Berlin - Things aren't exactly going well for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which start on Friday. It was recently decided that they would have to go ahead without audiences due to a pandemic, and now there's even a chance of last-minute cancellation. At least that's chief organiser, Toshiro Muto, is refusing to rule out.
A little self-promotion can't hurt, the IOC officials must have thought. So they put out a short promo video. The film focuses on the 100-year-old Hungarian gymnast Agnes Keleti, who won a total of five gold medals at the Olympics.
"One hundred years. One life. One Olympian. What did Agnes see in her century?“ is asked with typical sporting pathos. Some classic highlights of Olympic history follow, for example the famous barefoot run by Ethiopian Abebe Bikila. The American sprinter Jesse Owens is also featured. Agnes Keleti, the voice over explains, saw with her own eyes how Owens, the grandson of slaves, redefined freedom.
Oh boy. That shows at least questionable historical awareness. Owens, a black athlete, was victorious at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. But in 1936 the "definition of freedom" was consumed by what is now considered a paradigmatic form of political propaganda - the Owens clip is taken from Leni Riefenstahl's infamous film, Olympia.
And that's not all. Footage of a high diver from the second part of the Riefenstahl film, "Feast of Beauty", is artfully cut in juxtaposition to the dives of later athletes.
It's not exactly breaking news that Hitler's propagandist had a lasting impact on the aesthetics of sports imagery. But the uncritical use of her imagery for an IOC promotion is further evidence of the unthinking unscrupulousness of the Olympic federation. Incidentally, Agnes Keleti's father and several uncles were murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.