28.8.04

OLYMPICS, OBSOLETE? Perhaps for reasons additional to the organization of players by countries, according to Reason's Nick Gillespie.
But in an increasingly globalized world, one in which goods and people migrate without a second thought, such variety and such mixing is an everyday occurrence. An ever-growing number of niche cable channels deliver ever-more tailored sports content and the World Wide Web caters to every possible fetish, in sports every bit as much as porn. Compared to 30 years ago, it's a much smaller globe—and a far more interesting world. But in such a setting, the Olympics lose a good deal of what the ad men would call their "unique selling proposition."

Even more important, the great geopolitical struggles that energized the Olympics have almost completely vanished. First and foremost among these, of course, was the Cold War. Every bit as much as Korea, Vietnam, and Berlin, the Olympics were one of the great proxy battles of the Cold War, pitting the Free World vs. the Iron Curtain, Western Europe vs. Eastern Europe, the U.S.A. vs. the U.S.S.R. Bruce Jenner's 1976 triumph in the decathlon was not simply about shattering a world record; it also represented a slapdown of the 1972 champion, Nikolai Avilov, the Soviet "man machine" who struggled to bronze in Montreal. Nor was the Cold War the only political subtext to enliven the Olympics. Almost as compelling was the rise to athletic dominance of former colonies such as Kenya in track and India and Pakistan in field hockey.

Every Summer Olympics from 1968 through 1984 occasioned some sort of major protest or boycott.
(Via Champology 101.)

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