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That ain't Greek. Nuh-uh.
April 5, 2008 2:24 AM   Subscribe

The Olympic torch is being welcomed this weekend in the UK as a symbol of the sporting spirit, uniting people around the world in peaceful competition. But the idea of lighting the torch at the ancient Olympian site in Greece and then running it through different countries has much darker origins.

Wikipedia aricle on Carl Diem, the man who came up with the idea.
posted by flapjax at midnite (37 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 


When you carry the Olympic Torch, you ride with Hitler.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:41 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's good to know, chuckdarwin, that some foks will be out making some anti-Olympics noise. I'm not exactly an Olympics lover, myself... And just for the record, the FPP wording is a quote from the BBC article, not my words.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:41 AM on April 5, 2008


Yeah, I noticed that after I read it.

It's not going to go down well here on Sunday.

I think it could get ugly.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:43 AM on April 5, 2008


When you carry the Olympic Torch, you ride with Hitler Hu Jintao.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:46 AM on April 5, 2008


Good link. Let's face it, Sport as an ideal sucks. So does Sparta.
(So sayeth a democratic nerd.)
posted by CCBC at 2:51 AM on April 5, 2008


Leni Riefenstahl filmed Olympia then.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:14 AM on April 5, 2008




I am no fan of the whole Olympic games thing, but Olympics gave even the Nazis something of a conscience.

In both Berlin and Garmisch-Partenkirchen the Nazis - concerned about their image in front of the world's press - most anti-Jewish signs were temporarily removed and newspapers toned down their anti-semitic rhetoric.

It seems like an admission that they knew well the world would not have approved.
posted by three blind mice at 5:22 AM on April 5, 2008


Olympics gave even the Nazis something of a conscience.

You seem to be mistaking public relations for a conscience.

But frankly, on the scale of OMG SHOCK OUTRAGE things to get exercised about, the fact that the torch idea, like the Volkswagen and other modern conveniences, happened to be invented by Nazis is pretty far down there. Once slavery, war, hunger, and grammar snobbery are no more, maybe I'll find it in me to get worked up about this. In fact, it seems a pointless distraction from the fact that this year's Olympics are being held in a viciously repressive country. Let's try to stay focused on what matters, shall we?
posted by languagehat at 6:25 AM on April 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Are the Americans competing this year? I heard they have a dark past. Really ugly stuff, man.
posted by sidereal at 6:31 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, it doesn't need to be about outrage.

Knowing about the Nazi connection doesn't change my feelings on the Olympics (meh), the torch relay (pretty nifty) or the occupation of Tibet (boo!), but it's still an interesting bit of cultural history.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:11 AM on April 5, 2008


In fact, it seems a pointless distraction from the fact that this year's Olympics are being held in a viciously repressive country. Let's try to stay focused on what matters, shall we?

The FPP article addresses this quite clearly:


"The route the torch takes has always been a matter of careful political planning too.

This year's route has already proved highly controversial.

Beijing wanted to take the torch through Taiwan's capital, Taipei, but this had to be changed by Olympic authorities due to political tensions between the Chinese and Taiwanese leaders.

And there is now great tension over plans to run the torch through Tibet after recent disturbances there.

In 1936 the torch made its way from Greece to Berlin through countries in south-eastern and central Europe where the Nazis were especially keen to enhance their influence."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2008


Are the Americans competing this year?

Hey, the post was a BBC ain't-it-awful story, don't go dragging us into this.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:21 AM on April 5, 2008


I would never have guessed the torch ceremony had been delveloped as a Nazi marketing tool. thanks, flapjax.

and, watching Olympic atheletes give a Nazi salute is chilling. (ok, watching anyone give a Nazi salute is chilling.)
posted by killy willy at 7:34 AM on April 5, 2008


I'm just glad they gave up the practice of setting torch to every town and hamlet along the route from Greece to the site of the Olympics.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:20 AM on April 5, 2008






Dueling torches. Things should get interesting in San Francsico on Wednesday.

"At City Hall, Supervisor Chris Daly, who introduced the resolution critical of China, encouraged the audience that packed into the Board of Supervisors' chambers Tuesday to be on the streets and show disdain for the Chinese government during the torch relay.

His resolution, which passed 8-3, calls for an international investigation of China's recent crackdown on dissenters in Tibet and encourages the city's official representative at the torch festivities to accept the flame with "alarm and protest."
posted by stargell at 11:06 AM on April 5, 2008


Second link fixed.
posted by stargell at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2008


Where's the music!? flapjax... where's... the.... music? This post has only words! And they're scary words!

/me curls up into fetal position on the floor, waiting for flapjax's next post

Seriously, good article, a learn-something-new-every-day type thing. Thanks!
posted by not_on_display at 11:14 AM on April 5, 2008


Interesting read flapjax.
posted by nola at 11:56 AM on April 5, 2008


Sure. Protest the Olympics. Then go shopping at ASDA or Walmart. Free Tibet and can I have a cheap iPod?

It's like people are saying "You can have all our money and jobs but don't you dare have our circus"
posted by srboisvert at 12:25 PM on April 5, 2008


Sure. Make unfounded assumptions about the spending habits of protesters. Can I have a cheap straw man? It's like people are saying, "Even though I don't personally have the power to make government policy on imports and athletic competitions, I can at least attempt to speak truth to power."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:37 PM on April 5, 2008


I dunno. There are plenty of reasons to be cynical about the Olympics, but this doesn't seem like a particularly useful criticism. OMG NAZI TORCHBEARERS
posted by dhartung at 4:18 PM on April 5, 2008


OMG NAZI TORCHBEARERS

ON STEROIDS
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:38 PM on April 5, 2008


The organiser of the 1936 Olympics, Carl Diem

His brother Carpe was just so spontaneous.

...sorry.
posted by fungible at 8:00 PM on April 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, it doesn't need to be about outrage.

THANK YOU, nebulawindphone. The linked article was simply an informative little piece about the origin and history of the Olympic torch. It's a bit of history that I was personally unaware of, and that I expect a lot of people were unaware of as well. Those who interpreted it as some sort of expression of OUTRAGE are merely projecting or looking for strawmen or whatever.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:42 PM on April 5, 2008


Yet the flame's arrival in Vienna prompted major pro-Nazi demonstrations, helping pave the way for the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria, in 1938. In Hungary gypsy musicians who serenaded the flame faced within a few years deportation to Nazi death camps.

Well, the BBC seems to have a wee bit of an outrage angle in the story.
posted by dhartung at 9:00 PM on April 5, 2008


fungible: His brother Per was removed from the committee after he insisted on cab fare.
posted by dhartung at 9:03 PM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Woah. We didn't cover this in any history class I ever took. Ooof. Thanks, flapjax.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 9:40 PM on April 5, 2008


Well, the BBC seems to have a wee bit of an outrage angle in the story.

Well, a wee bit of outrage, as you put it, at historical Nazism and mass murder might be a wee bit understandable, no?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:43 PM on April 5, 2008


Oui.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:48 PM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]






Very interesting. It's one thing to note Nazi appropriation of symbols for their own use (see: swastika) but to have invented a somewhat cherished modern ritual as a calculated PR exercise...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:21 AM on April 6, 2008




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