Socialist Worker

Olympics: Competition in sport reflects capitalism

Issue No. 2096

The protests that greeted the Olympic torch in London and Paris have re-ignited a debate about whether you can keep politics out of sport. The simple answer is no. As George Orwell famously wrote, sport 'is war minus the shooting'.

The history of the modern Olympics is littered with boycotts, protests being met with repression and even a massacre in Mexico City in 1968. The event has repeatedly seen the 'sanitisation' of the host city through the removal of the homeless and other 'undesirables'.

But Orwell's point is that nationalism is central to events such as the Olympics. Rather than breed international friendship, they encourage people to identify with 'their' state.

Competition is at the heart of sport – and is central to capitalism. Sport in today's world is about a tiny number of individuals competing, watched passively by millions across the globe.

There is little or no enjoyment among those taking part in events such as the Olympics, the World Cup or the Tour de France.

In a socialist society physical activity would mean enjoying a world that we control and in which there is no great pressure to compete. Think about holidays – when we swim in the sea it is not about competition but enjoyment.

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What We Think
Tue 8 Apr 2008, 19:57 BST
Issue No. 2096
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