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The Olympics: Purebreds and Nationalism

Guest Blogger • Aug 15, 2008

I was recently at a bar and looked up to find the Olympics on the television hanging on the wall. I don’t remember ever going into a bar before and seeing the Olympic games, not only on the television, but actually being watched by a good amount of people. Perhaps I’ve just not been in the types of bars that were watching previous Olympics, but I certainly thought it was an interesting sight.

A CBS sports columnist, Gregg Doyel, recently went off on a huge rant about how players that come from one country should only be allowed to play for that country in the Olympics or not play at all. I found his argument to be interesting because he actually mentioned the word jingoistic. He was in fact denying that he could be called jingoistic. The term jingoistic, by definition, comes from jingoism which means “extreme nationalism characterized especially by a belligerent foreign policy; chauvinistic patriotism.” To my understanding, I cannot actually see how he would not be considered jingoistic.

Doyel’s argument is that Olympic teams should only consist of players that were born and raised in the country she or he is representing in their sport. He is crying because there are Americans playing for Olympic teams other than America. Doyel continued, “The Olympics are about the athletes our country can produce, and pitting them against the athletes your country can produce.” This seems like he is describing a cockfight of sorts. I would also call this extreme nationalism characterized by a belligerent foreign policy i.e. jingoism.

Doyel only wants purebred Americans fighting for our All-American G.I. Joes because that is the way America is supposed to be, right?….WRONG. Doyel could not be more off base on this and many other facts. Doyel actually says “Once upon a time the Olympics were noble and romantic: Whose amateur athletes are the best in the world? Now, the Olympics are a blasphemy because the first two words of that previous sentence — Whose amateur … — have been made irrelevant.”

He is referring to the 1970s ruling by the Olympic Charter that professionals could be used in any sport upon the decision of the international federation. Today only a handful of Olympic sports do not allow professionals. Because of this rule, Mr. Doyel was allowed to see the formation of the 1992 American basketball Dream Team (the only Olympic sport Doyel professes to watch). This ruling also allowed for the international recognition of professional athletes in a way that had never been seen before. This in turn is what may be the most significant factor behind the number of people that watch the Olympics worldwide.

The Olympics are something different for everyone. For some, it is a way to celebrate the extreme fitness of the human body. For others it is a way to watch nations compete for a prize in a humane fashion. To me, the Olympics are an international recognition of athletes that are in immense physical condition in order to perform for their family, countrymen (wherever they may be from and/or representing), an international audience, and their fellow Olympians.

What do the Olympics mean to you?

*Image gratefully borrowed from http’s 2007 photostream on flickr.com/creativecommons

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