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Beijing Olympics

The National Aquatics Center and the National Stadium under construction, Beijing, September 17, 2007. Photo: Vector Foiltec.

THE OLYMPIC GAMES as we know them were born out of a late-nineteenth-century marriage of classical mythology and political science fiction. They decree that every four years all the nations of the world will set aside their political struggles and come together to compete in proxy battles of sport; everyone will watch. Yet such a premise naively denies both the relentlessness of politics and the equally irrepressible need for political power to be represented, to be made into images. Having stubbornly refused to follow their script, the modern Olympics stand in collective memory as a series of political—not athletic—events: Berlin ’36 (Nazis), Mexico ’68 (murdered protesters and censured Black Power salutes), Munich ’72 (Middle Eastern terrorism), Montreal ’76 (boycott against apartheid), Moscow ’80 (boycott against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), Los Angeles ’84

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