The Olympic ideal will overcome scandals and petty nationalism

Share

The Athens Olympics, like all great romantic ideas, have been threatened by grubby reality since the day they were conceived. First came Greece's failure to secure the Olympics either on the centenary in 1996, or to mark the millennium. Then there were suspicions that building work was so behind schedule that Athens would never be ready to host the games. On top of this came the 11 September terror attacks and bickering about security. Now the shadow of drugs has fallen across these games.

The Athens Olympics, like all great romantic ideas, have been threatened by grubby reality since the day they were conceived. First came Greece's failure to secure the Olympics either on the centenary in 1996, or to mark the millennium. Then there were suspicions that building work was so behind schedule that Athens would never be ready to host the games. On top of this came the 11 September terror attacks and bickering about security. Now the shadow of drugs has fallen across these games.

The Greek authorities may have completed their stadium in time, but the foundations of the Olympic ideal seem to have crumbled beneath them. The threatened exclusion of two of Greece's brightest track stars for failing to take a drug test reflects the wretched state of international athletics at the moment. While this episode is a crushing blow to Greece's national pride, it ought to be understood in light of a doping scandal that is stretching its tentacles around the world. The investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in America has implicated scores of athletes in a conspiracy involving a new untraceable steroid and strengthens the impression that dopers will always be one step ahead of testers. Many will now wonder whether they can believe what they are seeing when they watch races in Athens.

But while track and field sports are understandably seen as the centrepiece of Olympic competitions, it would be wrong to write off the entire games due to a scandal engulfing one area. Champions will emerge from a huge number of disciplines, from shooting to softball, over the next few weeks. The feats of those athletes do not deserve to be diminished by events elsewhere. Indeed the smaller sports, which often lack corporate sponsorship and vast sums from TV rights, come closest to the ideals of the games as devised by Baron de Coubertin more than 100 years ago. Despite the commercialisation of the modern games, and sport in general, the flame of honest competition still burns at the Olympics. Remember too that no international competition attracts more competitors, or represents the ultimate prize in such a wide range of sports.

There is, of course, another aspect to the games. Great struggles between empires and nations are peacefully enacted on the stage they provide. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union saw the accumulation of gold medals as a vindication of their respective social systems. Now the utter dominance of the US in the medals table seems to confirm its status as the pre-eminent power in the world.

But it is possible to look at these tables in another way. America won a total of 97 medals in the Sydney Olympics of 2000, but that other wealthy continental conglomeration - the states of the present European Union - won 281. The US won 39 golds, the EU 98. What better way for the EU to celebrate its recent enlargement than to consider each medal won by individual nations in Athens as, in part, a victory for Europe? That could be the reaffirmation of the Olympic spirit that Athens in 2004 so desperately needs.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders