Tag Archives: IOC

Toronto’s Olympic dream Canada’s nightmare

Why the people of Toronto continue to think that their collection of villages is the centre of the universe as we know it remains a sweet mystery.

Why many others across Canada seem to keep swallowing this nonsense hook, sink and line has become an enigma beyond belief, too.

On the heels of the Pan American Games, whose bill is yet to be revealed, so all of us learn how much this sham is going to cost us, there seems to be a growing sentiment abroad, insisting that Toronto should bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. Why, they say, it’s the ideal moment in history: the PanAm Games have been a resounding success (says who? Oh, they say so, which means that’s how it’s got to be!), and besides, the other potential North American suitor has just pulled out of the contest. A window of opportunity if there ever was one!

If only they listened to what Boston’s Mayor Martin S. Walsh had to say.

Announcing that he was asked to sign a contract that would guarantee that the city of Boston would be responsible for potential financial losses, Mayor Walsh said he couldn’t in good conscience do anything of the kind. He is of the view that this ought to be somebody else’s responsibility (read: the organizers ought to be responsible, not the taxpayers). Besides, he was asked to sign a document the precise language of which would be revealed to him some two months after he had signed on the dotted line. No option to negotiate, Mayor Walsh added, and that sealed it for him.

In that one sentence, Mayor Walsh revealed the criminality of the Olympic system as we’ve known it for decades.

Olala, Marcel!

Enter Marcel Aubut, head of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

To refresh everybody’s memory (in case it needs refreshing), that would be the same Marcel Aubut who drafted Eric Lindros first overall in 1991 even though he had been perfectly aware that Lindros would refuse to join the Quebec Nordiques no matter what. As a result, Lindros, considered by many Wayne Gretzky’s second coming, would lose an entire NHL season. That makes Aubut’s move even more unconscionable. As a hockey official of extensive experience Aubut must have known that professional players’ careers are limited.

And he crowned this sordid drama by trading Lindros a year later to two teams (the excuse that he and Pierre Page had no way of informing one another about their individual but separate talks does not hold water). The case had to be settled by an independent arbitrator, a scene that still makes the crowd at 1185 Avenue of the Americas in New York cringe.

To refresh everybody’s memory again (in case it still needs refreshing), that would be the same Marcel Aubut under whose personal and expert guidance the Quebec Nordiques were eventually forced to leave Quebec City in a financial shambles, only to resurface in Denver as the Colorado Avalanche and win the Stanley Cup within a year.

Of course, in fairness, who knows whether the Avalanche would have won anything without the presence of Patrick Roy in their net? It seems quite obvious that, had the Nordiques stayed put, theirs wouldn’t be the club the Montreal Canadiens would trade Roy to.

But that is hindsight. The fact that remains is that it was Marcel Aubut who caused the Lindros scandal, and that it was Marcel Aubut who helped bring the Nordiques to financial ruin and ignominious departure.

So, having this guy say that “It’s time to make it crystal clear, I am officially declaring that I will use the full power of my office to lead and advocate for Toronto’s candidacy to hold the 2024 Olympic Games,” that would be a clarion call for everybody concerned to run for cover.

Not so easy

Let them apply, so what? many might suggest.

Alas, that’s not how it works.

To put together a presentation for an Olympic Games bid costs money. There are firms that specialize in this kind of work. They charge their clients for every box of Kleenex they use when they happen to sneeze. With the deadline for bid submissions set for September 15, 2015, these consultants would have to work pretty hard and fast. Double (or triple) the original demand in order to account for the deadline pressure.

So, taxpayers would be shelling out their hard-earned loonies just so the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members have something to read in their leisure time. Without any guarantee whatsoever. Marcel Aubut might be presenting himself as a heavy hitter whose word spreads general fear in the IOC offices in Lausanne, Switzerland, but, in fact, he’s a featherweight so far as the Olympic poohbahs are concerned.

But, while the Olympians get set to gather to ponder on the individual bids by hicks who are willing to mortgage their citizens’ future for the chance they might appear on TV screens, bidding cities will have to prove they have sufficient facilities to host events on such scale.

No problem, the Toronto bid supporters will yell, we’ve just had the PanAm Games, and our facilities worked just fine.

First of all, they would be lying through their teeth. Track-and-field experts have been shocked by the small-country-county ambience of Toronto’s fields. Even Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium worked better during the track-and-field world championships in 2001.

Besides, the Olympic would-be royalty demands that their events happen in brand new facilities. They claim, as an excuse, that these facilities would then remain as legacy for future generations to use. Another bald-faced lie. There have been exceptions, to be sure. Some of the winter sports facilities in Calgary still remain in use. But going into more detail would reveal some horror stories that are better left for windy and rainy autumn nights. They are best shared by crowds that are sitting by the fireplace, with toddies all around. These stories are scarier than most of the Halloween costumes people could ever imagine.

In any case, even facilities built brand-new for the PanAm Games would be obsolete (in Olympians’ view) nine years hence.

Here’s what happens

Hordes of realtors, developers and sundry financiers will overwhelm all levels of government telling them this or that kind of work’s got to be done immediately, even before the Olympic crowd bothers to descend upon the bidding city. Whether it’s a conspiracy, as many Olympic watchers suspect, remains to be seen. But the fact is that, when asked, Olympic officials will nod in agreement: what, you didn’t read the fine print?

Interestingly enough, government officials proceed to spend like crazy sailors on shore leave. After all, it’s not their money they are spending. And there is a sufficient number of fools amongst their electorate who fall for the shamelessly idiotic propaganda about the Olympic Games. It’s the greatest sporting event on earth, and one that takes its responsibilities seriously, whether it’s the environment or the cleanliness of the athletes. We as citizens should be proud that the august Olympians decided that ours is the best spot on planet Earth to hold this event, that’s the motto.

And not even the fact that it took Montreal almost four decades to pay off its Olympic debt, and that it’s going to take Vancouver about that same amount of time to pay off its Olympic debt changes the hoopla.

If the Olympic Games were produced and paid for by private organizers and if they made money in the process, three cheers for them.

But since the Olympic Games are produced and paid for by taxpayers who have literally no say in what is going on, the picture changes.

There have been case studies during which analysts presented private entrepreneurs with Olympic budgets and accounting books, so far as they could lay their hands on them.

The private entrepreneurs were shocked both by the budgets and by the accounting that followed.

To use a most recent Canadian example, none of them would have thought of bringing snow (using trucks and helicopters) from Manning Park all the way to the mountains around Vancouver.

The more thoughtful people in the entrepreneurial crowd hated what they saw. Not because none of them got to hop on the gravy train. Because they saw where their taxes were going, and they didn’t like it one bit.

To be sure, by the way, this kind of megalomania is not limited to Canada.

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, alpine skiing events took place quite far from the sea shores, separated from the Black Sea by massive mountain ranges. The organizers, in an attempt to make access easier for the tourist hordes who would want to watch the break-neck artists hurtling down the slopes, broke through the mountains. One tunnel after another, one artificial pass after another. The result: the moist sea air made it all the way through to the alpine events areas. Tons of artificial snow and sundry chemicals made the slopes acceptable for the skiers. Not for the nature. The alpine meadows have been devastated beyond belief and it will take decades for the scientists to be able to say whether they would ever recover.

So much for the Olympians’ environmental responsibility.

But sports are good for your health!

Absolutely. But not sports as performed at highest-level events.

First and foremost, to even have a chance of becoming an Olympic-level athlete, you’d have to become a professional in your chosen field. Nobody can make it on talent alone any longer.

Becoming an Olympic athlete is no guarantee of success, either.

Now, if you decide you want to spend the rest of your productive life jumping over hurdles or throwing all kinds of stuff so far as they can fly, it’s your business. You may even think that what you’re doing is useful for society. It’s your right to have opinions.

The buck stops once you accept a cent of public funding. And getting money from sports federations equals exactly that. These bodies wouldn’t be able to survive a single season without getting government support.

As an athlete, you may claim that you are presenting yourself as a role model for the younger crowd so that they become hooked on sports, too.

There’s nothing easier to explode than this myth. If money various levels of governments grant to various sports federations, up to and including the Olympic committee, were spread among schools, so they can build and maintain sports facilities, hire and keep physical education teachers, and are able to keep physical education as a daily class on their schedules, that would be the proper way of engaging in sports.

The highly trained gladiators just don’t cut it. And that’s ignoring all their doping and other dirty shenanigans.

To sum this angle up: the federal government has, quite properly, resisted spending taxpayers’ money in support of professional hockey clubs.

It should tell the same thing to all those who come, caps in hands, asking for federal government support in staging events such as the Olympic Games. The government is not in the business of professional sports.

And if those would-be organizers start pushing their point by saying what an economic bonanza their event would turn out to be, the government should issue a collective smile and say: Is that so? So, go ahead, invest, and be successful. We’ll watch your progress with considerable interest.

And if the potential organizers, blackmailers, one and all, start crying, the answer should be even simpler. Let them eat cake.

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Doping scandal of major proportions rocks the world’s sports community

Will most of Russian athletes be stripped of their Olympic and other international championships medals and banned from competition for some pretty considerable time?

What began as a scandal involving only the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has now spread across the spectrum. That Russian track-and-field athletes, swimmers, cyclists, biathlonists, cross-country skiers and weight lifters now face charges of doping is one matter. That Russian sports bodies chiefs now stand accused of participating in a massive conspiracy that permitted all that, is another matter.

And that IAAF President Lamine Diack’s own son, Papa Massata Diack, has been involved personally, too, makes it the mother of all sporting scandals.

Young Diack has been IAAF’s marketing poohbah, a position that gives nepotism a new meaning.

Germany’s ARD television network charges that young Diack has personally helped Russian marathoner Lilya Shobukhova who paid 450,000 Euros through her coach Alexei Melnikov to make her 2009 positive out-of-competition doping test disappear from the record so she could take part in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Not that it helped much: Lilya Shobukhova didn’t finish due to injury.

Help from up top

That, of course, is not all. ARD and l’Equippe, the French sports newspaper, have unearthed more documentation, and some of it links Russia’s widespread doping culture directly to the office of then-prime minister (and today’s president) Vladimir Putin.

In fact, decrees authorizing Russian sports bodies to use all means at their disposal to achieve victories have come down under Putin’s own signature.

Russian officials, as could have been expected, denied the ARD and l’Equippe reports as smear campaign filled with innuendo and nothing more. Except, just several months ago, these same officials banned that same marathoner Lilya Shobukhova for two years because of doping. To add insult to injury, Lilya Shobukhova now went public, saying that some of the money she had to pay for the cover-up has been refunded to her.

What’s fair is fair, right?

How did the cover-up work? Could have hardly been more simple: the athlete to be tested under the so-called out-of-competition protocol would be notified well in advance that the testers were coming, with precise date, time and place included in the warning. Not only that: as most of the tests require collection of urine samples, those athletes were allowed the privacy of their own washrooms, with the commissioners waiting (discreetly) outside. That, despite the requirement that the commissioners were supposed to be present at all times when the samples were collected.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gabriel Dollé, the director of the medical and anti-doping department at the IAAF, stepped down after he had been interviewed by this august body’s ethics commission.

Doping: what else is new?

ARD, an abbreviation for Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, a.k.a. Consortium of public broadcasters in Germany in English, has been known for its hard-hitting documentaries. Besides, it is precisely the Germans who ought to know whereof they speak when it comes to doping. A sports medicine institute in Leipzig in the former East Germany has been in the forefront of the doping science for a very long time. Some of its leading researchers have spent the last couple of decades or so working with athletes in China. Doing what?

Meanwhile, l’Equippe newspaper has been known as the publication of record when it comes to investigating doping in cycling, during the Tour de France, in particular.

Not surprisingly, a huge number of international sports officials have been expressing shock bordering on outright dismay, as if they hadn’t known for decades that this has been going on in one form or another. The chest-beating has been coming loud and clear, from former fencer and now head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach, all the way to the founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and IOC member, Canada’s own Dick Pound.

Pound comes the closest to saying “I told you so,” an expression he would have done better keeping to himself.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Coe, a former British runner, later the boss of the 2012 Olympic Games in London and now a leading candidate for the IAAF presidency, is on record as saying that there should be a widespread redistribution of medals. This promises a fine spectacle, with officials going back – well, Sebastian Coe hasn’t said yet how many years back – to double-check ancient doping test results. What will the IAAF officials do if the samples no longer exist? How will they prove the old samples, if and when found, haven’t been tampered with?

According to some British sources, the Olympic poohbahs are now considering banning Russian athletes from all competitions. As if the Russians were the only ones doing this. They were the only ones caught, for the time being, that’s all.

Why the crocodile tears?

Of course, it’s all hypocrisy.

Sprinters running at speeds reaching 40 kilometres an hour speeds, even if only for less than 10 seconds, aren’t normal human beings. Marathoners getting close to covering this distance in less than two hours aren’t normal human beings, either. We can consider one sport on the Olympic schedule after another to see that it’s been artificially created bodies who have performed these achievements.

Yes, yes, yes, some say it’s the diet, others say it’s the new training methods, still others say it’s all of it combined.

But the conclusion is simple and straightforward: what these athletes are (and have been) achieving is not normal.

But, of course, viewers all over the world are fans who want to see such out-of-this-world achievements. They are paying good portions of their hard-earned money (in whatever currency) to see the modern gladiators ply their trade. It has become an industry on its own: without viewer interest, there wouldn’t be so much coverage that pretends it’s news. Without so much coverage that pretends it’s news there wouldn’t be so many dollars invested in advertising. Speaking of which, when a sprinter shows that this or that running shoe is the best, it’s still within the boundaries of the understandable. But when, for example, a weight-lifter promotes products of female hygiene, it becomes a comedy.

And yet, the solution is simple. If you asked the athletes whether they would digest something that would guarantee them Olympic gold and, at the same time, premature death within five years of victory, an overwhelming majority would go for the doping.

It’s perfectly irrelevant if they would agree in the wild hope that, within those five years, a cure would be developed for whatever they had brought upon themselves, or because their imagination doesn’t stretch that far, or that they are of the view that, at least, they had taken care of their families.

What matters is: they would do it.

So, why not let them?

Why not realize that even the original Olympiads in ancient Greece were filled with not only outright doping, but blatant cheating, too? (If you let me win this race, my sponsor will guarantee you a job at so many drachmas a year, plus room and board.)

Why not admit that the anti-doping crowd has been playing catch-up all along, never really getting even close to the level of those who’d been using performance-enhancing drugs?

Just drop the pretence, leave (taxpayer-supported) Olympic organizations and sundry sports bodies out of it, pass the deal over to pharmaceutical companies, and change the slogan. Get rid of the ancient Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger). It’s Latin, anyway, and how many people speak (or, at least, just understand) Lingua Latina these days? Replace it with “My drugs are better than yours, nyanyanyanahnah,” and be done with it.

Of course, we won’t have titillating stories of athletes who wouldn’t pass the normal sobriety tests to enjoy any longer.

Will it be such a huge loss?

Have Xenon inhalations led Russians to their Olympic medals?

When is it doping and when is it not?

Many Russian athletes quite openly inhaled Xenon gas during the Sochi Olympic Games, a German TV network reported, and they have got off scot-free.

And, the WDR added, it can prove Russian athletes have been using Xenon at least since the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. In fact, the WDR report says, documents created (allegedly) by Russian Ministries of sports and defence (in and of itself a couple of strange bedfellows) have been recommending the use of Xenon specifically to “enhance athletes’ performance.”

The fact that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has ignored its use helped, too.

A bit of basic information: Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. It is a colourless, heavy, odourless noble gas, that occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere in trace amounts. Although generally unreactive, xenon can undergo a few chemical reactions such as the formation of xenon hexafluoroplatinate, the first noble gas compound to be synthesized.

Naturally occurring xenon consists of eight stable isotopes. There are also over 40 unstable isotopes that undergo radioactive decay. The isotope ratios of xenon are an important tool for studying the early history of the Solar System. Radioactive xenon-135 is produced from iodine-135 as a result of nuclear fission, and it acts as the most significant neutron absorber in nuclear reactors.

Xenon is used in flash lamps and arc lamps, and as a general anesthetic.

Thus basic information from Google and Wikipedia. So far so good, right?

Except: xenon just happens to enhance the creation of the erythropoietin hormone in human bodies. Too much Latin? How does the abbreviation EPO strike you? Does the name Ben Johnson ring a bell?

As we have been reliably informed by WADA years ago, EPO is a no-no.

Except, Mario Thevis of the doping-control lab in Koln in Germany told WDR, their scientists couldn’t test for xenon because they don’t know how.

Ooops, right?

Of course, Thevis added, there have been scientific tests made on animals, to see how xenon impacted them.

Here’s a verbatim translation of a verbatim quote: “Within one day, 24 hours, that is, creation of EPO increased from 1.6 to 160 per cent. That is a significant increase.”

Would the result in people be similar? Quite possibly, Thevis said.

WADA President, Craig Reedie of Scotland, said his office is going to check this information. “Our commision that deals with the banned substances list, will look into this issue very soon. We will be debating the issue of gas inhalations at the very next post-Olympic meeting.”

What will WADA debate?

“We have to know for sure whether this is doping,” former WADA boss Dick Pound was quoted as saying. “We have to establish whether it would or would not be possible to say during a potential investigation that the rules are unclear on this.”

And his personal take?

“This method was developed exclusively to enhance performance. So far as I am concerned, that constitutes doping.”

Thus Dick Pound.

Another case of the anti-doping crowd playing catch-up.

Of course, these guys have been playing catch-up all along. Logical in most cases, terribly illogical in the case of Swedish hockey star Nicklas Bäckström.

Just about two hours before the opening faceoff in Team Sweden’s gold medal game against Team Canada, Bäckström was pulled off the roster: an anti-doping test found traces of pseudoephedrine in his urine. They had known about it for some two days, and it took the anti-doping crowd all that time to inform the Team Sweden management about their findings.

Here’s the basic scoop on the dope, ooops, medication (courtesy drugs.com): Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant that shrinks blood vessels in the nasal passages. Dilated blood vessels can cause nasal congestion (stuffy nose).

Pseudoephedrine is used to treat nasal and sinus congestion, or congestion of the tubes that drain fluid from your inner ears, called the eustachian tubes.

Having read that, one can easily believe that all that Bäckström did was take a Sudafed or a Claritine or any of the usual over-the-counter medications to unstuff his nose.

Bäckström would not be the first hockey player to suffer severe allergies. One guy, in fact, had to quit hockey altogether, even though on the path to become a useful NHL player. His name is Jan Vopat. The combination of sweat and hockey gear caused swelling all over his body that wouldn’t go away for days on end.

Bäckström has been using the anti-allergic medication for years. His Team Sweden’s physician saw no issues with it. Bäckström had played in a number of international games for Team Sweden during that time, using the anti-allergic medication whenever he needed to be able to breathe, without any complaints or issues raised by anybody.

When the word came down from the mount, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be sensible. So has the NHL. No use: when these guys dig their heels in, that marks the end of the story.

No wonder that the Swedes are now livid about the IOC.

“They ruined our fans’ greatest dream,” said Team Sweden’s GM Tommy Boustedt.

It’s not only the verdict itself but its timing, too, that makes him see red.

“This was crazy! I think it was a political decision. If we knew two days earlier, it wouldn’t have been that terrible, but they evidently wanted to make a bomb out of it.”

So far as Team Sweden’s management is concerned, the IOC’s stuffed shirts wanted to show how hard they fight doping. The future is going to be interesting: Team Sweden’s management is considering a lawsuit against the IOC. Not that anything would overturn the verdict on ice, the Swedes themselves said Team Canada was too good on that particular day, but they want to teach the IOC a lesson.

Former Team Sweden star Ulf Nilsson told aftonbladet.se: “Yes, one has to accept responsibility for what one is doing, but I don’t think you’re using this medication as doping. It would be funny to see the IOC’s stupidity if it wasn’t that tragic.”

Nilsson knows whereof he speaketh: he was found guilty of using ephedrin durting the 1974 world championships in Helsinki. All that because he used an over-the-counter cough sirup.

Not all is black or white, said a former Swedish high jumper, himself an Olympic winner in 2004, Stefan Holm: “We couldn’t let Bäckström play until all the results were in. We got them Sunday afternoon. Yes,” he conceded, “that did take too long, and we have to find out why, but it’s a tough job.”

Funny how quickly he turned from an athlete to a stuffed shirt of a bureaucrat.

If anyone has ever seen hockey players coming to their arenas before their games, most of them are clutching coffee mugs, sipping frantically. An informal statistic: most players consume anywhere between a half of a dozen to a full dozen cups of coffee every day.

Talk about stimulation!

Another proof the Olympic Games is as hypocritical as any event can get. Shameless, to boot. And it keeps getting away with it.

The Olympiad stinks to high heaven

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.

Today’s realities

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 …

Living better?

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.

Missing billions

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.

Role models?

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.

NHL, NHLPA to face the world hand in hand

This is bartering at its best: we gave you the Olympics, and now, we expect goods of same or better value in return.

Here it is: the NHL and its union, the NHLPA, are huddled in New York this week. They are preparing their joint talking points for continuing negotiations with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

The World Cup of Hockey, one of the major topics of discussion, is a given. Expect it to happen in 2016.

Except, nothing is as simple as it looks. For example: the IIHF seems to be of the view that early fall, preferably pre-season early fall (or late summer, preferably pre-season late summer) would be the best time to stage the World Cup. Yet, there happens to be a North American school of thought that would rather see the event take place midway through the season. Here’s the logic: we are interrupting our league’s proceedings in February 2014, just as the battles for the Stanley Cup playoffs begin to heat up. It costs us money (and it cost league programmers a few grey hairs, too, to compress an 82-game schedule so as not to lose a single game and still make sure playoffs begin in April). And we’ve done all that just to send our stars to somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Russia. That’s an aggravation for us more than anything, and it’s costing us money. Having the World Cup midway through the season would help us recoup those losses and then some.

The Olympic Games are the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) cash cow. That august body splits its income with international associations (such as the IIHF), and they, in turn, share it with national federations that are their backbone. The NHL is not an international association. It’s not a national federation, either. It can hardly expect Hockey Canada or USA Hockey to go insane all of a sudden and share their shares with the NHL. When the NHL sees just the broadcasting contracts the IOC has managed to impose all over the world (and never mind the tactics used to achieve that), the league must be going bonkers: all that money, and none of it comes our way! We give them our stars’ prestige, and what do we get in return? Feel free to fill in whichever four-letter word comes to mind here.

In any case, no wonder the NHL and the NHLPA would prefer to have the World Cup staged midway through the season: it might maximize their income more than considerably.

There are at least two options to be debated about how to split the World Cup income. One plan lets the NHL and NHLPA keep their (major) share and let the IIHF divide the rest, whether it be among all of its national federations or only those that sent teams to the event. The other plan would see the NHL and NHLPA keep their (major) share and split the rest among the federations that sent teams to the event, with the calculation based on how far this or that particular team had made it. This option would leave IIHF out of the equation completely, something the NHL and the NHLPA would have no issues with. The other side would not be too enthusiastic about it.

Before even beginning to debate the issue of money, the IIHF cries in response: but we’ve got a world championship in May!

Oh yeah? comes a cynical reply. How about NOT having it during the years the World Cup of Hockey is on? The existing proposals mention either every two years or, and that is more probable, every four years: two years after and two years before Olympic Games.

Here’s the rub: world championship happens to be the IIHF’s cash cow. It doesn’t have to share the loot with anybody but its national federations. Not a cent goes IOC’s way. Again: the NHL is NOT a national federation.

The NHL is not altogether pleased with this arrangement, either. It’s of the view that allowing its players to take part in the world championship helps enhance the event’s credibility. Enhanced credibility equals increased income. Yes, the players who go to take part in the world championship belong to clubs that didn’t make the playoffs or were eliminated in the first round, preferably in four games. Still, they are NHL players, and some of them are genuine stars. What’s in it for us, argue the NHL and the NHLPA, but risks? If a star player gets injured, fine, he gets money from his insurance, but what if he’s not available to his NHL team for a few months next season? Stars bring butts into arena seats. A star’s absence costs the NHL (and, by extension, the NHLPA) money. Well?

Besides, as an aside, the NHL and NHLPA are not at all satisfied with the fact that insurance coverage and sundry matters related to it differ considerably from national federation to national federation. They would like to see something that holds valid for everybody concerned.

There’s another proposal making rounds for these talks. It’s dear to the IIHF, while the NHL and the NHLPA are not so sure. Not yet, at least. It’s the idea to copy the beautiful game (association football, soccer for the uninitiated) and put together something to be known as Champions Cup. Its version on the pitch attract incredible crowds (and broadcast audiences, on television, radio and, these days, in new media). That’s a lot of money.

Why not go for it, full speed ahead? Again, there are numerous issues about competences, responsibilities and shares, and then, there’s one overwhelming fear: what if the Stanley Cup champion loses a game to, say, Lithuania? What’s the public going to say? How will it play in Peoria? as the cliché goes.

The NHL (with NHLPA’s approval, it seems) has already told the IIHF not to even bother dreaming about the league’s participation in the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea. Let’s have the World Cup, instead, the two groups say. Having the Olympic Games in South Korea does nothing to enhance the worldwide appeal of hockey, they seem to be saying, but having the World Cup in markets that cherish the game, now, that changes our views on international cooperation beyond belief.

Speaking of markets, the NHL (and the NHLPA) is not too sure that staging season-openers overseas (in Europe or in Japan) is the way to go. Financial returns have been far below overwhelming, and the players are not too happy about coming back and plunging, heads first, into the season without much time to adjust to the jet lag of at least six hours.

It’s going to be a long, complicated and difficult path before the NHL and the NHLPA reach a binding agreement with the IIHF. The interesting thing at the moment is that the league and its union are writing a joint songbook so they can sing in unison. The other interesting (and as important) thing is that neither side has mentioned it’s all about sports. There might be an occasional expression of trust that this or that helps enhance the game and spread its popularity, but it’s always quickly linked to revenues that this or that might bring in.

Well, at least they are sincere about it.

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