AS the dust of the 1986 Asian Games finally starts to settle in Seoul, and visions of the 1988 Olympic Games zoom into view and the preparations of the greatest ever sporting gala to be held in Asia enters its final stages. Some may well consider it premature to white about the forthcoming Olympics at this juncture but if our sports organizers have not yet started their preparations for the event they may well have already missed the bus.
Ever since the Olympic movement was revitalized in the last century, its prestige and importance has been continuously increasing. Each successive event has tried its level best to outdo the performance of the previous hosts. Infract, recent innovations in the organizational details have converted the four yearly Olympic Games into the world’s greatest international showmanship event as well as the premier sporting meet of the world.
Excessive canvassing and effort is first invested by the different countries trying to host the games and once a city is selected thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars are invested by the hosts to impress the international public opinion. No longer is the organization of the Olympics the sole domain of sports administrators. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Governors, and public leaders of the host nation, consider it their duty to ensure a proper hosting exercise.
With the event being relayed all-round the globe on television much more than a few sporting medals are at stake. It is the prestige of the host nation that is being tested. A successful Olympic games can easily earn millions for is hosts, not as much in tourist money as in the prestige and the resulting trade and commerce commitments which erupt due to the event. In the light of such odds it is only expected of the host nation to convert the event into national priority number one. In the same context it is also to be expected that many parties would try to abuse the Olympic Games for political purposes.
It is not only the hosts which stand to earn political leverage and benefits from the hosting of the Olympiads. States unfriendly towards them can also use this mass scale international gathering of attention and sportsmen to their benefit, Terrorism. has become the greatest concern of the security personnel of events and boycotting the Olympics has been turned into a fashionable weapon for countries not having overly friendly relations with the host country. In an age when no nation on the globe can be termed as truly “neutral” selecting a country to host the Olympics and ensuring that the ill-wishers of that nation would not interfere with the organizational procedures is indeed an arduous task.
What is sad is to note that a concept that was created for the sole purpose of furthering international fraternity, friendship and goodwill is being so mercilessly abused by international politicians. In this exercise there are no particular culprits that can be singled out. This has been a collective problem of all the nations of the world and all of us who have allowed this rape of the scantily of sports are to be held responsible for the pitiable condition that the Olympic movement today finds itself in.
As with most such battles, this is not a case of unilateral aggression on the part of one party but it is a result of the inherent hostilities of all concerned which have allowed this unholy matrimony of sports and politics. Probably the first time when politics became the dominant topic at an Olympic event was during the Munich Olympics held just prior to the Second World War. Held in the shadows of bright Swastikas and a smiling Adolf Hitler the Olympic Games became a great publicity pad for Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the political interference of Hitler’s policies certainly gave a bad taste to the event.
With the conclusion of the Second World War and the commencement of the Cold War between the Eastern and Western blocs the Olympic movement unintentionally found itself wrapped in the silent but aggressive conflict. The venue for the event was no longer selected on the basis of facilities, weather and equipment available. The greatest factor to be considered became the political leanings of the host country and the possibility of political hit backs from the hosts possible “enemies”.
Later as the Cold War became more “hot” the fashion of boycotting the games became more rampant and as the political utility of this propaganda leverage was realized by the big powers the boycotting began to be organized enblock rather than in individual capacities. Today, as the Seoul Olympics come into sight the shadows of political interferences loom large over the aspirations of the International Olympic Committee. Seoul shall immediately follow two Olympic events hosted by the two great powers of the world, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. Added to this is the fact that it is being held in Asia and in geographic latitudes not always considered to be political stable in the world.
In addition to all the above tensile forces is the greatest threat of infighting between the two Koreas about the hosting of the certain events but Pyongyang seems insistent upon bagging half of the Olympic events or nothing at all. We who are more interested in the sporting ramifications rather than the political details can only hope that an amiable solution would be reached between the two Koreas before the Seoul Olympics start.
One does sometimes get the feeling that North Korea who had earlier boycotted the 1986 Asian Games at Seoul is once again mounting political pressure on South Korea knowing that at this moment the Olympics is the greatest event if Seoul’s inenerary as Seoul can simply not effort for anything to go wrong with the Olympics. At the same time unbiased parties do feel that the two Koreas shall never get better opportunity to bridge the difference that exist between them.
Seoul, too, should extend a more genuine hand of friendship towards Pyongyang if it wants to earn international prestige and a controversy free Olympic Games. What is now required is a sporting (rather than political) attitude from both North and South Koreas which can ensure a peaceful event in 1988 and also try to erase the political blotches that have been imposed upon the Olympic movement from the last two such events. If the two Koreas can give the \ old a controversy frees Olympics in 1988 they shall not only be enhancing the prestige of all Asia but shall be responsible for what would be the greatest sporting miracle of recent history.
South Koreans after its commendable performance in the recent Asiad both in organization and in achievement should be even more committed to an amiable Olympics in 1988. After their breathtaking performance in the Asiad, the home grounds and home crowds of Seoul shall give them a chance of a lifetime to emerge as world leaders in sports. A home locale and the general host fervor shall give the South Korean athletes the all-important head start and incentive that won the day for them at the Asiad and most certainly their sports administrators shall be looking forward to a repeat performance at the Olympics.
The South Korean Athletes shall have everything going for them in 1988 if only they can ward off the clouds of political controversy that today enwrap the Olympic Games. Let us hope, for the sake of sports in general, that these clouds shall be overcome.
Article extracted from this publication >> February 6, 1987