Commentary Magazine


Topic: London Olympics

Imagine: Turkish TV Censors John Lennon

When organizers of the 30th Olympic Games in London—the most politically correct in history—decided that “Imagine,” the late John Lennon paean to world peace should  feature in the closing ceremony, little did they realize they would so greatly offend official Turkish sensibilities.

From the Hurriyet Daily News:

A presenter for Turkish state broadcaster TRT omitted part of iconic British musician John Lennon’s lyrics that call for “no religion” during the broadcasting of the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies, NTV reported on its website. One of Lennon’s most famous songs, “Imagine,” was included in the Aug. 12 ceremonies and was translated into Turkish by the TRT presenter as it played in the background. The verses of the song which called for people to imagine a world with no countries and no reason to kill or die for were correctly translated into Turkish, but the presenter skipped the part where Lennon sang for “no religion.” The presenter translated the remainder of the lyrics correctly.

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When organizers of the 30th Olympic Games in London—the most politically correct in history—decided that “Imagine,” the late John Lennon paean to world peace should  feature in the closing ceremony, little did they realize they would so greatly offend official Turkish sensibilities.

From the Hurriyet Daily News:

A presenter for Turkish state broadcaster TRT omitted part of iconic British musician John Lennon’s lyrics that call for “no religion” during the broadcasting of the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies, NTV reported on its website. One of Lennon’s most famous songs, “Imagine,” was included in the Aug. 12 ceremonies and was translated into Turkish by the TRT presenter as it played in the background. The verses of the song which called for people to imagine a world with no countries and no reason to kill or die for were correctly translated into Turkish, but the presenter skipped the part where Lennon sang for “no religion.” The presenter translated the remainder of the lyrics correctly.

Now I’m no atheist, but I’m not going to begrudge the late Lennon his philosophy. Still, as Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bases Turkey’s bid to host the Olympics in religion rather than peace and brotherhood, it is worth asking what else will Turkey seek to censor.

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A Fitting Answer to the IOC’s Snub

In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.

As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.

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In the end, the families of the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago and millions of Jews who mourned with them, got a bit of satisfaction out of the London Games. Though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stubbornly refused to devote even a minute of an hours-long opening ceremony for a moment of silence for the victims of Munich (while giving several minutes to a memorial to the victims of the London subway bombings), American gymnast Alexandra Raisman had an appropriate response. By saying her gold medal-winning performance in the floor exercise was in part a memorial to the Israelis who perished long before she was born, Raisman gave us a genuine moment of Jewish pride that places the IOC’s shameful stand in perspective.

As the Massachusetts native told the New York Post, she did not select the “Hava Nagila” Hebrew dance music deliberately to honor the Munich 11, but she took special satisfaction from winning the gold 40 years after the massacre. Doing so, she said, “meant a lot” to her. She also said she would have supported and respected an Olympic moment of silence for Munich. Her statement and victory ought to comfort Jews who were rightly outraged by the double standard shown by the IOC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the decision to snub the Munich victims at the opening ceremony was a telling indication of the group’s prejudice against Israel and Jews.

Though events have been held to honor the victims in London and elsewhere, the IOC and its leader Jacques Rogge have made sure that none were held at the Games themselves. The reason, as we have written before, isn’t hard to figure out. Many of the participating countries at the Olympics approve of Palestinian terrorism and don’t recognize Israel’s existence. Before the opening ceremony, some of us speculated as to whether the organization would snub others as they’ve done to the Israelis, but after the tribute to the London bombing victims, we got our answer.

The IOC response to appeals for a moment of silence was yet another indication that what the State Department has called a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” has infected the global sports world as well as other sectors of international opinion. But Raisman’s win and her willingness to stand up for the victims is a reminder to the anti-Semites that the spirit of the Jewish people cannot be extinguished by their hate.

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Gaffes Alone Won’t Stop Romney

Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).

While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.

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Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).

While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.

There are serious questions to be asked about the London Olympics, including the wisdom of the massive expenditure of funds at a time when Britain is suffering through austerity budgets as well as the fact that almost all Olympic hosts are generally left worse off than before they started. But because Romney is an unrepentant Olympic booster, he is probably the last person to pose such questions.

This kerfuffle does once again illustrate his capacity for running his mouth when he should keep it shut. Throughout the primary campaign we saw that the GOP candidate had the capacity to sometimes say far too much. Though a serious thinker about policy, he lacks the natural politician’s instinct to say what should be said at times as well as the same ability to avoid unguarded utterances. Obama’s cool and scripted responses have proven that avoiding gaffes is no guarantee of wisdom. But Romney’s team must come to terms with the fact that their man is always going to be vulnerable to moments like these. No amount of insulation from the press is going to stop him from saying things like this again.

But unless Romney liberates Poland as Gerald Ford did in a 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter (an example of a real policy gaffe), this sort of thing won’t do him much political damage. After all, Romney is in London for a photo opportunity and to raise money or to win British votes.

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Ignoring Munich Massacre Reminds Us Olympics Are Pure Baloney

In the history of the modern Olympic Games there have been many scandals but only one terrorist massacre. The 1972 Games in Munich will forever be remembered because Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes there in cold blood. But this summer when the Games reconvene in London there will be neither an official remembrance nor even a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Israelis. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, flatly denied requests from the State of Israel and members of the United States Congress for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in London. The reason for this refusal is clear. Any reminder of that historic crime would offend the vast majority of member nations that participate in the Games who don’t want any mention of an event that puts the Palestinians in a bad light.

This is an outrage that should not pass unnoticed by those who promote and profit from the two-week-long television program that mostly features competitions in sports few will care about during the rest of this or any other year. Rogge and his predecessors have always condemned the politicization of sports–the reason many in the Olympic movement give for choosing to forget about Munich. But the toxic mix of nationalism and athletics has always been at the heart of the Games. While the athletes who participate deserve both respect and admiration, the decision to ignore Munich is just the latest illustration of the moral bankruptcy of the Games. Though we will hear much about the “Olympic Spirit” during the endless promotion of this event, it is and always has been a gigantic fraud that has always preferred to appease tyrants and ignore crimes in the pursuit of building a global business brand.

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In the history of the modern Olympic Games there have been many scandals but only one terrorist massacre. The 1972 Games in Munich will forever be remembered because Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes there in cold blood. But this summer when the Games reconvene in London there will be neither an official remembrance nor even a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Israelis. Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, flatly denied requests from the State of Israel and members of the United States Congress for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in London. The reason for this refusal is clear. Any reminder of that historic crime would offend the vast majority of member nations that participate in the Games who don’t want any mention of an event that puts the Palestinians in a bad light.

This is an outrage that should not pass unnoticed by those who promote and profit from the two-week-long television program that mostly features competitions in sports few will care about during the rest of this or any other year. Rogge and his predecessors have always condemned the politicization of sports–the reason many in the Olympic movement give for choosing to forget about Munich. But the toxic mix of nationalism and athletics has always been at the heart of the Games. While the athletes who participate deserve both respect and admiration, the decision to ignore Munich is just the latest illustration of the moral bankruptcy of the Games. Though we will hear much about the “Olympic Spirit” during the endless promotion of this event, it is and always has been a gigantic fraud that has always preferred to appease tyrants and ignore crimes in the pursuit of building a global business brand.

The popularity of the Games is undeniable, and any effort to punish the IOC or even boycott the opening ceremonies over the issue of ignoring Munich is bound to fail. The people of the world want their bread and circuses, and if the prospect of honoring Adolf Hitler and the Nazis as the Olympics did in 1936, the Soviet Communism (1980) or the tyrants of Beijing (2008) could not derail the show, then it isn’t likely that many will care about sweeping the memory of Munich under the rug in London this year. Though President Jimmy Carter made the Soviets pay a price for their invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 when he ordered the boycott of the Moscow Olympics — one of the few things for which one of our worst presidents deserves credit — the Games are now too big a business to be affected, let alone stopped by moral considerations.

There is a popular mythology that has grown up about the moral value of this international sports tournament that was promoted by the skillful documentaries created by the late Bud Greenspan. But though the Games can be fun, Greenspan’s wide-eyed belief in the majesty of sports triumphing over intolerance and division was always pure baloney.

We cannot force the Games or the sports establishment to remember the 11 Israelis or even acknowledge their indifference to the massacre. But we can at least stop pretending there is anything happening in London this summer that has intrinsic or moral value and not simply sporting significance. The Olympics are the sports equivalent of the United Nations, a high-minded ideal that is, in practice, merely the assemblage of rogues who pervert the concept to pursue their own often scandalous objectives. Though you may like the show, the Games deserve our scorn, not our admiration.

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