The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Beijing Olympics:
Politics, Business … and a Little Skiing

Feb 14, 2022

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Far from the unconditional love for sports and the fraternity among peoples in all the myths, the Olympic Games have always been the arena of diplomatic and commercial confrontations. The Beijing Olympics are no exception.

International rivalries and tensions are making the headlines. Some countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan didn’t send any official delegation. Other countries like France sent one but not for the opening ceremony. This was carefully orchestrated. Vladimir Putin was present as the main guest, since China is courting allies in its rivalry with the U.S. Russia’s president also wants allies in the heat of the Ukrainian crisis. China’s government symbolically chose a Uighur athlete to light the Olympic flame, reacting to international criticism which has thrown light on this minority’s treatment.

For China as for other countries, the Olympics are a pretext for a surge of nationalism. Each country praises the merits of “its” champions and counts “its” medals. While the tramping of boots echoes all over the planet, sports matches are one more excuse to line up behind national flags.

Obviously, these tensions don’t completely overshadow the enormous commercial stakes in the Olympics. NBC has paid 7.75 billion dollars for exclusive U.S. broadcast rights through 2032. And if the 2.75 billion dollar budget for putting on these Games seems relatively modest now, we will only know their real cost after several months’ time. Indeed, the Olympics motto, “Faster, higher, stronger,” applies equally to the budgets of the Games! It’s not uncommon for them to double or triple over initial estimates.