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The Sydney Summer Olympics

An Exercise in Political Imagery

15 September 2000

Did you watch the opening ceremony? Those of us who have watched our share of such happenings over the years, realized 20 minutes into the event that it was going to be marked by everything we have learned to associate with Summer-Olympic pomp and circumstance. The huge cheering crowds, the expensive background props, the surreal dancing themes (I'm sure they must have had some kind of meaning, at least for Australians), the boring speeches and the panoramic views were all there, making up the usual Olympic spectacle.

Present, too, were all the symbols of political imagery which have been part of Olympic events since their conception in ancient Greece, and throughout decades of modern history. The officials, the flags, the banners, the security, the sponsors and the PR were all visible during the ceremony. Another hugely expensive diplomatic exercise is undoubtedly underway "Down Under".

And what are we to expect during the next couple of weeks? Sure, there will be the excitement of sporting competition, the national pride in victory and the humiliation in defeat that is inevitably part of the show. There'll be the usual doping scandals and numerous weird happenings. But penetrating all that, there will be political and diplomatic ups and downs that will spice up the events. For, their sporting passion aside, the Olympics constitute the world's largest political exercise. It has the ability to transmit powerful messages, to enhance ideologies and expose administrative scandals. Some of these happenings have already appeared: the Australians' use of Aboriginal themes during the opening ceremony in an attempt to reconcile with the racist crimes that gave birth to the colony and its culture; the marching of the athletes of the Korean peninsula under one flag and under the watchful eyes of the American diplomatic entourage; the appearance of the semi-independent Timorese team, marching on the soil of the country that betrayed their trust during the 1974 Indonesian invasion. These were all events that are bound to be passionately debated around the world.

Here at the News Insider we'll be closely watching the Sydney Olympics. And, who knows, amidst all the action, we might even get to enjoy some of the sports.

© The News Insider 2000

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