Is 2008 the new 1936?


I have just seen the first performance of a most thought-provoking play written by local author Tom McNab and performed at the Trestle Arts Base.  Titled "1936" it describes the evasions and moral compromises in the run-up to the Berlin Olympics of 1936. The parallels with Beijing this year and their treatment of Tibet and general disdain for human rights was painfully apparent.

Except that the IOC had given the Olympics to a pre-Nazi Germany when Hindenberg was head of state.  Hitler had not been at all pleased to inherit this commitment and its expense until Goebbels persuaded him of the propaganda value which could be realised through the genius of Speer and Leni Riefenstahl. The IOC gave this year's Olympics to China in full knowledge of the regime.

The question now is how best to send a message to China that their bullying behaviour has to change. In tonight's post-play discussion, one suggestion was to boycott the opening ceremony of the games. Tom McNab commented that in a 1936 world of only 52 Olympic nations, a boycott of the Games by the USA and Britain (who would have been followed by the British Empire and Commonwealth and many of the European democracies) could have profoundly derailed German ambitions and self-importance. 

We can of course never know - and the play ended on the old adage that the only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history... By the way Avery Brundage - who ruled the roost at the IOC for most of my life - emerges in the play as a total shit - but then none of the big Olympic players (including Lord Aberdare of Britain) emerge with much credit with the exception of Judge Jeremiah Mahoney who ran the American Amateur Athletic Union. Full marks to Tom and his allies in realising this project. PS My first German teacher at school had attended the Berlin Olympics as a spectator.  And when I worked on the shop floor of a Berlin factory in 1972, some of my older German colleagues had been there too helping in various capacities as members of the Hitler Youth.


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