Sport and totalitarianism

I’m sure that many Cats have noticed that the winter olympics are on. I don’t recall a previous winter games receiving as much attention as the current games – this is due to illiberal Russian policies and not the games themselves.

Chris Berg has written, at least two articles, on the relationship between olympics and illiberal governments – so the current kerfuffle is not unusual but rather the norm.

28th January, 2014:

Another Olympics, another repressive state using the Olympics to boost its international reputation and gain legitimacy at home.

This time it’s Russia and the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

When will it sink in that repression is not a regrettable anomaly in some host nations, but a central feature of the Olympic package? That the Olympic movement feeds, legitimises, and even encourages political authoritarianism?

22nd July, 2012:

Olympic Games symbolism is steeped in fundamentalism, militarism and fascism.

It is really only when totalitarian states host the Games (Berlin 1936, Moscow 1980, and Beijing 2008) that the cultish elements of the Olympics are fully assimilated into the opening ceremony.

For instance, what we call the ”parade” of athletes around the ceremony would really be better described as a march. Coubertin was explicit about the militaristic elitism of the Games. He wanted to showcase ”an army of sportsmen”. Olympic athletes are the peak physical specimens of all the world’s nations. They are young, fit and virile. In Coubertin’s view, physical perfection was a sign of moral purity. He wanted athletes to devote themselves to sacrifice and an ”ideal of a superior life”.

No surprise when the Nazis hosted the Games in 1936, Coubertin embraced them. Berlin was the culmination of his life’s work. It was the ultimate display of ceremony and strength. Olympic ceremonies still combine a sort of fascist symbolism with Cirque du Soleil-style choreography.

We shouldn’t be surprised, Hayek warned of this in his The road to serfdom (pdf):

It was not the fascists but the socialists who began to collect children at the tenderest age into political organizations to direct their thinking. It was not the fascists but the socialists who first thought of organizing sports and games, football and hiking, in party clubs where the members would not be infected by other views.

So what is the bottom line?

Athletic performances will wash away the political stench. Putin and his government will be the beneficiaries. They will be photographed with sports stars and visiting celebrities. They will feed off the praise of organisers and fans and athletes, for whom there is no world outside the Olympic villages and stadiums.

All the pre-Games bad press will be chalked up to anti-Russian sentiment.

That’s the Olympic calculus – repressive regimes have to tolerate a few months of quiet and steady negativity, which is more than adequately compensated by a fortnight of blisteringly positive press.

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66 Responses to Sport and totalitarianism

  1. Rabz

    I haven’t watched any Olympic games (summer or winter) since Sydney, so I really can’t comment.

    The IOC makes FIFA look squeaky clean.

  2. steve

    …..so I really can’t comment.

    …..and yet, you did:-)

  3. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    The Olympics is boring, and I could not give a damn about them.

    I do wonder where on the authoritarian-totalitarian spectrum Putin is, though. He still permits other power structures outside the political process (Church etc) and even some inside the process. But I do not known enough to get a sense of exactly where on the spectrum he is, or which direction he’s going in.

  4. Lem

    I hate sport. Too many rules.

  5. The Olympics are a bit like the ABC. A charade paid for by Communists so they can say “See? So many people agree with us!”

  6. Makka

    “But I do not known enough to get a sense of exactly where on the spectrum he is,”

    I believe he is an Ultra Nationalist, first and foremost. This, above all else motivates his policies at home and abroad. He see the values in Christian tenets above any other religion and it seems he adopts these as and when they fit his Nationalist priority. Being Russian and ex KGB we can be sure his view of the world and how it operates is coloured shall we say – media control and corruption/cronyism are examples. Within non-threatening levels he permits alternative political themes, but tokens really.

    Having said that, Russia is a wild vast place. From a political standpoint, if you cannot exert control in Russia, you don’t have much of a political future IMO. Russians in general accept Putin warts and all, because he has brought order and a certain predictability to the place, wracked as it has been by turmoil and such brutality in the past. Inequalities still exist on a vast scale, but what one thinks is a “good thing” is relative. Especially in Russia.

  7. C.L.

    Our own AIS is part of the sports fascist matrix.

    I remember posting a link here to a story about a walker who had been ‘training’ under AIS auspicies for nine years.

  8. Makka

    “The Olympics is boring, ”

    In parts perhaps. But these Winter Olympics, IMO are indeed spectacular. The images are breathtaking and the skills on display from these youngsters is inspiring. All in the beholder I suppose. My family are watching with relish and absolute respect for the talent on display, while we ignore some egos.

  9. JC

    Always despised the Olympics. If the fuckers want to participate let them do so on their own dime, otherwise get your hand out of my wallet.

    As a example of how much I despise this racket, I’d rather see the money spent on fascist sport re-directed to the car makers in order to prop them up. Everyone knows just how much I fucking hate subsidy whores.

    Abbott, do the right thing and close this racket down.

  10. JC

    In parts perhaps. But these Winter Olympics, IMO are indeed spectacular. The images are breathtaking and the skills on display from these youngsters is inspiring. All in the beholder I suppose. My family are watching with relish and absolute respect for the talent on display, while we ignore some egos.

    Great. Terrific stuff Makka. But have them perform on their own dime.

    The only worthwhile thing in the winter Olympics is the mens downhill and there are more than enough comps in the world to cater for that, so we don’t really need the Olympics even for the downhill.

  11. Makka

    “But have them perform on their own dime.”

    I’m not averse to that, of course.

    But there are somethings that can’t be measured in dollars and the inspiration and love of their sport on display I think falls into that category. There are some rather mean spirited comments floating about that don’t do justice to the magic I am seeing on snow and ice.

  12. jupes

    That the Olympic movement United Nations feeds, legitimises, and even encourages political authoritarianism?

    The Olympic movement is only a very small part of the legitimisation of totalitarians.

  13. jupes

    I remember posting a link here to a story about a walker who had been ‘training’ under AIS auspicies for nine years.

    Walking is without doubt the stupidest sport in the world.

    Yes even stupider than that ridiculous winter olympic sport with the brooms.

  14. Snoopy

    But I do not known enough to get a sense of exactly where on the spectrum he is

    If you know where Mugabe is then you have Putin pegged.

  15. JC

    But there are somethings that can’t be measured in dollars and the inspiration and love of their sport on display I think falls into that category.

    If they love it so much then let use their own money or take out a loan.

    There are some rather mean spirited comments floating about that don’t do justice to the magic I am seeing on snow and ice.

    What’s mean spirited about not wanting to bank roll fascist sport? It’s actually the reverse, it’s mean spirited to be asking the long suffering taxpayer holding $300 billion of Liar party debt to finance their interest.

    I never see a gold medal winner commiserating every quarter when i have to send a cheque to the ATO. I don’t get as much as a thank you.

    For that matter has there ever been one Australian Olympic participant that has publicly thanked the taxpayer for financing them all the way through? I don’t recall one.

  16. jupes

    The Olympics is boring, and I could not give a damn about them.

    The Winter Olympics definately.

    The real Olympics have plenty of truly great contests. Most of these are atheletic and swimming events.

  17. JC

    Walking is without doubt the stupidest sport in the world.

    Not stupider than synchronized swimming.

    Ice dancing or whatever the fuck they call it would come close. Watch, if there’s a French judge on the panel assessing ice dancing or whatever it’s called there will be serious allegations of corruption.

  18. Andrew

    I’m surprised Putin cares about the Olympics, let alone enough to waste that kind of money. He’s secure, doing a reasonably good job by Russian standards. The economy has certainly turned around since he took over in 2000, after a decade of Gillardesque incompetence – GDP and employment have been reasonable, they’ve had a commodity boom without fucking everything up, unlike us.

    He’s not been big on encouraging opposition early on (see Khodorkovsky) but is now reasonably tolerant by Russian standards. Don’t make a **** of yourself like the GreenPussy bunch did and you should be fairly OK.

    The average Muscovite rolls their eyes, doesn’t LOVE Putin but has no great respect for any opponents – they think they’re doing OK, and have a similar outlook about their politics as we do. It’s not a poor city. They’re proud, and Putin’s nationalism works reasonably well there – like Gillard’s screeching femynyzm played to Emily’s Harpies, or Rudd’s folksy socialism made our Pyjama Boys feel secure.

    Their meeja is sycophantic, but no more than we saw for 6 years. I had the misfortune of attending a political briefing in Moscow – I might as well have watched Q&A or Onesiders.

    None of which is in any way helped by running a half-arsed winter games in a summer resort. They already HAD the Olympics – in Moscow, 1980. Did it well. No upside trying to do it again – he can only fuck it up (probable), waste a lot of money (certain) or run it flawlessly with almost nobody caring. Reports of corruption in the construction won’t help his legacy. Nor will the laughably poor quality of construction. And nor will poor snow conditions.

    I assume they bid for this about 7 years ago, at the peak of the commodities boom and pre-GFC – it probably goes in the “seemed like a good idea at the time” forgettery.

  19. JC

    If you know where Mugabe is then you have Putin pegged.

    Bullshit. Putin is way smarter than that idiot Mugabe.

    Let me ask you this, the Lying slapper was basically going to close down free speech through the Finkelstein Laws. Greg Combet impaneled Clive (Happy) Hamilton as a Climate Authoritarian. Happy was the mentally disturbed arsehole who advocated getting security services onto gerbil warming sceptics. Bolt was done in under Lair party anti-free speech laws.

    How long before the Liar Party would be slouching toward jailing their political opponents.

    Is Putin really that much worse?

    I’d argue Putin is better value in lots of ways.

  20. tomix

    Got a sickness cert. from the doctor c. 2001. He had to tick one of three categories: Working, benefits, or elite athlete.

    According to some locals at the time, the Carr Gov’t offered potential indigenous troublemakers in Sydney 12 months rent free housing in Tenterfield pre 2000 to prevent embarrassing PR during the Olympics.

  21. JC

    Their meeja is sycophantic, but no more than we saw for 6 years. I had the misfortune of attending a political briefing in Moscow – I might as well have watched Q&A or Onesiders.

    I’d bet that pound for pound they’re lessor suck holes than the disgusting ABC left.

  22. JC

    Ask yourself this.. would Putin have a Department of Climate Change and help impose the highest carbon tax abatement scheme in the world?

    Would he form a coalition where the senior party members were Tubbsie Milne, Adam Ant and Handsome& Young?

    Putin is an arsehole, but he’s no asshat.

  23. Snoopy

    JC

    Ultra Nationalistic? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Ultra corrupt? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Propensity for seizing businesses of political opponents? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Nominally ‘socialist’? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Pals with Iran and Venezuela? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Anti Gay? Putin yes Mugabe yes

    Want some more?

  24. JC

    Snoppy

    The Russian economy isn’t in the dirt like Mugabe’s. He’s turned it into a pile of shit. Putin hasn’t done that.

    I’d argue that Putin has been less corrupt than Mugabe as a percentage of GDP.

  25. Andrew

    Putin’s NOT anti-gay. There are no anti-gay laws. There is no criminalisation of homosexual conduct (barring the universal “consenting adult” clause). In fact, they decriminalised arse-banditry before AUS did.

    What is outlawed is “propaganda” promoting the lifestyle in view of minors.

    Putin was asked about gays at the Games. He said “You’re welcome, you won’t be harassed, you can do what you like without criminal sanctions. But please, leave our children alone.” And I think 90% of Russians would agree with that law. (Now of course it’s being used to shut down the Mardi-Gras, for example, which goes beyond the stated intent.)

  26. .

    According to some locals at the time, the Carr Gov’t offered potential indigenous troublemakers in Sydney 12 months rent free housing in Tenterfield pre 2000 to prevent embarrassing PR during the Olympics.

    That sort of thing did happen, I assure you.

    Why do people think Dubbo has blown up socially since then? I mean, a small city (big country town) has a housing estate in lockdown? Thanks Boob Car!

  27. .

    “You’re welcome, you won’t be harassed, you can do what you like without criminal sanctions. But please, leave our children alone.”

    But how will the church bake sale go if Marge Simspon is in jail for the petty theft of a bottle of Colonel Kwik-E-Mart’s Kentucky Bourbon?

  28. .

    Labor’s Terri Butler looks set to take the Brisbane seat of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, but Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson has not conceded with some 10,000 pre-poll and postal votes still to be counted.

    By Jove, he may just do it after all!

  29. JC

    And one other thing snoopy.. I’m not for a second suggesting that Putin is the paragon of libertarian virtues. I’m judging him on a relative basis. In lots way the Australian Liars party would be far more corrupt.

  30. .

    Damn. Should be open thread…

  31. Fisky

    And one other thing snoopy.. I’m not for a second suggesting that Putin is the paragon of libertarian virtues. I’m judging him on a relative basis. In lots way the Australian Liars party would be far more corrupt.

    Putin is no more restrictive on free speech than Labor, possibly erring a bit more to the permissive side if anything. And he’s better than Labor on economics.

  32. JohnA

    I’m sure that many Cats have noticed that the winter olympics are on.

    O RLY? MEH!

  33. Andrew

    If the test is free speech and economics, which govt(s) rank below the ALP Fisky?

  34. JC

    Putin is no more restrictive on free speech than Labor, possibly erring a bit more to the permissive side if anything. And he’s better than Labor on economics.

    As far as authoritarian type governments go I would much rather have Putin as leader than the Lying Slapper or earwax eater. It’s not even a contest.

  35. jumpnmcar

    I don’t mind rewarding our worlds best with a shiny medal.
    Shit, people pay to see the best.
    What gives me the pips is awarding medals and praise in ” the best without penises ” category.
    No ” penis challenged ” athletes world record would make a qualifying time to earn a plane ticket.

  36. Fisky

    What is outlawed is “propaganda” promoting the lifestyle in view of minors.

    Britain had an identical law that Maggie passed in 1988, and it was repealed in Blair’s second term. No calls for sanctions, boycotts, military strikes, etc, back then. And no campaigning against our buddies Saudi for executing gay men either. This is a completely hypocritical campaign by the West against Putin only because he has embarrassed the US/UK geopolitically again and again. There is nothing more to it.

  37. Snoopy

    Uses extreme violence against non-government media? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Corrupted the judicial system? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Corrupted the electoral system? Putin yes Mugabe yes
    Promotes corporate cronyism? Putin yes Mugabe yes

    The Russian economy isn’t in the dirt like Mugabe’s. He’s turned it into a pile of shit. Putin hasn’t done that.

    So we agree? Mugabe is just better at what they do.

  38. JC

    Andrew

    I would say that a Liars party government resembles the current governments in Argentina and Venezuela. They are slightly less restrictive than say North Korea, however if you gave them time to settle in labor camps wouldn’t be that far away from getting done.

  39. Fisky

    If the test is free speech and economics, which govt(s) rank below the ALP Fisky?

    Mugabe and Kim Jong-Un. But that’s only because the Labor Party are their understudies and have years of catching up to do.

  40. JC

    Snoopy

    What are the degrees on a comparative basis. I would also include the Liars Party in the comparison too.

  41. Snoopy

    I won’t disagree on that point.

  42. JC

    Mugabe and Kim Jong-Un. But that’s only because the Labor Party are their understudies and have years of catching up to do.

    ‘sactly. They were slouching in that direction anyway.

  43. jupes

    Ask yourself this.. would Putin have a Department of Climate Change and help impose the highest carbon tax abatement scheme in the world?

    No. Putin puts the national interest before utterly useless gestures.

  44. Snoopy

    Well in the metrics I’ve raised, I’d put Mugabe and Putin neck ‘a neck.

    Labor is currently behind on extreme violence (just} and rather than seizing businesses prefers to to buy a stake. Its nationalism is demonstrated through its basic disgust of international trade. And it’s not anti gay just confused.

  45. Makka

    “If they love it so much then let use their own money or take out a loan”

    Let’s be sure then you have the same ruthless attitude to Bank execs who with the one hand take hundreds of millions in bailout money from taxpayers, then also millions in bonuses from shareholders. Your double standards stick out like dogs balls when it comes to your beloved market and finance.

  46. .

    I dunno.

    The sabotage in Vic power generation, the standover tactics in Vic construction and links to bikies?

    The ALP aren’t faring too badly on your metrics after all!

  47. Makka

    If you were an average Russian or a Zimbie, I would say that Putin would streets ahead of Mugabe. There is no comparison.

  48. Andrew

    I upset some of the dirty leftoids on my FB by noting the similarities between Juliar and KJ-E.
    - no free press
    - nationalisation of industries
    - difficulties balancing the budget
    - could lose a few pounds, and have stupid hair

  49. .

    Let’s be sure then you have the same ruthless attitude to Bank execs who with the one hand take hundreds of millions in bailout money from taxpayers, then also millions in bonuses from shareholders. Your double standards stick out like dogs balls when it comes to your beloved market and finance.

    Huh? It is the sane, prosperity creating position I have and stick to.

    What actually sticks out like the proverbial is your idea that executive remuneration must be controlled by government.

  50. jupes

    Its nationalism is demonstrated through its basic disgust of international trade.

    Labor’s nationalism is non-existant.

    It exists for two reasons: Labor and the unions.

  51. Steve of Glasshouse

    For me, the Olympics just managed to squeeze past the S bend before the Australian of the Year Award.

  52. Snoopy

    Makka, I’m not so sure. Zimbabwe is blessed with possibly the best climate in the world.

    But just as in Russia there there is a favoured class of seriously wealthy people. Fortunately for them being ‘lucky’ is not a crime.

  53. Alfonso

    Bad memories always haunt the Russians come the Biathlon, a sport that symbolises the Finnish victory in the Winter War.
    Russian numbers forced a negotiated peace in the end but the Fin kill rate was amazing.

  54. Des Deskperson

    ‘It was not the fascists but the socialists who began to collect children at the tenderest age into political organizations to direct their thinking.’

    Only just. the Young Pioneers began in 1922, the Balilla in 1926.

  55. tomix

    The Winter War? Has Simo Hayha ever had a run here?

  56. .

    Holy crap.

    He was possibly the greatest one man army against communism.

  57. Rabz

    Has Simo Hayha ever had a run here?

    That li’l tale was seriously f*cking impressive. What a legend.

  58. JamesWrangler

    Just watched the men’s downhill sking and women slope style snowboarding, fantastic stuff. I bet anyone on here complaining about it being boring couldn’t ski down a mountain with the elevation difference between start and finish being 1000 metres. I do love when keyboard warriors who strugggle to get off the couch start canning other people’s hard work and achievements.
    As for Chris Berg, wow he must be fun at a party. The first modern olympics was held in 1896. There have been 30 summer olympics and 22 winter olympics. Chris Berg points out 4, yep just 4, occasions when the olympics have been hijacked by totalitarian states and suddenly the olympics are a march into fundamentalism, militarism and fascism and a tool to the world’s worst regimes. What does he have to say about the 8 times it’s been hosted by the USA or 2 by Australia or any of the other democratic nations that have hosted it. I dare say nothing. He’s article “Let the cult begin” is loopy paranoid hogwash. When the IOC start forming armies with machine guns, start overthrowing governments and talking about world domination then i’ll start to worry. For the moment I just going to watch it to see how many medals Australia wins, like most normal people would do. Berg what a tool, an absolute tool.
    As for the goverment spending money on it, so what. I’d rather they waste money on athletes than say RMIT university.

  59. Is Putin really that much worse?

    Dunno. Do you like plutonium 239 in your corn flakes?

  60. Infidel Tiger

    I do love when keyboard warriors who strugggle to get off the couch start canning other people’s hard work and achievements.

    All financed by other peoples money.

  61. .

    Chris Berg points out 4, yep just 4, occasions when the olympics have been hijacked by totalitarian states and suddenly the olympics are a march into fundamentalism, militarism and fascism and a tool to the world’s worst regimes.

    I agree, it’s a terrible record. Four out of fifty two – most sports on their own wouldn’t allow it.

  62. .

    As for the goverment spending money on it, so what. I’d rather they waste money on athletes than say RMIT university.

    It’s not your money, champ. That’s the so what right there.

  63. Botswana O'Hooligan

    The Olympics and almost any sport always remind me of the “Spy versus Spy” comics where the “Spy” is replaced by some drug company or the other, for most sport consists of drug company versus drug company or bookie versus bookie.

  64. Token

    Chris Berg points out 4, yep just 4, occasions when the olympics have been hijacked by totalitarian states and suddenly the olympics are a march into fundamentalism, militarism and fascism and a tool to the world’s worst regimes.

    This is the problem with creating a global body. FIFA has the exact same experience. The next 3 world cups are in Brazil (one of the global capitals of crony capitalism and unbelievable poverty), Qatar (authoritarian regime who bought the spectical with amazing amounts of petrol dollars – e.g. Manchester City, PSG, et al) & Russia (see Sochi).

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