Inside The Beltway: While sporting events, especially the big ones, inspire unity, the Olympics stand for nationalism

The multi-million dollar commercials for the Olympics kept telling us, 'The Games Bring Us Together.' A few said it directly; others said it sanctimoniously and indirectly.

The multi-million dollar commercials for the Olympics kept telling us, 'The Games Bring Us Together.' A few said it directly; others said it sanctimoniously and indirectly.

The multi-million dollar commercials for the Olympics kept telling us, 'The Games Bring Us Together.' A few said it directly; others said it sanctimoniously and indirectly.

In the US, the message is usually conveyed by videotape of an American athlete crying as 'The Star Spangled Banner' is played and the flag ripples in the breeze.

Elsewhere, such as in the Netherlands or the UK (where I spent some days during the first week of what the US pompously calls the XXVII Olympiad; the Roman numerals have adorned the Super Bowl for XXXV years on the tried and tested formula that the use of increases cost of commercials), the message came across with the same - surprise! - videotape of a tearful Dutch or British athlete listening to the strains of the Dutch anthem or 'God Save the Queen.'

The Games, alas, don't bring us together - unless we are North and South Korea, in which case the prodigious efforts of IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch created a memorable moment at the opening ceremonies - they drive us apart.

Item: 'The Whole World Against Bulgaria,' announced the Bulgarian newspapers after a few of their weightlifters were found to have used steroids.

Item: The alacrity with which (alleged US-inspired) anti-drug inspectors had been at work has apparently prompted an increase in the customary anti-American sentiment at these 'Bring Us Together' Games, to the point where US athletes were hissed as they entered the various venues to compete.

And accusations of a delay in reporting a negative drug test by the world champion shot-putter (an American, who is not competing in the games) has ignited a cover-up campaign.

Item: After surprising falls by some women gymnasts, including the favored Russians, it was discovered some equipment was set two inches out of position, but - astoundingly - only after the competition ended.

You can be sure that if former presidential candidate and NBA star Bill Bradley - who once spotted a basket that was one-half inch off in height - joins the IOC, this will never happen again.

So, as the Australian press continues to hurl invectives ('bye-bye chicken' was the mildest) at a French runner, who had challenged the Aussie champion and then fled Sydney before the race under suspicious circumstances involving a hotel room break-in, we take leave of a super-patriotic element in what had seemed, prior to the opening ceremonies, to be a true time to bring nations together.

Sometimes, even good PR can't overcome blatant nationalism.



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