Spiritless Olympics

The Olympic spirit is sorely missing from the debate about Greece's 2004 games

| May 13, 2004

With armed guards toting M-16s around every corner of grand old Athens, American troops waiting in the Aegean Sea to invoke 'Shock and Awe' in case something happens, and the seaport of Piraeus resembling Guantanamo with its barbed wire barriers, the Greek Olympics games already looks overshadowed by the paranoia the world has so willingly taken upon itself. Can't we all just lighten up a bit, asks Josie Appleton of Spiked. 'Given that the aim of terrorism is to create panic, if terrorists know that the world will be watching and holding its breath there are more incentives to strike. And bands of international marksmen wandering around Athens with their guns cocked would be a recipe for disaster.'

After all, conflicts are nothing new to this world, and the Olympics have channeled real aggression between different countries into healthy contests inside the arena in lieu of on the battlefield, especially during the Cold War. Anyone remember the Miracle on Ice? 'The Olympics have traditionally been a focus for both cooperation and conflict,' Appleton continues. 'In ancient Greece, wars would be suspended for the Olympics -- the different sides would put down their arms and compete on the field, challenging each other to contests of strength and skill. The modern Olympics, which began in 1896, involved an element of mutual cooperation and respect, but also often reflected the political rivalries and conflicts of the times.'

So why all this fretting over terrorism or the possibility that Athens' facilities won't be ready on time? 'An artificial climate of concern is being created,' complained Greece's culture minister, Evangelos Venizelos. The host country has spent a record $755 million on security and will basically rely on NATO for security once the games begin in late August. 'The U.S. government has warned its athletes not to wear their national colors outside the confines of the Olympic village, because this might make them into targets,' Appleton writes. Meanwhile, foreign journalists, athletes and architects are bickering in unison that the stereotypically slow and lazy Greeks will never finish all the sites in time. The swimming pool, for instance, won't have a roof, and what could be worse than subjecting the world's best swimmers to the pleasant Mediterranean sun.
-- Jacob Wheeler

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