English on the Internet - English Magazine

The Olympics and the Elgin marbles

October 14, 2000

The Sydney Olympics have been widely acknowledged as the best within living memory - a great festival of sport with more athletes competing in more events than ever before, and everything running "as smoothly as clockwork" (unlike the organisational farce of Atlanta in 1996). Personally, I believe that the best opening ceremony ever was the fiery-arrow one in Barcelona in 1992, but in all other respects Sydney was by far the better Olympics.

History was made at every turn with world records falling "left, right and centre". Many Heroes were made. Here are just three examples: Marion Jones's domination of the women's track events, Steve Redgrave's historic fifth successive gold in an endurance event (rowing), and Ian Thorpe's haul of medals in the swimming pool. Of course, you all know of Jan Zelezny's gold in the javelin (I'd have preferred Backley to win!), and Eric "The Eel" Moussambani. Of course, some old heroes were finally defeated: Popov, Kareline, and Sulemanoglu.

How on earth is Athens going to follow the two wonderful weeks that we've had from Sydney? The organisation could hardly be improved upon, and the athletes always give 100% in their events. Perhaps Athens could emphasize its historical links with the games, and "play up" its history in general.

One of the problems for Athens to do this is the small issue of "The Elgin Marbles". The Elgin marbles are a collection of sculptures and architectural fragments from the Parthenon in Athens. During the Turkish occupation of that part of Greece in 1801-1803, a British man, Lord Elgin bribed officials to allow him to remove the marbles and bring them back to Britain. The marbles eventually ended up in the British Museum (worth visiting, if you go to London), where they have remained for over a hundred years.

For many years now, the Greek government has rightly been arguing with the authorities in the British museum (not the British government) about the return of the marbles. The marbles are an integral part of the most famous Greek national monument in existence. Their removal was not as part of the spoils of war - it was nothing short of peace time theft. As a matter of principle, they should be returned at once. In practice, it is not going to happen just like that, but the argument for their return grows stronger with the approach of the 2004 Olympics. How will Athens compete with Sydney? Let them show the world their priceless history and culture, complete and without bits missing!


To suggest a topic you can write to me at dareid@btinternet.com or you can visit my home page at www.btinternet.com/~dareid

© October 2000 English on the Internet www.aj.cz