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Olympic Opening Ceremonies
an article by Charlie McNally

The opening ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens this past week was thankfully lacking in any violent surprises. The Olympics have long been an international event where good-will and solidarity seemingly trump political differences and the global community truly comes together. By this standard, these games got off to a good start. The teams came in to a JUST completed Olympic stadium still smelling of wet paint, and the only fireworks of the evening were planned and included the famous lighting of the Olympic torch.

Most reports from the ceremonies agree that the crowd gave the loudest ovations to the Olympic teams whose countries have recently been invaded by the United States. Our aggressive foreign policy, however, did not seem to affect the reception given to the United States team when they entered the stadium. Unlike our Middle Eastern ally Israel, who was "met with mostly silence," the United States "received an enthusiastic greeting when they entered the stadium" as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, "putting them in the same league, ovation-wise, as Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and nearby Cyprus." This reaction is surprising in light of the declining global attitudes towards the United States and its policy. In the most recent Global Attitudes Project data, released in March, 2004, the average favorability rating across European countries England, France, Germany, and Russia was under 50%. The survey can be found at

So what is this moment telling us about global opinion? Are people intelligent enough to separate the actions of our government from the sentiments of our people? Do they believe, like many of us, that we do not currently have an elected president? Are they trying to send a message that although relations are strained, they are not irreparable? Or is it simply a manifestation of the love/hate relationship so many foreigners feel towards America, revering our culture yet detesting our policies. The opening ceremonies provided some interesting questions for people committed to promoting a culture of peace. The answers to these questions may prove important in the coming years to rediscover solidarity and understanding with our allies across the Atlantic.


Question(s) related to this article:

Is America Hated in Europe?,

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I would like to share with you the following commentary that is circulating on the Internet in Europe (sent to me from a Muslim friend in France).  I fear that while this would have only negative impact in the United States, it will be heard with sympathy by many Europeans:

From "Ghazwan" <>
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2004 20:41:30 +0400

Bill O' Reilly, leading news commentator on Fox TV Said:

"I don't have any respect by and large for the Iraqi people at all  I have no respect for them  I think that they're a prehistoric group that is - yeah, there's excuses. Sure, they're terrorized, they've never known freedom, all of that. There's excuses, I understand, but I don't have to respect them because you know when you have Americans dying trying to, you know institute some kind of democracy there, and two percent of the people appreciate it, you know, it's time to -  time to wise up. The big lesson is that we cannot intervene using ground troops in the Muslim world ever again.  What we can do, is bomb the living daylights out of them, just like we did in the Balkans, Bomb the living daylights out of them. But no more ground troops, no more hearts and minds; ain't going to work They're just people who are primitive."

Dear Mr. Oreilly

I found your comments on the Iraqi people very unfortunate and shows your total lack of knowledge, and to say the least the lack of decency. . ...more.

This report was posted on August 24, 2004.