This morning, Olympic spectators were treated to the sort of heart-warming interaction that encapsulates why so many people enjoy watching sports, and especially international competitions. As the New York headline described it, “Tripped-Up Olympic Runners Finish Race Together in Apparent Attempt to Make Me Weep Uncontrollably at My Desk“. In case that doesn’t paint you enough of a picture, here’s what that looked like in the form of a moving one:
In the course of last night’s discussion of why the International Olympic Committee is having so much trouble finding a city willing to host the 2022 Winter games, John Oliver noted that perhaps the organization’s extravagant demands had something to do with the lack of interest on the part of formerly-interested countries like Norway.
For example, the IOC requires that host countries stock their hotel rooms with seasonal fruits and pastries. “Incidentally,” Oliver continued, “what the fuck [this is HBO] is a seasonal pastry in Oslo in February? I’m guessing it’s something like herring with vanilla frosting.”
I was recently talking to someone about this blog, and he said one thing that stuck with me – something like but not necessarily, “It’s hard to believe you write the blog. You seem like such a nice guy in real life, but online, you’re such a critic.” And I get it: it’s easier to tear things down than build them up, and — since I often choose the former route — it’s possible I don’t always come off as the nicest guy online.
But though that may be the rule, every rule has its exception (except Godwin’s), and in this post I mean to draw your attention to an instance in which Paper Treiger served to unite rather than destroy.
You may recall when, in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, a brief controversy erupted over whether the IOC ought to hold a moment of silence in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympics, which saw 11 members of the Israeli delegation killed by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September.
The controversy created a minor debate in the Jewish blogosphere. Some, like Deborah E. Lipstadt, forcefully argued that the IOC was wrong to deny this request. After all, London was permitted to honor the victims of the 7/7 subway victims, an event which had absolutely nothing to do with the Olympics (save its location), while the tragedy in Munich had occurred inside the Olympic village. Others, like noted pro-Palestinian activist and sometimes terrorist sympathizer Elisheva N. Goldberg responded that the IOC ought not to hold the moment of silence at the opening ceremony because the IOC President held a separate commemorative ceremony elsewhen.
Meanwhile on Paper Treiger, I thought that the two sides were arguing for absolutely no purpose. Whether or not the IOC decided to hold a moment of silence was irrelevant, because such a commemoration could never be enforced in practice. I’m not going to rehash the post’s entire argument – if you want to see how I imagined the moment of silence would play out, see What would happen if the IOC actually held a moment of silence for the 1972 Munich Massacre? – but I do want to draw your attention to the effect it had: it brought the two warring factions into agreement.
And I only just learned this fact.
I recently searched Twitter for “Paper Treiger” – you know, a blog vanity search. It was the first time I had ever done this, so I found myself scrolling back pretty far in time. And when I got to July 2012, I came upon something amazing:
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the International Olympic Committee voted the other day to drop Wrestling from the 2020 games. The reactions I’ve encountered have been universally condemnatory.
Here’s one sample Facebook status (I chose this one in particular both because it’s amusing and because I suspect the person who posted it is likely to come across this post) that I think is pretty representative:
As you know, a Moment of Silence was not held during the opening ceremonies in London, despite the backing of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney.
But only one of those three ever had the ability to do something about it.
In 2002 – the 30th Anniversary of the Munich Olympics – Romney was President of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee. I know 2002 was a long time ago, so let me remind you: there was no moment of silence in memory of the 1972 Israeli delegation.
Perhaps, one might protest, as the mere host of the games, Mitt had no power to get a moment of silence onto the agenda. But I can’t imagine this happening anywhere outside of London (certainly not in Beijing):
The IOC permitted a video tribute to the 52 people who were killed in the suicide bombings in the London transit system the day after the city won the Games in 2005.
In other words, host cities do have some discretion in planning the opening ceremonies, and Mitt could have done something had he so wished.
But still, one might protest, perhaps it never occurred to him. Perhaps he never even knew about it. Well, given Ankie Spitzer’s account of her repeated appeals, I also find it difficult to believe the proposal did not once pass over Romney’s desk sometime between 1999 and 2002:
For the past 40 years, I, along with the families of the other ten victims, have called on the International Olympic Committee to honor our loved ones’ memories by observing a minute of silence at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. We first asked for the minute of silence before the 1976 Montreal Olympics and, to our dismay, were denied. We’ve continued to be denied every Olympics since.
The issue became headline news this cycle not because it was the family’s first try, but because of the proliferation of social media like Facebook and Change.org. Consequently, there’s been a lot of outrage directed toward the IOC over the decision not to hold a moment of silence. And I agree: it was a lousy decision. The victims deserve a moment every four years, with interest tacked on for the 19 Olympics they’ve been denied.
But it seems to me that the same arguments used to paint Rogge and the IOC as a pack of anti-Semitic scumbags should also apply to Mitt Romney. And so far they haven’t. Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has refused to answer questions on the topic of what happened in Salt Lake City.
Of course, Mitt’s not actually anti-Semitic. But he didn’t hold the moment of silence 10 years ago, and it still took him four days longer than Obama to throw his support behind the initiative this year. I’d have a lot more confidence in Romney’s support of Israel – for its own sake, and not just to win Jewish and evangelical votes [and Sheldon Adelson’s money] – if he would for once put his money where his mouth is.
In fairness to Romney, I’m not sure anyone’s mouth is big enough for all that money.
I was doing ‘research’ (i.e. light googling) for a possible post on how to fix the Olympics (Did you know it needs fixing? If not, you will soon.) when I came across an interesting ABC News article, Cost to Host Olympic Games Skyrockets, dated to September 25, 2002. The article details the relative contribution of the federal government to subsequent Olympic host cities. Here are some non-sequential excerpts from the article:
The federal government spent just $75 million (in 1999 dollars) to support the 1984 Olympics in L.A. [Those games] actually made money — more than $100 million — for Los Angeles, the host city.
The federal government will pay nearly half of the $2.7 billion it is expected to cost to host the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The $1.3 billion in federal spending is more than double the amount of federal funds —$609 million— that supported the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. The Atlanta games cost the city a total of $2 billion.*
Given his description of London’s Olympic preparation as “disconcerting”, and his party’s current concern over the deficit, I thought it interesting to note that Romney was incapable of pulling off the games without record levels of support from the federal government. But even more interesting was his defense of the handout, as related by the article:
Danny Gordis and Elisheva Goldberg have gotten into a little bit of an internet feud over the past few weeks.
It started when Gordis wrote a column for the Jerusalem Post – A Dose of Nuance: Walking away from Alice Walker – regarding the author’s refusal to translate her signature work, The Color Purple, into Hebrew. Goldberg’s response on Open Zion – Alice Walker Is Not An Anti-Semite – took issue with the following excerpt from Gordis’ original piece:
Nazi Germany, we should recall, began with boycotts of Jewish businesses, with the boycotting of Jewish intellectuals and professionals.
To Goldberg, this meant Gordis had “accused Alice Walker of Nazi-grade anti-Semitism,” a charge he vigorously disputed in a response titled, At least a few shades of grey. There might have been more back-and-forth of which I am unaware, but this isn’t the kind of piece for which I intend to do a lot of research. That’s because I can’t wait to get to the part where I come in. This morning, Gordis posted the following on Facebook: