The Islamic Post Blog


Olympics Have Always Served Commercialism, Ritual Paganism by Khalida
October 3, 2008, 1:30 pm
Filed under: Interfaith, International, Sept/Oct Volume - 2008, World | Tags:

The Third Principle of Olympism is Globalism:
“The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC [International Olympic Committee], of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.

Koula Pratsika, the first High Priestess in history, lights the Olyjmpic Flame at the light ceremony of Berlin 1936 Olympic Games. The ceremony is always held in Greek ruins, using heavy symbology and altars.

Koula Pratsika, the first High Priestess in history, lights the Olyjmpic Flame at the light ceremony of Berlin 1936 Olympic Games. The ceremony is always held in Greek ruins, using heavy symbology and altars. (Photos: Hellenic Olympic Committee)

By Durdana Jamaal, Islamic Post Staff Writer

The Beijing Olympics formally ended September 17 with the Paralympics’ closing ceremony; and Organizations like the Multinational Monitor and Commercial Alert are concerned that commercialism overtook this year’s Olympic games to the threat of their very ideals.  Contrary to this position, however, today’s games exist much as they always have, despite stated goals.
History notes that the Olympics were established in Greece as a ritual pagan festival and opportunity for trade. The event centered on sports used as a display of homage to the first, and as a draw for the latter.  Olympism is defined in the Olympic Charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as, among other things, “a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole, the qualities of body, will and mind.” No mention is made of materialism. Yet, however, the following is observed.
Commercialism
According to the History of the Hellenic World (Pennsylvania State University Press), “People from all over Greece [Egypt and other areas] gathered for this Olympic festival. It was a chance to sell goods, recite poems for money, negotiate business deals, and even sign peace treaties between cities.”
This commercial aspect has not changed at all.  At last count, for this year’s Olympic Games NBC alone had raked in profits of $1.7 billion dollars for its television advertising, and China’s main TV network, CCTV, took in $400 million.  A record 63 corporations spent an estimated four to six billion dollars this summer on consumer advertising to draw buyers for products and services linked to the Olympic logo.  Sales figures have not yet been reported.
Dedicated to Apollo
Yet, the part of the Olympics which should have caught the most attention, for at least its Muslim and Christian participants, is the torch lighting ceremony, which, having survived since antiquity, is not rooted in sport, but in pagan tradition. The ceremony is conducted at the temple of Zeus in Olympia, now in ruins, and commences the games on a spiritual level, whereever in the world the athletes may be convening physically.
If there were a true spirit of global unity different religions might take turns in displaying their worship of the Universal Almighty Creator for these great games, instead of continuing to show reverence for a mythical pagan figure.
The games have in fact evolved into a form of sanctioned global pagan worship with the strongest representatives of each nation sent to symbolically honor and entertain the Greek deities of Olympia.
In 392 A.D., the Olympics were abolished by the Christian Emperor Theodosius I of Rome, who saw the games as a pagan rite.
The opening ritual is dedicated to Apollo, a mythical figure worshipped in ancient Greece as representing the Sun. Throughout history, high priestesses, and actresses portraying them, conduct a 2 hour long ceremony to display obeisance to Apollo, his ‘father’ Zeus and ‘mother’ Hera in various ways, culminating in the lighting of the Olympic torch, which is ignited from a parabolic mirror which reflects and magnifies the heat of the sun’s rays, which in mythology is representative of the power of Apollo. The high priestess cries to a mythical figure, “Send your rays and light the sacred torch,” among other professions of polytheism, as the torch is prepared for lighting. The fire is then placed on altars honoring Apollo and Hera, and only afterwards used to honor the first Olympic runner, and light his torch.
The only things missing are the ritual sacrifices. Perhaps human rights sacrifices make up for that omission.

Although the Fundamental Principles of Olympism promote “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,”   the 1936 Berlin Games took place a half hour from a concentration camp and the Beijing Games this year proceeded despite open and harsh oppression of Uyghur Muslims. There are other examples over the years. (Olympics Photo)

Although the Fundamental Principles of Olympism promote “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” the 1936 Berlin Games took place a half hour from a concentration camp and the Beijing Games this year proceeded despite open and harsh oppression of Uyghur Muslims. There are other examples over the years. (Olympics Photo)

Contradiction after contradiction plague the very core of the games.  For example, although the charter touts, “the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” the site of the Berlin games of 1936 were no more than half an hour away from a fully operative concentration camp.  Outcries from the Jewish community to boycott the games went unheard, and IOC members who opposed holding the Games in Berlin were dropped from the organization.  Witnesses reported that there were more swastikas on stage at the opening ceremony in Berlin than Olympic flags.
Olympic historian Maryann Abbs wrote about the Mexican Olympics that “hundreds of people (mostly students) were massacred by a special forces unit called the Olympia Brigade in the Tlateloco Plaza in Mexico City ten days before the Olympics began in August 1968.”
The historian adds that the Games have actually been used as a convenient cover for the establishment of permanent repressive laws and to create new police and military units as was done in Sydney, Australia, where there were four officers for each athlete at the Games for a total of 35,000 police and security guards, 4000 troops and elite commando units, and Black Hawk helicopters. The state security laws which came into effect in Australia in 2000 that remain in place to this day.
Maryann Abbs further cites the use of profiling with regards to Muslims and African-Americans, as happened at the Los Angeles games in 1984, and those in Atlanta in 1996, as well as the Athens Games in 2004. This year saw the plight of Muslim Uyghurs and Tibetan monks pushed to the side in the interest of Olympism.
Elitism
According to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” On the contrary, Matthew Syed, writing for the UK Times, calls the modern games a “bastion of elitism” citing the fact that the majority of competitions need more than just running shoes and talent, and require expensive training and equipment. “India, for example, a country with almost one fifth of the world’s population, won less than a fifth of 1 per cent of the medals available in Athens – one out of a total of 826. Africa, a continent dripping with sporting talent, won only 4 per cent of them. Can you think of a single global institution that is less equitable?” he wrote.
“When the French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the modern Olympic movement, he packed it with sports affordable only to his fellow aristocrats, thus excluding the Third World,” said the Times reporter. Yet, such inequalities, which contradict the stated goals of Olympism, became commonplace not too long after the inception of the games in antiquity.
Historian Trudy Ring, asserts that as the Olympic games gained popularity, specialization occurred which forced out the amateur athletes which the original games were meant to attract. “The development of body, mind, and spirit that the original games hoped to encourage was forgotten,” Ms. Ring said, and while the games are nonetheless exciting, her statement rings more true with each passing olympiad.

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