Do we really, but REALLY need Olympic Games?
If you decide to be frank, honest and sincere, your answer will be biblically simple: NO.
Yes, yes, yes, Olympic Games is an event that celebrates sports, all that’s so good about us as humans, and so on, and so forth.
Drivel, all of it, of course.
We could, too, adjust the question: who needs Olympic Games?
The answer is going to be simple: those who make money off it.
Let’s be serious here: do we as taxpayers really need the new stadia and sundry highly specialized buildings used by top-notch athletes – and nobody else?
Granted, supporters of the Olympian idea will tell you that, for example, sites built for the 1988 event in Calgary, or the more recent one, 2010 in Vancouver, will serve numerous athletes for decades to come. Which athletes? Your everyday Marys and Joes who want to try, say, a bit of speed skating on a perfect oval? Absolutely not. They serve (if they do serve anybody at all) only those athletes who are at the top. Rank amateurs need not apply.
Speaking of which: if it is somebody’s hobby to, say, swim across a bay, hop on a bike, ride for another while, and then finish the course running, why should taxpayers support it? Those willing to pay for the privilege of watching it, would pay. But why the rest of us?
To cut to the chase: most (if not all) national Olympic committees survive on government-granted money. Yes, they do a bit of fundraising among private businesses, but they would not survive without taxpayer money.
Should it be so? And should it remain so?
The answer, again, is an unequivocal no.
A bit of history
Modern Olympics were conceived by a French aristocrat. Baron Pierre de Coubertin noticed his country’s nobles were bored stiff each and every summer. You can only go through so many drinking binges a year. They needed a bit of recreation. The good Baron summoned some British aristocrats because if anyone knew how to write rules, it would be the British.
Voila, and here is your distraction.
To make sure none of the unwashed join in, the rules insisted on strict amateur status. After all, the original participants didn’t need more money. They were swimming in the stuff. It was the glory that they were after, and the chance to break the tedium.
To drive the message home, Olympic poohbahs would strip American Jim Thorpe of his gold medals. He won them in 1912 in both pentathlon and decathlon. Alas, he played two seasons before the Olympics for a semi-professional baseball team. Compared to today’s circumstances, he only got a pittance. But it was enough for the guardians of Olympic purity.
Hypocritical beyond belief. Especially because the founders of what is now known as modern-era Olympics cited the ancient Greek Olympiads as their example.
Here’s an uncomfortable fact: massive cheating on a scale unheard of in our times (at least, publicly, that is) was rampant during the ancient Greek Olympiads: “Let me win this race, and my sponsor will give you a job, so many drachmas a year, room and board included.”
And, yes, ancient Greek Olympic athletes were professional. Each and every one of them. The only difference: they had private supporters, sponsors in today’s lingo, and there was no government support.
But such revelations would tarnish the purity of the Olympic flame!
First, forget that incongruity: truth will tarnish something. Anything.
Secondly, as importantly, Olympic torches (and torch relays) were not, and have never been, part of the ancient Greek Olympic history. Yes, an ancient Greek winner could drop by at a temple of his choice following his victory. He didn’t have to, but most of them did. He would light a torch to honour his (not her, mind you) god (or goddess), offer a sacrifice and, if spirits moved him thus, join in a general orgy.
Olympic torches and torch relays come to us courtesy Adolf Hitler’s Reichskanzlei (Imperial Chancellery). Torches, after all, have always been an integral part of what we know as a Teutonic tradition. And the relay idea came from the Reichskanzlei, too. Hitler’s propaganda operators were imaginative enough to suggest that the last runner remain a mystery until the moment he (again: no she involved) picks the torch up to light the flame in the cauldron. An interesting aside: the first such last runner was a ranking member of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler’s Youth), as sporting an organization as any group can get.
So much for the historical purity of the Olympic Games.
It depends on your view to decide whether to be proud of Dick Pound’s Canadianism.
In any case, the guy is responsible for changing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and, by extension, the entire Olympic movement into a giant corporation. It was Pound who got the Olympians such sponsorship deals as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and many others. The cynicism of it all is beyond pale: are you sure McDonald’s is the best provider of healthy food? Are you positive Coca-Cola’s beverages are precisely what the doctor ordered?
Besides, these sponsorships have never been meant as replacements for money coming to the national Olympic committees (and, again, by extension, to the IOC) from their own governments. Meaning from the taxpayers: governments do not own a cent of what they give away to causes they consider worthy of their attention.
Speaking of which, it took three decades to pay off the 1976 summer extravaganza in Montreal. Domestic sponsorship amounted to $7 million. The debt: $1.5 billion. With interest payments included, the final amount was staggering.
If you think it would take less time to pay off the debt generated by the Vancouver Olympics of 2010, think again. The British Columbia government is trying its utmost, taxing everything its citizens consume or use (including the air, by the way), and yet …
Speaking of something Olympic supporters call “improving the overall quality of life,” here are a few stimulating numbers. Since the 1980s, economists have estimated the Games have displaced over three million people. They have also contributed to massive increases in homelessness. In a study compiled in connection with the 2012 Olympics in London, England, economists cite Vancouver as one of the prime examples.
To quote directly: “This has contributed significantly to gentrification, securitisation and surveillance in the host cities.”
Do you think these changes have come about without any cost? And do you think local organizers have included these costs in their budgets? Yet, the money had to come from somewhere.
Where? You’re allowed three guesses. A hint: look at yourself in a mirror.
Some economic analysts would go so far as to suggest the entire event ought to be renamed from Olympic to Corporate Games. Judging by the number of sundry business deals, they seem to have a point. Still, considering how much public money goes into the entire hoopla, the games would be better served if they were called Fascist Games. Why? Simply because fascism happens to be a brand of socialism that combines state intervention and corporationism.
The IOC’s official site, (www.olympic.org) proudly tells the world about the movement’s marketing achievements. It doesn’t dwell on the history of scandals driven by pure greed. It avoids mentioning the percentage of public money that goes into staging events that each demand new and newer and newest facilities, in a perfectly and shortsightedly stupid competition to hear the IOC president saying these were the best games ever as he closes yet another extravaganza.
To quote the British analysts one more time:
“Late 1990s – corruption nearly destroyed the IOC and many people were expelled. For example, in 1999 there was widespread bribery going on in the IOC regarding the decision to give the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City. An investigation lead to ten IOC members being expelled or resigning. Since this period of scandals that nearly brought down the IOC, it has improved its PR, but any issues that do arise are pretty much left unchecked by the mainstream press.
“2008 – The Beijing Games saw displacement on a massive scale and a pre-Olympics systematic round-up of political activists, involving imprisoning, beating and torturing dissenters, showing that the Games continue to facilitate and reinforce repression wherever they go, yet the IOC still pretends to be apolitical.
“2012 – The London Games have seen pre-emptive arrests and evictions across London and protests being held in July against, amongst other issues, the failure of the IOC to take action against the discrimination of women athletes, corporate sponsorship, mass surveillance and the restriction of the right to protest that the Host City Contract enforces.”
If you wish to get more details, get C.A. Shaw’s book titled Five-Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, read it, and weep.
To find out even more, check out works by British journalist Andrew Jennings. He was the co-author of The Lords of the Rings and author of The New Lords of the Rings.
And lest you think anything has changed for the better since then, here’s an unsurprising tidbit: about $30 billion (in US money) of the about $50 billion designated for the Sochi games has gone AWOL. If anybody has seen it, nobody’s saying.
Thus former Russian cabinet minister and now opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Together with an outspoken opponent of the Kremlin (meaning: president Vladimir Putin, his cohorts, and all their works) Leonid Martynyuk, Nemtsov said he tried to check all of the numbers, and $30 billion was missing.
“The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi have turned into a monstrous scam,” the Nemtsov-Martynyuk report said.
Considering Putin has been on record recently as saying he was frustrated over the rising costs of the Games, this is a strange coincidence, indeed.
The Sochi games are now on track to become the most expensive event in Olympic history, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reports.
Here’s more from that same British paper: “The money is supposed to be spent on the construction of new Sochi sports facilities as well as the repair of everything from roads and hotels to the laying of new railways and the creation of a bullet train system.
“Almost all of the projects have been assigned to giant firms that are either directly owned by the government or run by billionaires who are on close terms with the Kremlin.
“The two authors wrote that their conclusions came from a six-month study of data and analysis of various cost overruns.
“They said they also compared these overruns with those seen in previous Olympic Games to estimate how much was in fact embezzled by senior managers at the various firms,” the paper added.
The Nemtsov-Martynyuk report comes to a conclusion that was to be expected: “The Olympic Games are Putin’s personal project. And it is clear who stole this money – those who are close to that same Putin.”
Now, Nemtsov has been known for his critical observations, and it comes as no surprise, either, that the Kremlin – while remaining silent on the most recent report – keeps insisting that Nemtsov relies on hearsay and speculation too much for his own good.
Of course, this is a country that gave birth to the following bit of wisdom: do NOT believe any rumours until they’ve been officially denied.
And Nemtsov himself admitted that he was hard-pressed to find actual government data for his latest study because information about contracts remained largely secret, the Daily Telegraph reports.
No matter how much of the $50 billion that was budgeted for the Sochi games was spent legally or stolen, Russian analysts took the lowest figure ($20 billion) and came up with interesting results: that lowest amount would be enough to build a new school, a new hospital, and a new community sports centre in 20 Russian cities each.
What is more useful? Another rhetorical question.
Yes, Olympic supporters would tell you, yes, sure, not everything is as rosy as many thought it would (or could, or should, even) be, but still, Olympic champions attract youngsters to sports. More youngsters doing sports means a healthier nation.
Certainly. Compared to the inescapable fact that youth obesity has been growing in leaps and bounds all over the North American continent, the logical question pops up: Oh yeah?
The only thing the Olympic Games cause is a dangerous increase in jingoistic nationalism. A group of well-paid athletes defeat another group of well-paid athletes, and the victors’ nation goes literally bonkers.
By the way, have you ever noticed? When it’s your country’s team that wins, everybody identifies with it and says: WE WON! When they happen to lose, it’s: THOSE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING (lazy bums, whatever, choose your insult) LOST.
In any case, while it is questionable whether the Olympic Games ever meant more than the simple “bread and games” for the masses of the unwashed, it is now perfectly obvious: the Olympic Games are a waste of time and money, pure and simple.
You could hardly expect the mighty of the world to give the Olympic Games up. They are becoming richer with every passing Olympian cycle, after all. Giving up the Olympic Games would equal killing the goose that lays golden eggs.
So, is there a solution? Of course there is.
Given how many athletes use all kinds of performance-enhancing products (how many of them dope, to put it simply), the Olympic movement should stop forthwith rolling their eyes in a staged show of horror and disbelief. And, again, speaking of tarnishing the cleanliness of the classic ancient Greek Olympiad is a perfect lie: those guys used doping to an extent that would be shocking even in today’s lax times.
Here’s the plan: drop the national Olympic committees with their shameless feeding off their countries’ taxpayers.
Drop the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”
Here’s the replacement: put the Olympic Games into the hands of pharmaceutical companies, and the motto would be: “My drugs are better than yours, nyanyanyanahnah.”
Cynical? Absolutely. Truthful? Absolutely, too.