The Olympic Games are, of course, more than just games. As Bob Costas and the event's organizers constantly remind the world, they are a festival of humanity, a great coming together, the one moment when the planet gathers in a friendly spirit of healthy competition. Dogging your viewing of pummel-horse routines and synchronized diving, there is ample talk of the "Olympic movement," a phrase intended to highlight these aspirations.
Last week, however, as the Athens games got under way, an Iranian judo champion exposed the hollowness of this rhetoric. Rather than compete against an Israeli, Arash Miresmaeili quit the Olympics entirely. As he told the Iranian government's official news service: "I refuse to fight my Israeli opponent to sympathize with the suffering of the people of Palestine, and I do not feel upset at all."