Look to the opening of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film, “Olympia.”With a history like that, would anyone be surprised that the torch run lends itself to controversy? But somebody seems to be: Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said, "It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that." He added, "But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms." Bigger storms? What's he talking about? Integrity issues? If that's what he's talking about, just wait and see what the politically connected do in Daley's Chicago if that city wins its Olympics bid! Sports are wonderful when everyday people are the participants. But big time sports are just another mechanism for transferring wealth from the middle classes to elites. Frugal Ben says taxpayers should evict officials who intemperately spend on divisive, wacky Aryan fantasies.
In that homage to Berlin’s 1936 Olympic Games the origins of this ritual are revealed. Never before had a lighted torch been relayed from a Greek temple in Olympia to an athletic competition, let alone by thousands of runners trying to keep it from being extinguished.
So Riefenstahl creates the myth the Greeks never got around to telling, creating a filmic counterpart to the opening of Wagner’s “Ring,” in which an entire world gradually emerges from elemental fragments. The camera begins by surveying a misty landscape of ruins, of shattered pillars and overgrown grasses. Restless and circling, the camera reveals a Greek temple standing amid the stones. Heads and the bodies of Greek statues appear in an eerie erotic landscape. Under the sensuous caresses of Riefenstahl’s lens, a naked discus thrower comes to life, polished stone becoming muscular flesh. Another athlete prepares to throw a javelin, its trajectory leading toward a bowl of fire. Lighting the Olympic torch, another nude acolyte triumphantly raises it aloft like Wagner’s Siegfried displaying his sword.
Humanity is given its purpose; the relay begins. The torch is conveyed from one bearer to the next and ends in Berlin at a 110,000-seat stadium where it ignites an altar of flame. Through shimmering heat the sun itself can be seen, vibrating in sympathy. And Hitler salutes the cheering crowds.This passing of the torch thus demonstrates a lineage of inheritance — a historical relay — making Nazi Germany the living heir to Ancient Greece.
Apr 15, 2008
Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Olympic Torch Fantasy
Forget about Bay Area economic problems! San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome was determined to have his Olympic Torch Relay Farce despite the fact that no one had any idea how much the massive security measures would eventually cost local, state and federal taxpayers. What's the history of this ritual that Newsom deemed so important? Edward Rothstein lays it out: