Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The strategic wit and wisdom of Carl Lewis 

This time a sporting celebrity lays into President Bush. Carl Lewis doesn't like the "This Olympics... there will be two more free nations" Republican ad. "I felt that was totally disingenuous... to support the players or the community is fine, but for political gain I disagree," says the famous sprinter.

That two more free nations - Iraq and Afghanistan - were competing in Athens is merely a statement of fact. Both countries were liberated by the American-led Coalition, not the International Olympic Committee. In fact, for all the talk about the Olympic movement fostering peace and good will between peoples and nations, historically the Games have been shamelessly used as a propaganda vehicle by every dictatorship under the sun, from the Nazis in 1936 to the Soviets and their satellites throughout the Cold War. I don't have any problem with trying not to mix politics with sport, but Lewis' concern would have been a lot more sincere had he also campaigned against the exploitation of (or in case of pre-liberation Iraq, the violence against) his fellow sportspeople by oppressive regimes.

Not content to criticise the TV ads, Lewis also decided to demonstrate the depth of his political understanding with this insight: "It is funny or ironic that we boycotted the 1980 Games in support of Afghanistan, and now we're bombing Afghanistan." It seems that Lewis is incapable of distinguishing between bombing a country and trying to remove its government. Both the boycott and the bombing were done in support of the people of Afghanistan, in the former case against their oppression by the Soviets, in the latter against their oppression by the Taliban. Funny or ironic? I'm sure the Afghan athletes are laughing.


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