Olympics, NBC and tragedies in America

Progress 8/7/12

As a Brit in the USA, watching the Olympics has been a chore. The much-maligned NBC coverage that misses moments of silence for 7/7 does not care for any team but the USA and refusing to broadcast live coverage except for ad-heavy live streaming is appalling.

One can understand the economic argument for NBC who paid so much for the rights and want to make sure that those who work in the USA can watch the highlights when they get home. But even on weekends, Americans had to wait till 11pm on Sunday night to see Usain Bolt run, and we never got a chance to celebrate with Mo Farah.

Yet with a constant eye on the BBC live ticker I am attempting to get excited along with everyone else with Team GB’s epic achievements.

While the world watches London, the world continues to turn, Romney’s world tour continues to embarrass, and Syrian descent into madness quickens. But even for a foreign policy junkie such as myself, the two recent shootings in the States have punctuated my consciousness like no other news story.

The Aurora shooting a week before the opening ceremony was terrifying in a way that no other public shooting had been for me before. Maybe it was my fiancée’s unease at seeing The Dark Knight Rises on the Sunday of opening weekend for fear of copycats or the weeks of political silence about gun control that followed, but I felt more uncomfortable in my surroundings then normal.

This discomfort was magnified over this past weekend with the shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. As a British citizen I am just not used to this level of violence and the political inaction that has followed it. I freely admit that I do not understand the second amendment, having no analogous experience to which to relate, yet the lack of debate around gun control is dangerous.

It’s not the lack of gun control that I find so worrying, but the lack of debate after these shootings that scares me. Yes I know it’s an election year and that the NRA is powerful. Yet these back-to-back tragedies merit some discussion by lawmakers. Even if nothing changes legislatively, the absence of the discussion on a national level makes me feel all the more foreign in America.

Much has been said about anonymous money and super PACs in this election cycle. Yet it is the lobbies which are clear, visible and have a mass membership that exert the greatest effect on US politics, as the deafening silence on Capitol Hill demonstrates.

Giving slain Israelis just one minute, without the Olympic Committee

Ha’aretz 7/23/12

I have to admit I normally ignore the various calls to action that fly around the Jewish blogosphere. Every few weeks I am asked to change my status, share a video or sign a petition about some plight to someone somewhere.

Yet over the past few months there has been one campaign that has caught my attention and as a born and bred Jewish Londoner I felt it my duty to join. “Just One Minute” is a campaign to get the International Olympic Committee to give one minute’s silence to the victims of the 1972 Munich attack on the Israeli Olympic team. Though every four years the widows of the victims have tried to petition the IOC, this year their campaign went viral thanks to social media.

Started by Ankie Spitzer through a change.org petition, the simple ask was that the Olympics give one minute to remember the victims of the Olympic family who were slain. With just under 100,000 signatures, promotion in various international news sources, and a video from Danny Ayalon one would assume that the IOC would agree.

Yet, back in May, the IOC turned down the request, stating that they have paid their respects to the tragedy and that it is not appropriate to mix politics into the games. And on Sunday, the committee announced that it would not mark the anniversary of the Munich Massacre at the London 2012 opening ceremony.

Now, if the IOC never had a minute of silence during the games that would show consistency. Yet, as Professor Deborah Lipstadt points out, the games held a minute of silence for the victims of 9/11 and another when athletes died during a training accident in 2010.

So what is behind the IOC’s rejection? How can one turn down the victims’ families over such a simple request? Throughout the history of the games, those in Munich in 1972 clearly represented the worst violation of the spirit of the Olympics. One only needs to look at the first point in the Olympic charter on the role of the IOC: “Support the promotion of ethics in sport as well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned.” If athletes die while playing sport in the Olympics, they can be memorialized during the games, but if they die through violence it seems that they can’t.

So what to do now? An Early Day Motion (petition) has been circulating around the British House of Commons calling on the IOC to give just one minute. Sadly only 55 MP’s have signed it. That number needs to increase. If we can get the host nation to recognize just one minute, we might go some way in ensuring that the IOC cannot behave like cowards, while basking on the international stage.

The other thing that I will be doing, and I encourage everyone else to do as well, is to hold a minute of silence at 11 A.M. on Friday July 27, the morning of the Opening Ceremony.

These games mark 40 years and 10 games since the Israeli Olympians were slain. If the IOC refuses to do the right thing, it falls on us to give just one minute in memory of those athletes who are ignored by a fraternity that prides itself as a brotherhood among all men.