Alex Massie

Defending San Francisco!

Defending San Francisco!
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I see that heaps of folks are having fun with this sign, recently displayed at a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco:


It is possible of course, that our friend here doesn't know that the 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin*. But isn't it also possible that our friendly demonstrator is actually asking an excellent question: would we in fact have permitted Nazi Germany  to host the Olympic games? I suspect we would, since, a) the games were awarded to Germany in 1931 and b) the Germany of 1936 was not, quite, the Germany of 1938.

In any case, surely the point of the poster is in fact to compare China to Nazi Germany, not to display the protestor's historical ignorance. Why, the poster may be saying, are we not holding China to a higher standard? Shame on us for not doing so. If we would not permit the games to be held in a country such as Nazi Germany, why are we permitting them to be held in China? Now you may think this baloney and typical hippie nonsense, but it does get to the guts of all the questions over who should be awarded the games in the first place (eg, Berlin 1936, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984, Beijing 2008)

At least that's what I think it's trying to say: sadly, of course, it's always much more amusing just to laugh at Californians...

*In the light of recent rumpuses, it's worth remembering that it was the Berlin Olympiad which, I seem to recall, also marked the "resurrection" of the "ancient" tradition of the Olympic Torch's journey from Olympia to the host city. Each time it's lit we tread in the footsteps of Josef Goebbel's imagination, flair and sense of pageantry.

PS: Berlin beat Barcelona for the right to host the 1936 games. When the decision was made, in 1931, it's perfectly possible to imagine how it must have seemed a fitting, symbolic return for Germany to the family of nations. By 1936, of course, Barcelonans had other, more pressing, matters to deal with. Daft hypothetical of the day: might the Olympics have prevented or delayed in any way the Spanish Civil War? It seems unlikely, but...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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