As the Olympic Games, London 2012, draw ever closer, it’s worth dwelling on the ethos of the whole affair:
The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Against that backdrop, it’s shameful that the Games have been hijacked for propoganda purposes, time and time again. The Nazis attempted to use it to showcase the ‘master race’ at Berlin 1936. At Munich 1972, two Israeli athletes were murdered and nine kidnapped by the Palestinian militant group Black September; the nine died during a botched rescue attempt by German police.
In the latest outrage, the Argentinian hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg has appeared in a promotional film, doing exercises on a memorial commemorating British sailors who gave their lives in the First World War. One injured British veteran of the 1982 Falklands War, Simon Weston, referred to it as ‘tawdry’. That’s putting it mildly.
Weston has more cause than most to feel vengeful about this sabre-rattling stunt by the current Argentinian government. A former Welsh Guard, he recieved 46% burns during the war.
The 90-second propoganda film trivialises the loss of human life. It’s as subtle as that ‘Gotcha’ headline in The Sun which gloated when 323 Argentinian sailors went down with the Belgrano.
Ironically, a knock-on effect of the war was to restore democracy to Argentina. The country had been ruled by a military junta, a regime responsible for the deaths of thousands of its citizens (political opponents, socialists,
trade unionists, clergy and many others; the so-called ‘desaparecidos’ or ‘disappeared’, none of whom have graves or memorials).
Another irony of the 74-day Falklands War is that more British veterans have taken their own lives since ostilities concluded than died during the actual combat. Veterans support group the South Atlantic Medal Association blame the lack of resources to tackle post traumatic stress disorder.
A key post-script to all this - Simon Weston has since become friends with the Argentine pilot who dropped the bomb which caused his injuries.