Olympics a poor political theatre

When the Queen skydived with James Bond and the fireworks sparkled against the London skyline the last thing anybody should have felt was hatred towards any of the thousands of athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.

As soon as the parade of nations began, however, so did the realization that with 204 countries from across the globe participating in the same event, there was bound to be problems.

The most controversial issue occurred before the Olympics even began, with the decision not to hold a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were killed at the Olympics in Munich 40 years ago. While some argue this was in poor taste, perhaps the Olympic committee merely wanted to leave politics out of the opening ceremonies by focusing on the excitement of new possibilities in a new era.

If this was entirely true, however, there would be less focus on the threat of terrorism by heightening security at all the Olympic events and in the Olympic village. This in itself is a political issue, but the problem with mixing politics and competitive sport is that it involves athletes who should not be viewed, nor treated as political figures.

The Lebanese judo team for example, forced Olympic officials into placing a screen between them and Israel’s team during practice, refusing to even train on the same mat.

This incident came just days after Lebanon, Palestine and Iran refused to compete against Israel.

Similarly, rumors that teams would fake injuries to avoid competing against countries they refused to recognize spread through the Olympic village, forcing officials to monitor injured athletes who are suspected of being involved in political conflicts.

Similarly, reports that the first female Saudi Arabian athlete will not be able to wear her headscarf during her judo competition is sparking a controversy that adds cultural and religious politics to the mix.

The reason for the hijab ban is the concern for safety since strangle and chokeholds are used in judo.
A spokeswoman for the Olympic Committee stated that the Japanese martial art does not recognize differences in politics or religion, and the only difference between competitors should be their level of skill

Though this may seem like a political issue it should not be seen as a personal attack on any religious or cultural beliefs, it is solely based upon the conditions of the sport. The Olympics are not a forum to broadcast your political platforms nor were they ever meant to serve as a place for discrimination.

There are certainly noble examples of athletes making political stands at the Olympics, most notably John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics. However when Carlos and Smith made their political statement atop the medal podium, they did so in a way that did not detract from their sport.

Carlos and Smith made their statement without harming the true meaning of the Olympics: sport. It seems these kinds of political statements have been lost today.

The athletes from the 204 countries should be treated just as that, athletes. The Olympics is a place to compete, to challenge oneself and to learn the rules of good sportsmanship.

It serves as a meeting spot for the world to connect and should be utilized in order to form social bonds rather than fueling already unstable political situations.