By PEGGY MORTON, TML Daily, February 27, 2010
THE self-serving domination of the rich who use the Olympics for their own ends has a sordid history which shows how the domination of finance capital and the most reactionary elements is blocking a human-centred approach. While everyone speaks in the name of high ideals, the fact is that those who control the Olympics have used this control for the most anti-social aims. For more than 40 years of the post-World War II period, that is, following the defeat of fascism by the world’s people and the achievements which came from that victory, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) was actually led by pro-fascist elements.
From 1952 to 1972, the IOC was led by a U.S.ian, Avery Brundage. Brundage first gained a seat on the IOC after the sitting American representative was expelled for urging athletes to boycott the Berlin games in 1936. This is the only time any member of the IOC has been expelled. The 1936 Olympics saw the Nazification of sport in Germany, and the use of the Olympics to promote fascism, chauvinism and revanchism. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda stated: “German sport has only one task: to strengthen the character of the German people, imbuing it with the fighting spirit and steadfast camaraderie necessary in the struggle for its existence.” It was these Olympics in which the torch relay was first held, carrying the torch from Olympia in Greece to Berlin.
The official circles portray Brundage as a defender of high ideals who fought to maintain the Olympics strictly as a contest of the greatest athletes, without any “political overtones.” His opposition to the 1936 boycott was ostensibly on the basis of these high ideals. In reality, Brundage was pro-Nazi, a virulent anti-Communist and anti-Semite who believed that there was a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” that existed to keep the United States out of competing in the Berlin Olympics. Brundage could see no evil whether it was the Berlin Olympics, where he raised no objection to the use of the Nazi salute, or apartheid in South Africa or Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the admission of “all-white” athletes from apartheid regimes.
But his response in Mexico City at the 1968 Summer Olympics to the courageous Afro-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, winners of the men’s 200 metre gold and bronze medals respectively was swift and brutal. Smith and Carlos took their places on the podium in stocking feet and wearing civil rights badges. As the Star Spangled Banner was played, they each lowered their heads and in an act of protest and solidarity raised a black-gloved fist in the Black Power salute. They were expelled from the Olympic Village, suspended from the U.S. Olympic team, and banned from the Olympics for life. A virulent misogynist, Brundage also opposed women’s participation in the Olympics.
From 1980 to 2001, the IOC was headed by an overt fascist, Juan Antonio Samaranch, a supporter of Franco. Under Samaranch, the IOC was known for corruption, scandal, bribery, and the obscenely enormous expenditures incurred on his own behalf and that of IOC officials. Samaranch insisted on being referred to as “excellency” as though he were a head of state. Under Samaranch, global sponsorship schemes and broadcasting arrangements worth vast sums were put in place and the international financial oligarchy further tightened its grip on the Olympics.
The likes of Brundage and Samaranch, overt supporters of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco have passed from the scene of history. But greed and the self-serving interests of the monopolies to make a killing on the games, and to use them for their narrow aims has not departed with them. This domination of the financial oligarchy is threatening to strangle everything positive, showing their moribund character and the need for the working class and its allies to restrict these monopolies and not permit their domination of sports and culture and to fight for a human-centred Olympics movement.