The Olympics are broken. They can’t be fixed. It’s time to stop the Olympics.
Pierre de Coubertin is often cited as the man behind the modern Olympic movement. He idealized the ancient Greek Olympics and wanted to recreate the games as a celebration of sport and a promoter of piece. He believed that through competition, the cultural gaps between nations could be spanned with understanding. He also had a whole bunch of other feel-good reasons to revive the Olympics. Making money hand over fist wasn’t one of them. (By the way, Pierre de Coubertin won a gold medal in 1912 for literature. True fact.)
Today, there are several common practices in planning and hosting a modern Olympic games that M. de Coubertin would probably shake his head at.
The issue with the Olympics is that it has strayed so far from its original intent that it is no longer a noble cause. What began as a celebration of sport, youth, competition, culture, and peace is now one of the biggest money-making enterprises in the world complete with a governing body that makes costly demands of lavish treatment just to be considered to host a games.
The Olympics have been a commercial production with a taint of malfeasance for decades now. Putin’s corruption in hosting the 2014 Winter Games (to say nothing of the anti-LGBT ongoings) is legendary stuff. Corruption in China’s hosting of the 2008 games didn’t surprise anybody, although their guarantee of great weather might have.
We now turn to Rio, Brazil where even the mosquitoes are giving the world’s athletes a compelling reason to stay home.
The cost of hosting, let alone winning, an Olympic Games is immense and often times is paid most dearly by the poorest residents of a city lucky enough to host them. In Rio, there has been much reporting of the further marginalization of the poor, like that some 800,000 families are without homes. There is also the obvious political unrest in Brazil as President Dilma Rousseff has been impeached.
The Olympics have strayed so far from their modern intentions. The games are no longer a celebration of sport. They are the embodiment of the capitalization and commoditization of an amateur class of athlete. The Olympics create a spectacle through the exploitation of talent without sharing any of the returns with those who produce them. Despite this, nations through their athletes are willing to cheat through more and more elaborate doping schemes year after year.
The Olympics are no longer a celebration of sport. They represent everything that’s wrong with it. There is much glory in competition. It’s just hard to see it in the shadow of such corruption.