Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympics are on, do not disturb

The Olympics are on, do not disturb

Dan Margalit

In the ancient world, the Olympic Games were almost like a binding resolution of the U.N. Security Council enforcing a cease-fire or cessation of hostilities. According to a legend originating in the Greek city of Olympia — which the Olympic Games are named after — all warring parties agreed to lay down their bows, arrows, and catapults until the discus and shot-put ball throwers finished their competitions. Was that what really happened? Was it possible to know from the media of the day whether or not battles continued on the fringes of the battlefields? The answer is not important. The important thing is that the legend and its message of cessation of war has been passed down as a legacy from generation to generation.

Modern Olympic Games were renewed in 1896 and were suspended three times during the two world wars in 1916, 1940 and 1944. The games were almost cancelled entirely on two occasions, after terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes in Munich 40 years go in 1972, and in 1980, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

The Olympics represent all that is noble in fair human competition, but in practice have never really been so. A lot of money is at stake and not all of it is clean. Cities vie to host the games in the hope of obtaining huge economic benefits. The benefits were indeed reaped by Spain when it hosted the games, but helped bring about the current financial crisis in Greece.

The games are also a primary target of modern terrorists. Israel requested that its athletes who were murdered in Munich in 1972 be commemorated during the current games in London, but International Olympic Committee leaders refused to comply. Their motivation for doing so is questionable, but perhaps their decision to turn down Israel's justified request will turn out to be the right one in the end because in a year or two any Palestinian who views himself as a victim of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be honored with a similar commemoration as well.

Despite the concerns, these are heady days. The Olympic Games will be accompanied by hopes, which although may only be partially fulfilled, will be harbored with optimism and good will. The world is smiling and the players will try to do their best to run the fastest, jump or vault the highest or farthest and be the strongest competitors. This is the core of the Olympics — dramatic harmless victories.

The world will be gathered in homes and arguments will be raised back and forth. The gambling industry will also bloom. So what? People will enjoy themselves. It will be fun. It will be a welcome two-week break from the mundane. Until then, from the opening ceremony and on, please do not disturb. ...