Neuharth: Olympics Beat Naziism & Communism, Now Ping-Pong...

USA Today founder Al Neuharth suggested in his weekly column for the paper on Friday that, as the 1936 Olympics in Berlin preceded the rise of the German democracy and the 1980 Olympics in Moscow preceded Russia's move toward democracy, the Olympic games this year in Beijing “will bring 1.3 billion closer” to the end of communism. In the “Other Views” below Neuharth's column, Foundation for Defense of Democracies journalist in residence Claudia Rossett scoffed at Neuharth's naive romanticism which discounted the role of America's efforts:
Progress in Germany and Russia had nothing to do with the Olympics, and everything to do with the U.S. fighting for freedom in two global conflicts: World War II and the Cold War. America didn't win by playing ping-pong.
Neuharth had contended:
Nazi Germany hosted the Games in Berlin in 1936. Now that country is one of the world's proudest democracies. Communist Moscow was the host city in 1980. Now Russia has moved close to true democracy, although it's not quite there yet. This is not a prediction that communism will disappear from China quickly. But betcha the Olympic Games will bring 1.3 billion closer to that goal. So China and the world will win. Ping-pong might even become a global pastime.
An excerpt from Neuharth's August 8 column, “Why China will win more than ping-pong
....Some sarcastic sportswriters say the only gold medal China is sure to win is ping-pong (table tennis). That's the country's national pastime,  à la baseball in the USA. It's actually a fun game to watch, because the little white ball hit with a tiny paddle travels up to 80-100 miles per hour.

Most important, China will win much more than medals. What the host and other countries get out of these Games is a closer look at one another. The good and not so good. But a better understanding. The Olympics historically have aspired to be above politics. Athlete-to-athlete and people-to-people.

Nazi Germany hosted the Games in Berlin in 1936. Now that country is one of the world's proudest democracies. Communist Moscow was the host city in 1980. Now Russia has moved close to true democracy, although it's not quite there yet.

This is not a prediction that communism will disappear from China quickly. But betcha the Olympic Games will bring 1.3 billion closer to that goal.

So China and the world will win. Ping-pong might even become a global pastime.

Other views on the Olympics

"Progress in Germany and Russia had nothing to do with the Olympics, and everything to do with the U.S. fighting for freedom in two global conflicts: World War II and the Cold War. America didn't win by playing ping-pong."
-- Claudia Rossett, journalist in residence, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center