At long last, the secret that really is no secret is finally out: sports and politics do mix.
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said so, in a
speech over the weekend at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. If it is a mystery why
it took so long for the IOC president, any IOC president, to articulate the obvious, this IOC
president deserves full credit for not just recognizing reality but standing ready to build on it.
Sport needs to acknowledge its relationship to politics and business, Bach said. At the
same time, he said, the world’s political and corporate elite must be mindful of the autonomy
of sports organizations or run the risk of diminishing the positive influence that sport can
“In the past,” Bach said, “some have said that sport has nothing to do with politics, or
they have said that sport has nothing to do with money or business. And this is just an attitude
which is wrong and which we can not afford anymore.
“We are living in the middle of society and that means we have to partner up with the
politicians who run this world.”
This is as far from radical as saying that dollar bills are green.
And yet — there has been this fiction that the Olympic movement is, somehow, some
way, supposed to be divorced from politics.
Now we can do away with this fiction, too — just like the one that the Olympics are
for amateur athletes. If you think that LeBron James is an amateur, I have a bridge in
Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
Juan Antonio Samaranch saw to the end of the amateur era.
Now Thomas Bach is making it clear to everyone — at least anyone who wants to
listen — that, indeed, sports and politics really do mix.
Of course they mix.
The world is full of politics.
We all live in the real world.
Perhaps this fiction goes all the way back to Avery Brundage — like he is supposed to
be some great role model — declaring that sport and politics should be kept apart. (Query:
would the record suggest that was the case during his years atop the IOC?)
This article was republished with permission from the publisher and editor of the Sport Intern, Karl-Heinz Huba. The article was written by Alan Abrahamson.