Nick Clarke describes how the USA has used the Salt Lake City Olympics as war propaganda

Nationalism has always been a central and integral part of the Olympics – both winter and summer varieties. However, it seems as if the recent events in Salt Lake City have seen jingoism hit new heights. So much so that it has upset the guardians of the rings – the International Olympic Committee.

Pawn in the Crusade against terrorism

The explicit American patriotism and chauvinism that has enveloped most events at the Winter Olympics has the official blessing of George W. Bush and his White House lieutenants. These games are another pawn in his crusade against terrorism. Their overt use as propaganda in support of the USA’s war has even embarrassed some of the IOC’s senior officials. This is a show designed to send a message to Osama bin Laden, said one IOC member. President Bush is saying: Look at us: you bombed us but you can’t stop us going about our normal lives. But that is not what the Olympic Games are supposed to be about. In opening the Games, Bush broke with protocol by ad-libbing the Olympic Charter. Instead of declaring them open with the line I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City he preceded them with On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation. The IOC is concerned that this has set a precedent that could be followed by other heads of state, including the Chinese President at the start of the Beijing Games in 2008. How will the Americans react to that?

The heavy, high-profile security presence was also an embarrassment to the IOC. There were 15,000 security personnel in Salt Lake City, more than the USA had in Afghanistan. The continual harassment and searching of the competitors was so overbearing that, not surprisingly, many international teams complained. Athletes had to hang around in queues in sub-zero temperatures waiting to be searched. One Russian competitor was told she had to drink from her water bottle to prove it contained water!

Propaganda onslaught

The propaganda onslaught was reinforced by TV broadcaster NBC. During their coverage of the opening ceremony one of their commentators referred to the Iranian competitors as part of Bush’s axis of evil. A fine way to treat your guests!

It should not be forgotten that the way in which Salt Lake City was awarded these Games oozed with the stench of sleaze and corruption. Salt Lake’s bid for the 2002 Winter Games was led by David Johnson and Tom Welch. To achieve their goal and win votes for their bid they offered inducements in the form of cash, scholarships and gifts. IOC members accepted these bribes to the value of $1 million from the Salt Lake City team. Eventually 10 IOC members were forced to resign or were expelled from the committee. Due to this catalogue of misdemeanours some believe that the IOC will try to make the USA pay for tarnishing the Olympic franchise, having repercussions for New York’s proposed bid for the Summer Games in 2012.

Don’t hold your breath! Bush and the American ruling class have further exposed the reality behind the Olympic ideals. The veil of neutrality, sportsmanship and fair play has been lifted further from the sacred rings, revealing once again that what they are really about is chauvinism, nationalism and big business.

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