Far from being together

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Far from being together

The author is a political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

 Separating sports from politics is stipulated in the Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” Ironically, the Olympics often rode on the winds of international politics.

After coming into power in 1933, Adolf Hitler pushed for hosting the 1936 Berlin Olympics to encourage nationalism and promote the Nazi regime. He made enormous investments to build a grand stadium to accommodate 100,000 people to show off the national power.

In the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos — gold and bronze medalists in the 200-meter sprint — stood on the podium during the medal ceremony and raised their black-gloved fists instead of looking at the U.S. flag. It was a gesture in memory of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in April that year, and in protest of racial discrimination in America.

The 1972 Munich Olympics was tainted with a terrorist attack. The Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group, stormed into the Israeli team accommodation and took hostage five athletes, four coaches and two referees. They demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel. In the end, all hostages and one police officer were killed, and it is remembered as the worst moment in Olympic history.

Since then, political boycotts have occurred often. In 1976, 26 African countries boycotted the Montreal Olympics after the International Olympic Committee did not sanction New Zealand after it had a friendly rugby match with South Africa, then under the apartheid regime. In 1980, the U.S. and Western countries did not attend the Moscow Olympics due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and Communist bloc countries did not attend the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

The Beijing Winter Olympics, which opened on Feb. 4, have brought a number of political issues. More than 10 countries, including the United States and Britain, declared a diplomatic boycott of the Games by not sending high-level officials. While the human rights concern in China is the justification, the dominant view is that it is in an extension of the U.S.-China hegemony contest.

Anti-Chinese sentiment is also growing in China’s neighbors over the Beijing Olympics. In Korea and Japan, dubious decisions in short track speed skating and ski jump have proved controversial. In Taiwan, Xi Jinping’s banquet inviting foreign VIPs was criticized as “imperial.” These are scenes far from the Olympic slogan, “Together for a Shared Future.” 

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