Boycott the Beijing Olympics?

The Olympics embody everything that is morally nasty and environmentally destructive about late-modern neo-capitalism.

“You cannot serve God and Mammon [wealth]” (Matt. 6:24).

The famous 1936 Olympics in Berlin were organized to be Adolph Hitler’s showcase of Aryan superiority. Ironically, Jesse Owens, a Black American athlete, won a record five gold medals for the USA in track events. So much for white supremacy.

The ancient Olympic Games were celebrated in Greece from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. They were massive religious festivals held in honour of Zeus, the father of all the Greek gods.

French Baron Pierre de Coubertin proposed the re-founding of the Modern Olympic Games in 1894. He believed that it would be possible to hold the first such games by 1900. However, many European royals were so enthralled by the idea they offered their enthusiastic support, and the first modern games were held two years later in Athens. The Olympics’ original intent was to foster friendly amateur sporting competitions among European nations. It didn’t take long for them to become a jingoistic competition of “my country is better than your country” controlled by an aristocratic old boys’ club of the idle rich who formed the International Olympic Committee.

The Olympics have now given up any pretense of being an amateur sporting competition. Almost all events have become the purview of rich professional or state sponsored athletes of predominantly wealthy nations who are paid to participate in an extravaganza costing billions of dollars. Rich countries bid to hold the Olympics on their soil as a vainglorious attempt to showcase not only their athletes, but also their way of life. As an exercise in consumeristic excess, it is little wonder that the vast number of medals have been won by the five or so richest countries in the world. (This includes the former USSR and East Germany, both greatly aided by state sponsored illegal doping).

Marketing millions

The Olympics derive their greatest source of income from the sale of television rights to broadcast the games. TV broadcasters are willing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to secure such rights. They, in turn, charge millions of dollars to advertisers to run adds on their networks. In essence, broadcasters are selling audiences (including you and me) to advertisers who, in turn, want to sell us stuff so that our unsustainable, consumptive way of life can continue.

So there are good reasons (moral and economic) for us to boycott Olympic game viewing because, without millions of consumers (you and me, again) viewing the games, they can’t continue. Given that the upcoming winter Olympics are in Beijing, there is an added imperative of a boycott by not giving credence to a regime with an appalling human and political rights record: genocide of Uyghurs, persecution of Christians, kidnap diplomacy and threats against Taiwan, just to name a few.

Given that the Olympics embody everything that is morally nasty and environmentally destructive about late-modern neo-capitalism, I believe it is incumbent on Christians to boycott this thoroughly secular religious celebration (even if Canada is likely to be playing for hockey gold).


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