Monday, 28 July 2008
The most populous nation in the world will get to hold the biggest sporting spectacle in the world for what could as well turn out to be the most successful of its times. Beijing will host this year’s Olympics but as expected there has been a fair share of its good and bad coverage depending on which side you are supporting.
Olympics has always had its fair share of controversy right from the time Pierre de Coubertin brought us back the Games in 1896- where Greece wanted to hold a monopoly of holding the Games. In the 1930s, the then German empire hoped to prove its point of a pure Aryan race by showcasing the talents of its athletes but one Jesse Owens from the US of A had other ideas winning 4 events within the same week to become one of the Games’ legends.
Abebe Bikila -first African gold medallist.
1950s and 60s saw the entry of the African athletes with Ethiopia winning the continent’s first gold in the 1960 Rome Games through bare-foot marathoner, Abebe Bikila heralding a new era for African athletes. The same games had one Cassius Clay winning the light heavyweight gold medal. He later changed names to Muhammad Ali and you know the rest of the story….
1968 Mexico Games also had the problem of altitude which most athletes considered a problem. Not for Kenyan Kipchoge Keino who won Kenya her first gold in the Olympics in the 1500m. Who can forget the black-gloved US athletes announcing the Black Panther cause, raising their black-gloved hands on the medals’ rostrum?
1972 Munich Games saw its ugliest scene so far with 11 Israeli athletes kidnapped and killed as a botched up job of Palestinian terrorism brought politics on a collision course. This was one of the loudest external pronouncements to get the world to listen to a community’s cause. It would see similar fates follow as the Cold War continued in earnest.
1976 Montreal Games were affected by the politics of the day with boycotts from countries objecting the New Zealand rugby team visit to apartheid regime South Africa.1980 Moscow Games saw the biggest boycott of the Games as US of A managed to rally most of the world’s states to avoid the Games as they objected the then USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan and its expansionist schemes in Eastern Asia and parts of Africa-it earned the tag as the Communists games as mostly Russian–backed nations participated.
Carl Lewis blazes the 100m race track
1984 Los Angeles Games had a real spectacle of an event and almost suffered the fate of the 1980 games as Russia sort to return America’s favour for its role in the boycotts. Commercialisation of the Games started taking a front seat as American sports marketing companies saw a chance of a lifetime to exploit in marketing sportswear among other goodies.They raked in over US $200 million in profits.
1988 had Asia host the Games for a 2nd time, but these earned the tarnish of one Ben Johnson as he easily won the 100m dash thanks to anabolic steroids –he was stripped of the medal and thus earning the tag of sports’ most famous drug cheat. Africa also earned her first gold medal through Kenya’s Robert Wangila Napunyi who won the welterweight.
1992 Barcelona paid tribute to Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch who had served as IOC (International Olympics Committee) president for the better part of the 80s and 90s. 1996 was the first centennial for the games and most people expected these to automatically go Greece’s Athens way but the Americans again spoilt the party and put their largesse into good use making Atlanta one of the most commercially successful Games of our times.
Cathy Freeman- First athlete to light Olympic flame and go on to win a gold medal
2000 got the Games to Sydney who used the event to showcase the aboriginal history (for which the then Prime Minister had refused to publicly apologize for historical misdeeds). 2004 Athens the Games finally at home but again almost delayed as most venues were completed just in time for the Games. Beijing and so far the Tibetans and minor terror groups in parts of China are making their presence felt.
There have been various concerns on the success of these Games in opening up country to external forces as well as the financial implications for the host country. Most host countries have had empty stadias after the Games as there are no continuous sporting events to accommodate such numbers. Some countries have been left with huge financial burdens (as witnessed by the Canadians after Montreal and Greeks after Athens).
Whatever maybe said, I see the Games as one of the best way of the world stopping on its tracks and enjoying the festival of Games offered by the Olympics. As for the politics and such shenanigans, please save that for another day! Let Games begin!