Andrew Roberts: Olympic Ideals Don't Match Reality

Roundup: Historians' Take

Mr. Roberts, a historian, is author most recently of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War (Harper, 2011).

The 2012 Olympiad, which opens in London on Friday, will doubtless witness another astonishing exhibition of sporting endurance and excellence. It will also see yet another outburst of utter drivel from its organizers about what the Games themselves can achieve for the human spirit. Enjoy the former by all means; abjure the latter at all costs.

"The longest national Olympic torch relay in history will create a spirit of community and world citizenship," claimed the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, in 2009, adding this year that, "Through the Olympic spirit, we can instill brotherhood, respect, fair play, gender equality and even combat doping." Like every IOC president, he is repeating the view of the modern Games' inventor, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who in 1892 stated that the Olympic ideal represented, "The true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced the cause of peace will have received a new and strong ally."

For all that the IOC trots out these platitudes, the fact remains that if anything it has caused more international bitterness and resentment than it has calmed. Far from finding "a new and strong ally" in the Games, the cause of world peace has been betrayed by the IOC time and again...

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