By Olivia Libowitz
Elm Staff Writer

There is a somewhat surprising lack of open politics each Olympics season. You will never see an Olympian kneeling during the National Anthem or walking out if a nation they dislike wins. This might seem odd, as every four years, the Olympic Games are the largest conglomerate of nationalities and political ideals in the world, and one might think a protest of some sort is bound to break out.

This becomes less odd though, when you learn that chapter five of the Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas.” This was put into place in the 1940s, after the winter Olympics were held in Berlin, a choice made by the international board, to show that ties with Germany were amicable.

This backfired, however, as Adolf Hitler planned to use the games to prove that the white race was superior to all others by having Germany win the majority of the games. As the world moved forward and Hitler’s intent became clearer, the nations and the board of the Olympics decided to ban protests entirely, to prevent another figure like Hitler from attempting to misuse the event for a political agenda.

I feel that the Olympics are correct in this endeavor. The way that the games are run, it becomes difficult to make a passive statement. Something so simple—and yet so obvious—as vice President Mike Pence refusing to stand during the North Korean national anthem, makes a clear statement on an internationally viewed stage.

There is no way to make a public point at the Olympics without involving the rest of the world. This is dangerous. This is a sporting event. Not only that, but its contemporary purpose is literally to bring differing nations together in peace and sportsmanlike behavior.

This event is not being monitored or screened for behavior of those who attend. Athletes know they can’t make political declarations, or they’ll be forbidden from competing. Audience members, though, including our vice president, are theoretically free to say and do whatever they’d please, as long as it isn’t violent or blatant (such as a protest sign or chant). Most will have few repercussions.

This does not mean they should use the event as a political platform. In a world where each day seems to be filled with the tensions of unresolved international disputes, the event in which the whole world comes together to celebrate should, in my humble opinion, stay just that. A celebration. A collaboration between the nations where we highlight some of our best. We celebrate cultures, boundary breaking, and resilience.

This is what the original Olympics were about. I know it’s not 800 B.C. anymore, but that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t still need an opportunity to come together peacefully for some good, old-fashioned competition. When we take this to a political level, what we risk is an impromptu statement of hostility. This may just be tossed around at a sporting competition, but it will be held by those nations being disrespected or insulted as something more than that.

If any sort of political move should be made, it should be one of camaraderie. Examples include a handshake between representatives of North and South Korea, or Russian and American athletes sharing a rink, a podium, a celebration.

The world doesn’t need more opportunities to pick fights right now. What we need is a sign of hope. We need a sign that the whole world can come together civilly, happily, and in support of one another. We need more chances to applaud each other, rather than to tear each other down. The Olympics should be the time to keep the competition on the scoreboard, and out of international politics.

The Elm

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