Spiritless Olympics

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

Go there>>
Spiritless
Olympics

Related Links:

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne
magazine

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.