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Individual Sovereignty and the Olympics

hammon082708.jpgEvents in the month of August have certainly placed our modern notions of nationalism, identity, sovereignty, and the Westphalian concept of the nation state under close scrutiny. This bit from Alvaro Vargas Llosa on individual sovereignty and the Olympics is quite cool:

Hammon was vilified by many people in the sports world, including Anne Donovan, the U.S. women’s basketball coach, who said that she was “not a patriotic person.” Hammon’s decision to play with the Russians contains a moral message. Individual sovereignty, it tells us, is a space that no collective force should violate. Invoking nationalist notions to condemn a woman’s pursuit of a dream that does no harm to anyone is to put national sovereignty above individual sovereignty — the seed of totalitarian ideology. Hammon does not love her ancestors, her family, her Silver Stars teammates or her friends on the U.S. national team any less because she took a cherished opportunity to play in Beijing. “This is a game of basketball,” she said in defending her decision, “this is not life or death.” A traitor? No, an heir to America’s grandest tradition: the right to the pursuit of happiness. (…) Despite the best intentions of the Baron de Coubertin, the French aristocrat credited with reviving the Olympic Games in the 19th century, the international competition has as much to do with collectivist nationalism as it does with universal fraternity. Any individual act, however small, that tears down a nationalist barrier during the Olympics should be applauded as restoring the games’ true meaning.