Friday, February 29, 2008

The Olympics as a Political Tool

In 1980, my father and a friend of mine were both Olympic hopefuls who were ready to compete for honor and glory for their countries in the biggest and grandest of the athletic stages.

My father was an archer of some renown and had worked for 4 years of his life to become one of the best in the world. I can remember tournaments where the weather was freezing temperatures and sleet and snow and rain and all he did was shoot.

On the same lines, my friend was one of the best discus and shot putters in the world at the time. He had worked all of his young life towards the goal of the olympic games. It was supposed to be his crowning achievement.

Then, some fat assed politicians in Washington D.C. started screaming up and down about politics and decided that we shouldn't support the Russian olympics. All because they were a communist country and didn't agree with our idea of politics and democracy. Then Jimmy Carter decided the US would not be attending the olympic games. All because of politics. We have had olympic games in the middle of the most obnoxious of political situations but the athletes disassociated themselves from it for the most part.

Everyone seems to forget that it is the athletes who are important here, not the b.s. politicians. It is the crowning glory for those athletes who have dedicated their years, blood and sweat to the goal of being crowned olympic champion.

Now the same fat asses in D.C. are at it again. A campaign to get people to turn off the TV because of Burma is under way ( What these people seem to forget once again is that the Olympic Games is not a political game or a political stage. It is an athletic competition. Of course, these are the same folks who would show up and protest at a children's soccer game or baseball game.

In 1980, when Carter cancelled the Olympics for the US team, my father turned pro. He never watched another minute of olympic sports and he voted for Reagan. Why? Well, he said he was fed up with the Olympics being used for everyones political agenda. He was an athlete and now here I am 27 years later looking at the way people play politics with athletes, and nothing has changed.

As for my friend who was the discus thrower, he competed for a few more years before health issues over took his life. As for 1984, he was retired a year or so by then. But neither were interested in their sports on the amateur level due to the politicians.

I remember all these events like they happened yesterday. They had a profound effect on my life and the way I believe. It also led me to believing that you compete where ever you are and you accept those of other faith's countries, religions and you compete in the name of SPORT!

Thus I say to you who would support groups like that one mentioned above; Leave us athletes out of your agenda's. It s really not cool and while we support many of your causes on a personal level, don't make our sports part of those causes as they are not related. We are athletes first and last and friends and fellow competitors, no matter what country we compete for. Just because we are from that country, it does not make us part of the government of the particular country.

Post Script: Don't misunderstand me here, or even bother questioning my patriotism as I am as red-white-and-blue as they come. Since my family has a 400 year history in the US, I am not inclined to listen to nay-sayers. But I am also not a politician and sure as hell don't want a politician telling me who and where, or against whom I can or cannot compete. As an athlete I want to compete against the best, whoever or wherever they are. That is the creed of most athletes I know.