The Olympic Flame in the Wrong Place

Dmitri Prieto

The lowering of the torch. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — I was struck when I saw the Olympic flame lowered by a soldier rappelling from a Royal Air Force helicopter onto the Tower of London.

When the TV announcer explained that the man — covered in camouflage and wearing a beret — had just come down on the site where the British Crown Jewels are guarded, I recalled my visit to that very same tower.

It’s that sinister site where they used to cut off the heads political criminals and where you can still find instruments of torture and the graffiti of desperate prisoners from so many centuries ago.

Kind jailers, it’s true, are now the guardians of the patrimony of the crown (where do the funds come from for the current monarchies?), and presently they are accompanied by this camouflaged solider and the Olympic flame.

I once read that symbolic fire didn’t always exist in the modern Olympics. That flame was lit up for the first time in the 1936 Berlin Games.

It was during that initial pre-WWII reenactment of the athletic relay from Greece that signified the conveyance of the legacy of the ancient Aryans to the German Reich of the new millennium.

Through the fire of old Olympia, the Nazis claimed for themselves the secular heritage of their own “Aryan” civilization.

So that there’s no doubt, the giant red flags of the National Socialist German Workers Party — with black swastikas inside white circles — also accompanied by gas torches.

Later, in 1948, the first postwar Olympics (was it also in London?) resumed that tradition of the torch relay.

Now, in 2012, we’re seeing the great “green” Olympics – with the first display of green being that of the military camouflage of this soldier abseiling down onto the Tower with the flame.

Pussy Riot. Photo: Igor Mukhin

It’s a shame that today’s punk rock band “Pussy Riot”* are — shockingly — being held in jail in Russia in the wake of their scandalous performance at the Moscow cathedral.

I remember one of their earlier performances in Red Square, perhaps not as shocking as that of the church, but to me much more symbolic.
In the middle of winter, these female Russian punksters climbed up onto the very spot where the Czar’s edicts were once read, and where sometimes (according to urban legend) the heads of his opponents used to be cut off.

There, in freezing weather, they gave a short anti-establishment hard-rock concert while vigorously waving the violet flag of feminism, with a fist inside the painting of “Venus at her Mirror.”

Neither the cold nor spontaneous character of the action prevented them from devoting time to make a brief tribute (as the police bolted desperately to the square). They said they were dedicating the concert to the dissidents who on that same spot in 1968 protested against the “Soviet” tanks in Prague.

I’m not expecting the London Olympic Games to begin with individuals wearing masks of the face Guy Fawkes (with a “V,” for vendetta), and that’s fine, that’s fine. Great Britain is a united kingdom with a unique imperial history, however…

What did people feel — for example the Argentinians or Northern Irish Catholics — when they saw the Olympic flame arriving in London in such a unique place and in such unique company?
* Pussy Riot: A punk rock band made up of Russian feminist women who put on political performances. Currently, several of its members are in jail awaiting trial for having practiced a “punk cult” in the main Orthodox church in Moscow. I don’t think it was wise to disturb the peace in a place dedicated to prayer by the faithful, but it’s infinitely more scandalous to imprison several women — mothers among them — who presented no threat to what the authorities are calling “public security.”


One thought on “The Olympic Flame in the Wrong Place

  • The jailing of those women is unacceptable, it’s in the worst style of totalitarianism and stench-filled bigotry… it is appreciated that someone like Dmitri, so knowledgeable of the Russian soul and a practitioner of Christian orthodoxy, has revealed this in his post…

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