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George Orwell on the Olympics

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From 1945:

If you wanted to add to the vast fund of ill-will existing in the world at this moment, you could hardly do it better than by a series of football matches between Jews and Arabs, Germans and Czechs, Indians and British, Russians and Poles, and Italians and Jugoslavs, each match to be watched by a mixed audience of 100,000 spectators. I do not, of course, suggest that sport is one of the main causes of international rivalry; big-scale sport is itself, I think, merely another effect of the causes that have produced nationalism. Still, you do make things worse by sending forth a team of eleven men, labelled as national champions, to do battle against some rival team, and allowing it to be felt on all sides that whichever nation is defeated will “lose face”.

I’m a sports fan myself but I can see his point.

6 Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    It is similar to Tom Lehrer’s National Brotherhood Week:

    One week of every year is designated National Brotherhood Week. This is just one of many such weeks honoring various worthy causes. One of my favorites is National Make-fun-of-the-handicapped Week which Frank Fontaine and Jerry Lewis are in charge of as you know. During National Brotherhood Week various special events are arranged to drive home the message of brotherhood. This year, for example, on the first day of the week Malcolm X was killed which gives you an idea of how effective the whole thing is. I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that. Here’s a song about National Brotherhood Week.

    Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
    And the black folks hate the white folks.
    To hate all but the right folks
    Is an old established rule.

    But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
    Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
    It’s fun to eulogize
    The people you despise,
    As long as you don’t let ’em in your school.

    Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
    And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
    All of my folks hate all of your folks,
    It’s American as apple pie.

    But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
    New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans ’cause it’s very chic.
    Step up and shake the hand
    Of someone you can’t stand.
    You can tolerate him if you try.

    Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
    And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
    And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
    And everybody hates the Jews.

    But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
    It’s National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
    Be nice to people who
    Are inferior to you.
    It’s only for a week, so have no fear.
    Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!

  2. Alex says:

    I’m sure that’s part of the reason that the Olympics were cancelled during the two World Wars. But I think this is a little strong; lots of people stop paying attention to most of the sports played the second the Games are over (if they even cared during). Can you raise that much animosity if no one remembers what happened or who played who a couple days later?

  3. Jack PQ says:

    The question is whether sports contests increase or decrease actual violence. Maybe channeling violence into sports is a way to release the ill feelings into a focused, non-violent form of “combat”. Or maybe the sports will only increase enmity, frustration, and the desire to carry out real violence. I don’t know which one it is.

    A different issue altogether is the gigantic waste of public funds, and corruption, associated with the olympic games. What is the value to poor Greeks of building a baseball stadium that will never again be used once the Games are over?

    • Anonymous says:

      “A different issue altogether is the gigantic waste of public funds, and corruption, associated with the olympic games. What is the value to poor Greeks of building a baseball stadium that will never again be used once the Games are over?”

      A different issue altogether is the gigantic waste of public funds, and corruption, associated with academia. What is the value to poor Greeks of having scientists publish the latest low-powered, p-hacked, non-preregistered study that will never be replicated once it is published in a journal the poor Greeks don’t even have access to (even though the probably payed for it).

      At least with the Olympic games, the general public has some entertainment if nothing else. I find it difficult to come up with any positive effects of scientists publishing their new power-pose article for the general public. At least the Olympics has doping tests to try and filter out cheats. I don’t think the same can be said for academia.

      I think i would have been more content with my life at this point if i had tried to become a sportsman, instead of a psychological researcher. I have given up the latter (given my talent for it, i reason it’s basically pointless), and am too old for the former but if i had to do it all again i would prefer a medal at the Olympics compared to a publication in Science (if that’s an appropriate comparison).

      I’m looking forward to watching the Olympics again today in a few hours. I have had enough of power-pose type articles, scientists who actually try and sell books about all this, and pointless discussions about “contextual sensitivity” and “hidden moderators” which lead to nothing.

      I would rather watch people who worked hard for years and years, try and give it their best at the Olympics. To me, that’s more positive, and inspirational, than following science at this point in time.

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