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Nationalism and the Olympics 

A reader who's a European native and lives in the Triangle writes:

Being European and watching the Olympics on American television makes you aware of the different attitudes of Americans and Europeans. Nationalism is fading in Europe and patriotism is a word that isn't heard--particularly in Germany and much of northern Europe. It meant nothing good in our recent history.

But on American television, the Olympics seem like an all-American event. The reporters talk only to American athletes, to American visitors, showing again and again heroic, heart-rending family portraits of American athletes. They don't find the time to cover events where Americans don't participate.

On NBC this morning, the commentators talked about the men's high bar event and interviewed Paul Hamm. They showed his solid performance and asked him how he felt standing in front of the audience that was still upset about the ridiculous judging of the prior performance--hence neglecting the spectacular high bar performance of a Eastern European athlete who didn't get a medal at all! When a team from my country competed against an American team and did well, though losing in the end, the American journalist spoke about a possible huge upset for America, but didn't mention the brilliant performance of "my" team.

Being a (non-competing) athlete myself, I am interested in watching all those wonderful disciplines regardless of the participation of my homeland. I am interested in listening to interviews with athletes coming from remote corners of the planet; I'd like to learn what their worlds look like.

The Olympics represent one of those rare moments when the world's people can move a bit closer together, billions participating in the comfort of their homes--together with the athletes. But the American press caters to the needs of people who tend to know or care very little about the world outside. Why be afraid of different cultures, habits and flavors? These days, especially, there is a need to open doors to welcome other cultures, and the Olympics provides the perfect grounds to do that. What better way to reach otherwise inaccessible American households and enable them to know more about other nations--especially in these troubled times.


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