Things I am passionate about. Injustice, stupidity, intolerance, bigotry and small-mindedness. Oh and there might just be some humor to offset the whole thing.

The Beleaguered Torch, Now With Nazi Origins

Posted by morganwrites on April 27, 2008

(NYT) – For the Olympic torch relay, every day just seems to bring bad news. What began last Tuesday in Beijing as a “Journey of Harmony” had by Sunday become a “public relations nightmare” in London, and worse on Monday in Paris, when the torch was extinguished several times. On Tuesday, international Olympics officials mulled the prospect of canceling the rest of the relay.

Jacques Rogge, chief of the International Olympic Committee, later dismissed the possibility, clearing one negative piece of torch news from the register. But others soon filled the void, as the torch landed in its next city of protesters, San Francisco.

In the past 24 hours, two major news agencies decided to add a historic touch toward the bottom of their torch-relay articles, the kind that is easy to ignore in happier Olympic times. Here’s The Associated Press version:

The Olympic flame wasn’t part of the ancient games, and the torch relay didn’t become a fixture in the modern Olympics until the 1936 Berlin Games, when it was part of the Nazi pageantry that promoted Hitler’s beliefs of Aryan supremacy in the world of sports.

And from Reuters:

The Olympics first held a torch relay in 1936, the year dictator Adolf Hitler made the Berlin games a showcase of Nazi propaganda. That torch run is captured in one of the most famous — and infamous — Olympic movies ever made, Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia.”

Upsetting? Maybe. New? No way. Secret? It’s right there on the Beijing Olympics official web site.

This history lesson also innocently includes a list of problems that beset the first torch relay in 1936. Those were the days:

— the site of Olympia [in Greece, where the torch is first lit] was hard to access and roads had to be specially built;
— planning of the itinerary required a lot of traveling for that period in time;
— the absence of suitable products (torch, cauldron, etc.) meant that research into specialist technology had to be undertaken, such as tests with the sun’s rays and different optical instruments [for lighting the torch].

Cauldrons and parabolic mirrors aside, another question remains: Should the torch’s Nazi-linked past affect its future? Absolutely, says Mary Beard, a columnist for The Times of London (via Clive Davis):

I don’t quite understand how we have forgotten that the “Olympic Torch” ceremony was invented by Hitler and his chums.

If ever there was an “invented tradition” well worth stamping out, it is this ridiculous, Fascist-inspired waste of money.

She was writing on Friday, days before the relay plunged into chaos for completely different reasons.


2 Responses to “The Beleaguered Torch, Now With Nazi Origins”

  1. cooper said

    Torch borch…it certainly is a waste of money.

    FP mag had a photo essay “Torch Capades”.
    Don’t know if you’ve seen it.

  2. cooper – haven’t seen the ‘torch capades’ – and I agree with you as far as a waste of time and money – when will the human race realize that there are far more important things in this world to deal with than some asinine ‘parade’.

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