and saying, "Stop or I'll shoot."

Hope they find the courage in time to get a grip on their fear before they have real reason to be concerned by whatever collective therapy may be forthcoming from the U.S. and EU as a result of their actions.

Their perceptions are getting them into trouble.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
August 15, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

For China it would seem that the hosting of the Olympics is their great national "coming out" party on an international social level.

The more China interacts with the rest of the world, the more they will have to adapt to meet its challenges and accept that they too are an interactive society that is inherently on the march towards becoming a free society as an inevitably by product of the basic common desires of all individuals for a better life.

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