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The dissidents' guide to the Olympics: `War minus the shooting'

As the world corporate media goes Olympics mad, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has assembled a range of alternative viewpoints on what the modern Olympic Games really represent. While -- when it suits their interests -- establishment media commentators and capitalist governments loudly proclaim that ``sport and politics don't mix'', it soon becomes apparent that the Olympics spectacle is drenched in politics and the promotion of the worst aspects of dog-eat-dog capitalism. But sometimes it is also a site of struggle, as this selection of articles, drawn from the Links and Green Left Weekly archives, as well as other progressive sources, reveals.

Hypocrisy, human rights and the Beijing games

Sport, like religion, is a reflection of broader society. In a capitalist world, with its individualism, corporate competition, alienation and competing nationalisms, sport has become a commodified spectacle in which the majority does not participate. No sporting event reflects global capitalism better than the Olympics: elitist, commercialised and corrupt. A platform for politicians and dictators, but officially “non-political” — meaning in practice that athletes and spectators are forbidden from voicing opinions.

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What the Olympics really represent

George Orwell once described “serious sport” -- for its promotion of violence, national hatred and jealousy -- as “war minus the shooting”.

The Olympics are really about serious politics. Whilst pushing the world's best athletes “higher, faster, stronger”, the IOC also pushes the political agenda of the world's richest countries and companies. The Olympics form part of the war machine of the corporate sector.

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Dave Zirin: China's Olympic trials

This is the Olympics the West wanted: games where the grandest prize is not a gold medal but a glittering entree to China's seemingly endless army of potential consumers. This is the reason that George W. Bush will attend the opening ceremonies, the first US president to do so on foreign soil, and that in March, mere days before the crackdown in Tibet, Condoleezza Rice, laughably, took China off the State Department's list of nations that abuse human rights.


Dave Zirin is also blogging daily during the Olympics at

Chinese workers and peasants the main victims: the bitter truth about the Olympics

By Phil Hearse

So the Beijing games are nearly upon us. There is no public event, other than perhaps the soccer World Cup, that is so universally approved of as the Olympic Games. An orgy of TV time and newspaper columns will whip up passions about what are, after all, minority sports. How many of the two billion or so people who will watch on TV could – before the event – name the world pole vault champion, the world archery champion or the Tai Kondo champion? About 0.0001 per cent.

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Tibet and the `Olympic tradition'

Ironically, the Olympic torch tradition was, in fact, invented for precisely that purpose — by Hitler’s propagandists for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Beijing Olympics are not an aberration. Neither were the Berlin games. Since their inception at the beginning of the 20th century, the Olympics have been controlled by a committee drawn from the world’s elites and accountable to neither athletes nor the public. The antithesis of participatory sport, this mass spectator event is most of all about corporate sponsorship and marketing.

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Dave Zirin: China's brutal Olympic echo

China’s brutal crackdown against Tibetan protesters ahead of the Summer Olympics in Beijing carries with it a terrible echo from the past... Yet the concern expressed by world leaders has seemed less for the people of Tibet than the fate of the Summer Games, with Olympic cash deemed more precious than Tibetan blood. The Olympics were supposed to be China's multibillion-dollar, super sweet sixteen. Britain's Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, Mark Malloch-Brown told the BBC, "This is China's coming-out party, and they should take great care to do nothing that will wreck that."

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The Olympics, sportswear and super-exploitation

As the clock ticks down to the Beijing Olympics, workers producing for the international sportswear companies that spend millions on Olympic and athletic sponsorship deals are still working excessive hours and paid poverty wages, according to a damning new report, Clearing the hurdles: Steps to improving working conditions in the global sportswear industry, from Play Fair 2008.

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Heroes of Beijing: the triumph of the West

Nation states will compete to move up the medal table and the flag of the People’s Republic of China will likely be hoisted more than most, accompanied on countless occasions by the playing of the Chinese national anthem. The ultimate winners, however, will never stand on a podium although their logos will be on view throughout the course of the event. Transnational corporations will reign supreme in Beijing just as they have been doing for at least the past thirty years and Western capitalist values will have taken another step closer to the winning line.

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CUBA: Money has `tainted' Olympics

In 2000, the head of Cuba's Olympics committee, Jose Ramon Fernandez, accused Western commercial influences of corrupting sport. Fernandez, who was also one of the country's vice-presidents, charged that rich countries are promoting a ``sports talent drain'' from the Third World, similar to the ``brain drain'' of scientists and professionals.

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Bribery and big business: making the International Oylmpic Committee run

The hidden winners of the Olympics have the spotlight turned on them in a book by Andrew Jennings, a journalist who former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch once tried to have jailed for alleging that IOC members took bribes from cities bidding to host the games.

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Brother of the fist: Peter Norman

By Dave Zirin

It's 1968, and 200-metre gold medalist Tommie Smith stands next to bronze winner John Carlos, their raised black-gloved fists smashing the sky on the medal stand in Mexico City. They were Trojan Horses of Rage — bringing the Black revolution into that citadel of propriety and hypocrisy: the Olympic Games. When people see that image, their eyes are drawn like magnets toward Smith and Carlos, standing in black socks, their heads bowed in controlled concentration. Less noticed is the silver medalist. He is hardly mentioned in official retrospectives, and people assume him to be a Forrest Gump-type figure, just another of those unwitting witnesses to history who always end up in the back of famous frames. Only the perceptive notice that this seemingly anonymous individual is wearing a rather large button emblazoned with the letters O-P-H-R, standing for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

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1968: Black Power Salute

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games the enduring image was Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the African-American athletes raising their gloved clenched fists in support of the Black Power movement during the Star Spangled Banner, they were subsequently banned from the games for life. This film looks at what inspired them to make their protest, and what happened to them after the Games. Featuring Tommie Smith, Lee Evans, Bob Beamon and Delroy Lindo. Also read about Peter Norman, the Australian athlete who gained third place, who supported Smith's and Carlos' protest. Norman is the subject of a new documentary, Salute, which can be previewed here.

Part 1

Click HERE to watch parts 2-6

The 1936 People's Olympiad

The People's Olympics (Olimpiada Popular) was planned for Barcelona, Spain as a protest event against the 1936 Summer Olympics planned for Berlin during the period of Nazi rule. The newly elected, left-wing Popular Front government in Spain decided to boycott the Berlin Olympics and host their own games.

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