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New Left Review I/24, March-April 1964


Olympic Games

All athletes who competed in the Games of the New Emerging Forces at Jakarta last year have been indefinitely suspended by the iaaf. This means that they will not be able to take part in the Tokyo Olympics.

The ban includes athletes from 47 countries. Their fault was to go ahead and compete at Jakarta after they had been warned that ganefo infringed iaaf laws, because Indonesia had not invited Israel and Taiwan to send teams. The laws in question are those designed to do the impossible, ‘to keep politics out of sport’; whatever one thinks of the exclusion of Israel, their effect has been to reduce the Olympics into a European-North American rump, firmly entrenching politics in sport. The ban has not attracted much notice in Britain because it is felt that the banned ganefo athletes were hardly serious competitors anyway, at best picturesque participants in the opening march-past. In fact, of course, the ban has utterly destroyed the point of the Olympics and turned them into an arena for the narcissism of the advanced nations. The gap in athletic ‘standards’ between the Olympics and ganefo reflects the gap between riches and poverty, between health and disease, between exploiters and exploited. The obverse of the Olympic athletes, spangled with gold and silver medals, is the under-nourished and diseased masses of the 47 ganefo nations. ganefo represents an important moment in their struggle for independence and dignity. The Olympics no longer represent anything, despite the aureole of high ideals which still embellishes them.

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