July 30-August 5, 2012
Translated by Lydia Ma
The Olympic Games is the most prestigious international sports competition in the world and every country taking part go to great lengths to win medals. At the core of these games is the Olympic spirit, which emphasizes friendship, solidarity, and fair competition. But countries that only want to demonstrate their power and ideals in the international stage can often cloud these Olympic ideals.
The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were perhaps the most infamous Olympic Games in history. Held a few years before World War II and hosted by Hitler’s Nazi government, the opening ceremony was filled with Nazi flags. Instead of uttering the traditional Olympic salute, German athletes were told to say “Hail Hitler!”. It was obvious that Hitler wanted to use these games to promote Aryan ideals and prowess.
Though Hitler’s goal for hosting the Berlin Olympics was to showcase the supremacy of the Aryan race, African-American track and field athlete Jesse Owens stole the limelight from Hitler by winning four gold medals: one each in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and as part of the 4x100 meter relay team. Owens’ accomplishment was a slap in the face of Hitler’s Aryan ideals and a reminder that “all humans are created in God’s image”.
One of the most memorable stories that emerged after Owens’ win was that he won his gold medal in long jump partly due to good advice given him by his friend and competitor Carl Ludwig Long from Germany, who encouraged him after a disappointing start. It was Long who told Owens that if he tried and jumped from a spot several inches behind the take-off board, he would likely jump better and score better. Owens was able to advance to the finals when he followed Long’s advice and went on to win the gold medal ahead of Long. In fact, Long set a world record with his jump and Owens broke that record by a very small margin soon afterward.
Reminiscing this event, Owens said: “When we hugged each other, Hitler went crazy! Long must have needed a lot of courage to befriend me. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment."
The original purpose of holding the Olympic Games is to defuse international conflicts by encouraging peace and sportsmanship. However, we have seen from the way China has continually bullied Taiwan at the Olympics that this is not an easy task. Besides suppressing Taiwan inside competition venues at the London Olympics, China is also keen to suppress Taiwan outside these venues. We have seen this in previous years when Taiwan is not allowed to carry its own national flag during the opening and closing ceremonies. However, Beijing went a step further this year by exerting pressure on local businesses and the Regent Street Association so that Taiwan’s flag, which was displayed on July 20 on Piccadilly Circus, was removed on July 24 and then replaced with the “Chinese Taipei” flag on July 26.
Ironically, just as this flag changing debacle was unfolding in London, a high profile meeting called “The 8th Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum” was being held in Harbin, China. The purpose of this forum? To promote cross-Strait ties!
There are some similarities between Hitler’s tactics and Beijing’s tactics. Hitler wanted to show off Germany’s power during the games and began his ethnic cleansing soon after the Olympics ended. Likewise, China is keen to parade its military strength using one hand while suppressing Taiwan using the other hand. Ironically, Pheidipides, the marathon runner who made history, sacrificed his life to bring the good news of peace to his people.