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Monday, 14 April 2008

Olympic torch is a symbol of?

Eureka Street in its new electronic incarnation continues to produce material worth reading.

Michael Mullins in todays mailing draws attention to the history of the Olympic torch as a symbol not of freedom and sportsmanship but as a symbol of state propaganda by oppressive governments and brings to our attention a little remembered piece of history and pranksmanship that even the Chaser should be envious of.

The power of marketing has obscured the original symbolism of the Olympic torch as an effective celebration of human rights violation.

The modern Olympic torch relay was initiated by the organisers of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was carefully orchestrated by the Nazi leadership to uphold the image of the Third Reich as a dynamic and expanding influence on the international culture and economy. It fitted perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.

Olympic officialdom has since cast aside the torch's original link with political oppression and human rights violation by asserting that it's about sport, not politics, and that the two are mutually exclusive.

2008 is not the first occasion on which protestors have attempted to expose the flame's link to human oppression. Before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, a veterinary science student at St John's College at the University of Sydney was successful in upstaging the torch with a fake flame that rose from kerosene-saturated underwear, before Sydney Lord Mayor Pat Hills. Prankster Barry Larkin and fellow students organised the action because of the torch's Nazi origins, and the fact that it was given 'too much reverence'.

Such pranksters are what we need more of - they show up the principalities and powers by demythologising them by creating roars of laughter.

This is non-violent activism at its most imaginative.

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