In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:
“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.