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For your attention
by threehegemons
15 February 2002 23:06 UTC
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Steve Sherman spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you 
should see it.

Note from Steve Sherman:

A minor, but telling example of the way jingoism actually erodes hegemony.

To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to 

Chariots of ire: is US jingoism tarnishing the Olympic ideal?
Duncan Mackay in Salt Lake City
Thursday February 14 2002
The Guardian

The wave of American jingoism and intense security that has marked the first 
week of the Winter Olympics here has led to senior officials of the 
International Olympic Committee privately expressing concerns about whether the 
US can ever stage another Olympic event. 

The games have already been dubbed the "red, white and blue Olympics" because 
almost every event has patriotic overtones in the wake of the terrorist attacks 
on September 11. Nationalism has always been a part of the Olympics but IOC 
officials here feel the event is being used simply as propaganda for the US war 

"This is a show designed to send a message to Osama bin Laden," said one IOC 
member. "President Bush is saying: 'Look at us: you bombed us but you can't 
stop us going about our normal lives.' But that is not what the Olympic Games 
are supposed to be about."  

The IOC is embarrassed that the very public presence of the 15,000 police and 
military is projecting a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere for an event that, 
since its first staging in 1924, has been a sedate, friendly festival. There 
are more American security personnel here than in Afghanistan and three times 
as many as were present at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles during the 
cold war with the Soviet Union.  

"Bush wants to show the American public that he can guarantee their security 
and they have nothing to worry about," said the IOC member.  

The heavy-handed security operation could have serious repercussions for a 
proposed bid from New York for the 2012 Summer Olympics. IOC officials have 
been speculating openly that if it requires this much effort to protect an 
isolated area in the midwest, then how many troops would be needed to secure 
the world's most famous city. "It just can't happen," said another IOC member.  

From being forced to back down in the row over using the flag recovered from 
the World Trade Centre ruins at the opening ceremony to the overt security 
operation, the lords of the rings are angry.  

The tone was set during the opening ceremony when President Bush broke with 
protocol by opening the games from a position among a group of US athletes. He 
then departed from the Olympic charter when he put the words "On behalf of a 
proud, determined and grateful nation", in front of the official line, "I 
declare open the Games of Salt Lake City..."    

 Heavy security

The IOC fears that this could set a precedent for future heads of states to 
follow when they open the games in their countries. "How [might] Americans 
react in six years &#91;at the 2008 Beijing games&#93; if China's head of state 
decides to stand in the midst of his nation's Olympic team, declaring how the 
indomitable will of the Chinese nation has brought the games to the world?" 
said Ed Hula, the editor of Around The Rings, an American newsletter covering 
Olympic politics.  

The host broadcaster, NBC, also linked the opening ceremony with the war effort 
when, during the parade of nations, it referred to the Iranian athletes as part 
of Mr Bush's "axis of evil". During the ceremony NBC made frequent crosses to 
American troops in Afghanistan, who pointed to the flag on their uniforms and 
chanted "USA".  

Earlier this week the FBI and CIA were forced to tone down the intense security 
searches of competitors following complaints from many international teams that 
their athletes were being harassed. Athletes have everything searched 
repeatedly, and must often queue in sub-zero conditions for more than 30 

A Russian silver medallist was upset that she was asked to drink from her water 
bottle to prove it contained water as she was trying to get into the 
cross-country venue. "Every day we have to go through the same annoying 
procedures," said Larissa Lazutina. "It's a put-down for the athletes."  

Matters took an even more bizarre turn yesterday when nine musicians from a 
California band had their bus stopped and searched 60 miles south of Salt Lake 
City after a convenience store clerk told officials they had asked about 
security checkpoints at the games."It was a surprise and it was funny," said a 
band member. "What wasn't so funny was that they asked us what ethnic groups 
were on the bus and after they searched the whole bus and found some articles 
about terrorism, they pulled one of our guys aside and questioned him a lot."   

 Terrorist target

Fears of terror attacks have severely affected travel to Salt Lake City. Less 
than 7% of tickets have been sold to foreigners, and that figure includes the 
sales to overseas Olympic committees as well as families and friends of 
competitors. Of the 1.58m tickets available only 100,000 have been sold outside 
the country.  

But that has not stopped these Olympics being an overwhelming success here, 
with 90% of tickets sold, making it the most successful games ever. Television 
ratings are also huge: an incredible 72m people, or one in four Americans, 
watched the opening ceremony on TV while the first day of competition gave NBC 
its biggest Saturday night audience for six years.  

Inspired by competing at home, the American team is set to sow its biggest 
harvest of medals ever in the Winter games. But even that is not enough for USA 
Today, the country's biggest-selling newspaper, which is printing a table based 
on the total number of medals won rather than golds. Using that format, the US, 
with 10 medals won, are second behind Germany. But in the official list 
distributed by the IOC, Norway are top having won five gold medals compared 
with the Americans' three.  

A strong anti-American feeling has existed among many IOC members since 1998 
when 10 of its members were forced to resign or were expelled after they were 
found to have accepted a total of $1m in cash, gifts, scholarships and other 
inducements to win votes for Salt Lake's Olympic candidacy.  

The IOC has tried to repair its battered image here by cutting back on many of 
the regal excesses which have marked its stay in previous host cities. But 
there is resentment among IOC members that the Salt Lake City leaders who 
offered the bribes, Tom Welch and David Johnson, have escaped unpunished after 
15 felony charges, including bribery, were dropped.  

Mr Welch and Mr Johnson are no longer involved with the Salt Lake organising 
committee but attended the opening ceremony. 

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

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