Power Games

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Power Games

Some may talk about the end of the nation-state, but at the Olympic Games, the concept of the nation-state is powerful.

The Olympic Games are an occasion for national unity. The host country attempts to leap to economic prosperity and uses the Games to unify the country for political purposes.

The Chun Doo Hwan administration claimed the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and the 1986 Seoul Asian Games as the greatest achievements of the administration. Afterwards, publicity about the Korean athletes was a powerful means of unifying the country.

The ongoing Olympic Games are no exception. China as the host country has been open about its ambition to become the most powerful country in the world. This dream was clear in the opening ceremony directed by Zhang Yimou.

The opening ceremony was a political event, promoting the size of China’s population, its 5,000-year-old civilization and its capacity to mobilize its people.

Thousands of Chinese citizens practiced for a year for the opening ceremony, which could only be possible in China, perhaps the only country able to mobilize so many people.

The Western media sharply criticized China well before the opening ceremony. Reporters questioned attempts by the Chinese government to dilute problems pertaining to human rights, media abuse and Tibet.

They even compared the Beijing Games with the Berlin Games in 1936 that became a stage for the Nazis.

Some compared Zhang Yimou, a filmmaker critical of the Chinese government but now regarded as a messenger of the new Chinese ideology, to Leni Riefenstahl. This German film director produced the documentary “Olympia,” which supposedly presents the Berlin Olympic Games as Nazi propaganda.

There was much talk about the astronomical income earned by the International Olympic Committee that hosts the Games through the monopolization of the event.

The IOC is expected to earn $4 billion in revenue and $400 million in profit from the 2006 Toronto Winter Olympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Even if the host of the Games is struggling with debt, the IOC earns about $962 million from selling TV broadcasting rights and advertising supporters.

Perhaps the Olympic Games are an international marketing and media event that the conglomerate named IOC plays on the concept of nation-states.

The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yang Sung-hee [shyang@joongang.co.kr]

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