The National Question and the Olympics

The nation-state may be “finished”
(R. Bartley, Editor, Wall Street Journal).
But you sure wouldn`t know watching the
Olympics. In Sydney, old-fashioned nationalism
reigns. The collapse of the transnational
communism has allowed the modern Olympics to get
back to its original purpose: Like the Daily
newspaper in Evelyn Waugh`s Scoop,
the games once again stand for rivalries among
“strong, mutually antagonistic”

The Opening Ceremony`s parade is always a
fascinating display of human biodiversity
wrapped in the gorgeous multiplicity of
traditional costumes that millennia of
monoculturalism have bequeathed to us. Every
four years, I especially look for the Mongolian
flag-bearer. He is usually a massive wrestler or
weightlifter who boldly grasps the heavy
flagpole in just one beefy hand. He clothes his
thick torso and short limbs, so characteristic
of the peoples of the Eurasian steppe, in little
besides what appears to be the traditional
Mongolian bejeweled jock strap.

In the post-nationalist`s fantasy, the
Olympics wouldn`t be organized by anything so
passé as nationality. Instead, athletes
sponsored by Coke would battle Nike`s hired guns
for world marketing supremacy. The only problem
with this vision: nobody would watch. (Well, I`d
watch, but I`m a sports statistics geek.)

In these hypothetical Globalist Games, how
would you know whom to root for? What normal
humans want out of spectator sports is a Good
Guy to support. Over millions of years, our
ancestors evolved a fascination with conflict.
This was a crucial educational tool in the
prehistoric world, where, judging by the
horrendous violent death rates that contemporary
hunter-gatherers inflict upon each other, people
needed to be aficionados of fighting just to
survive. Thus we tend to identify with one
contestant in order to raise our interest level.
The only question: how we decide.

There are a lot of options. People have often
rooted for their own race, or religion, or
class, or ideology. What people don`t cheer for
much, despite the brilliance of modern
advertising agencies, are corporations. The main
exceptions are fans that are also employees or
investors, or customers with a lot of money and
pride invested in their purchases. Thus, Ford
owners looking for bragging rights might cheer
on the Ford stock car racing factory team.
Similarly, college alumni want their school`s
team to win to keep up the value of their

In general, however, people root for those
who represent their region. Nebraska`s high
school dropouts still cheer for the U. of
Nebraska football team. The citizens of St.
Louis pull for the St. Louis Cardinal baseball
team, whether or not it features a single player
from St. Louis. And in the Olympics, spectators
support their own countries` athletes.

It doesn`t matter if you think rowing is the
most boring sport imaginable and you don`t even
want to think about what “coxless
pairs” might be. When the race starts,
well, they may be a coxless pair, but, dammit,
they`re our coxless pair!

What the post-nationalists fail to consider
is that humans want to divide themselves up into
rival groups. If they don`t form teams based on
the legal concept of nationality, they will do
it some other way. Deconstruct American
patriotism via mass immigration and the ensuing
explosion of identity politics will reach the
point where Americans stop rooting for Olympic
athletes just because they are their fellow
American citizens.

Watch out. When patriotism collapses, as
Eastern Europe shows, race wars can rapidly

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website
features his daily

September 27, 2000