In ancient Greece, when the Olympic Games were running, weapons were silenced. Wars were put on hold. This is not something that we can observe anymore. The political implications of the Olympics are becoming ever more complex, but they do not appear to approximate the world in a more peaceful condition. In Rio, we encounter a ‘refugee team’ for the first time. A significant number of Russian athletes have been excluded due to notorious and state-induced doping. All Russian athletes have been excluded from the Paralympics. But Russia, though probably among the worst, are not the only dopers.
In previous years, some countries abstained from participating in Olympics organized by other states, due to political misbehavior or just inconvenience (Taiwan was excluded from the Montreal Games in 1976; the USSR invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to a Western boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980, while the Eastern Bloc retaliated with a boycott of the Los Angeles Games in 1984). The Berlin Games in 1936 were not boycotted. There were protests against the Beijing 2008 and Sochi 2014 Games, due to human rights issues, but no boycotts. The Olympics have also attracted terrorist attacks (a Palestinian commando killed Israeli athletes in 1972 in Munich) and during the Games in Mexico (1968), black power symbols were put on display.
So what is the role of the Olympics now? Should we stick to the notion that the Olympics are a politics-free zone? Or should we accept the unavoidable, and let politics impact the Games?
– Prof. Klaus Segbers
Over the last decades, Europe was overwhelmingly considered as a success story – and rightly so. Sure, there were debates and problems, but not on core matters. On the contrary: the end of the east-west conflict, different rounds of enlargement, and the introduction of the Euro established the perception of an ongoing strengthening of Europe. This seems to now be coming to an end.
There are at least four crises where Europe is stumbling: first, the ongoing euro crisis. The referendum in Greece is irrelevant here. When the Greeks do not want to be humiliated, they are free to live by themselves. But the inability of the European agencies to accept their own rules, without bending them, is worrying.
Second, the apparent helplessness regarding waves of migrants moving toward Europe from Africa. Short-term assistance and mid-term signals are confused, and there is no coherent European response. Thirdly, the wavering positions toward an aggressive Russia. The only helpful response – a clear communication of red lines and their enforcement – is missing.
And fourthly, an unconvincing whining about continuing and clear violations of rules and standards by American spy agencies being active in Europe. Because the American nerve will listen to European concerns, a much higher European independence from the US would be the only solution.
In all these cases, the core problem is a confused (or missing) European signalling.
Representatives of Greece are using the opportunity – their sailing along the shore of insolvency – to claim reparations, or interest rates for forced state loans from the German government during WWII. Germany has so far resisted these requests.
How many decades, or centuries, back is there a possibly legitimate basis for such claims? There are still the comfort women in Korea and China, asking Japan for justice payments. There are the successors of former slaves in the US and aborigines in Australia. In a more general sense, mutual territorial claims are one of the core issues between Israel and Palestine. Is it simply politically and socially wise to accept what happened in the past, mourn, and move on, giving up on all potential claims?