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THE WHITED SEPULCHER
For Avery Brundage the dismissal of Rhodesia from the Olympic Games was a crushing defeat. His beloved International Olympic Committee abandoned principle and bowed to political pressure, and this just as Brundage was announcing his retirement as president of the IOC.
Some say Brundage was the only one to come out of the affair untarnished, for he did personally hold against surrender of principle. The IOC as a whole showed it was as sleazily expedient as any opportunistic government. The Rhodesians had cynically accepted a compromise that made them ignore the fact of their independence, then failed to live up to the compromise. The black Africans, by using the boycott threat, now have made pressure politics an integral part of the Olympic scene.
Against this sorry lot Brundage looked good. But the truth is Avery and his hallowed predecessors brought the trouble on themselves. For decades they boasted that the Olympic movement was above politics. Yet every four years the Olympics have pandered to national pride and arrogance. The raising of flags, the playing of hymns, the marching of athletes in team uniform behind a national flag has been a great show, but it has emphasized political divisions. When Josy Barthel of tiny Luxembourg won the 1,500 meters at the 1952 Games, Brundage crowed, "As far as Luxembourg is concerned, Luxembourg has won the Olympics." A sentimental thought, but one that fired the passions of national pride.
If the IOC really wanted to keep politics out of the Olympics, flags and anthems would be barred, national Olympic committees would be dissolved and athletes would appear as individuals. Regional qualifications would allow the fine competitors from Luxembourg and Malagasy and Guatemala and Thailand to make their way to the center of the world. But the IOC ignores the possibility of a truly apolitical Olympics because it relies on the economic support of the governments that sponsor national teams as emblems of national pride. Brundage wanted representation at the Games, and to get it he went along with governmental control of Olympic athletes while piously protesting political interference.
You can't have your cake and eat it, Avery. When you accept nationalism, you get politics. And under the present Olympic structure, we are never going to get rid of it.
SERVE AND VOLLEY
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