Twilight of the Olympic Idols

This new Olympic flame behold, that once burned bright in Greece of old; with happy hearts receive once more these Games revived on London's shore. Thus begins the Pindaric ode composed by Oxford academic Armand D'Angour, commissioned by Boris Johnson and recited by the London mayor before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the Opening Gala for the 2012 Summer Olympics.  By Johnson's own estimation, the work "breathes new life into the ancient custom of celebrating the greatness of the Games through poetry."  At a ceremony where pomp trumps majesty and delusion trumps reality, this seems a fitting appraisal. It is true that the Greeks celebrated their athletic feats with poetry and that the modern Games find their origin in ancient Greece.  But as with much that has been inherited from that peerless age -- e.g., science, philosophy, democracy -- the spirit that animated the Greek festival is largely incommensurable with what inspires the Games of modern...(Read Full Article)