The Olympics: Nationalism within a Global Context
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on Thursday, Feb 25 2010
I confess: I am an avid fan of the Winter Olympics. Since I was a little child, I can remember staying up as late as possible to watch the snow-filled games. Now, as an adult and parent, I continue the tradition with my own kids. I am lax on bedtimes and we all stay up late and watch the games.
This time around, however, I do so with a more sensitive intellectual conscience. Having just co-presented a paper on teaching the American political tradition in a global context, it has been fascinating to watch the Vancouver games and think about nationalism and globalization. For all of the talk about globalization, the Olympics are a great display of how entrenched nationalism still remains. The Olympics really are nothing more than nationalism in a global context.
The very essence of the Olympic Games is competition among rivals. Competition implies distinct parties with distinct outcomes. Without such distinct rivals, competition would be difficult if not impossible. While advocates of globalization attempt to ameliorate if not erase national differences, the Olympics are a testimony not only to the existence of national differences and traditions but also to their importance for human life and fulfillment. Globalization as advocated in the academy would sap variety from human life and would destroy great cultures and traditions in the name of political correctness.
While such terms as “global citizen” or “citizen of earth” may be fashionable descriptors, they are morally and emotionally bankrupt approaches to public life. Just watching any of the Olympic medal ceremonies serves as a great reminder that national citizenship, identity and pride deeply matter to human beings.