By Colleen O'Connor
How many more doping stories, bribery deals, busted budgets, shattered neighborhoods, military actions and terrorist threats do we need before we cancel the seriously flawed Olympic Games?
Never, you say?
You might argue that cheating and bribery have been a part of the Olympic Games for 2,000 years. You would be right.
Ancient Olympians tampered with opponents’ chariot wheels and boxers bribed opponents to take dives, or paid fathers to make their sons fake it.
Trainers even lent money to their charges, at high rates of exchange, for the “sole purpose of bribery.”
As Nigel Crowther, emeritus professor of classical studies at Western University in Ontario, wrote last month:
“Yet public shaming, oaths, bans, floggings and fines couldn’t prevent bribery at Olympia. Even the judges weren’t beyond reproach.
And, of course, there exists the modern bribery sandal of the International Olympic Committee members themselves! Here’s Crowther again:
“Every two years, IOC members will vote on which city will host the Olympic Games. As cities present their case, a modern problem has been ‘vote buying.’ (The ancient Greeks never faced this problem as the Olympics always stayed in one venue – Olympia.)”
“A leading member of the IOC claimed that “bribes of up to a million dollars have been demanded from cities bidding for the games.” Without reference to any specific Olympics, unofficial agents offered to deliver 25 IOC votes to competing cities (out of a total of 105) for $1.8 million.”
Perhaps all of these crimes have existed since ancient times, but the breadth of the contemporary maladies demands a more robust response. Either massive reforms or an end to the Olympics.
Think about the loss of what once made the games great.
No longer are the Olympics for “amateur” athletes. Professionals are welcome. Witness the boring games in which the U.S. professional basketball players humiliate their less wealthy, less prepared opponents. What ever happened to “sportsmanship conduct?” You know, where the coach sends in the second or third string to allow the opponents a chance to score some points and save some pride.
And what about the Parade of Nations?
No longer is the “opening ceremony” a source of pride, but rather a mega-propaganda show of fashion houses and superpowers, undignified antics, and some photo ops that go awry. This year, the Olympic mascot jaguar had to be shot!
And no longer are the competitors actually from the countries they pretend to represent. They are imports—sometimes from former colonies—sometimes not.
The Daily Mail estimated that nearly “11 percent of the athletes who represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics were born abroad. Dubbed “plastic Brits” or more politely, athletes who fly “flags of convenience,” they have become a common Olympian practice.
Why are we gutting countries, displacing their most vulnerable people, and busting their budgets to showcase what no longer inspires gasps of admiration, but rather heaps of abuse, scandals and rage?
Think about the following developments in this year’s Olympics.
With fecal matter in the water, swimmers are taking antibiotics and told to swim with their mouths closed, burglaries occur during fire alarms in the athlete’s dorms, and fears of Zika are widespread. Nonetheless, the Rio Olympics promises to make NBC even richer.
The Los Angeles Times noted dryly: “The problems facing Rio may actually add to the drama and pique viewer interest.” Adding to the ratings! Remind you of “The Hunger Games” movie?
And charges of U.S. turning a “blind eye” to sexual abuse on gymnastics squad.
It is way past due for an Olympics time out! Either stop the games or reform them.
Pick one venue for summer and one for winter games. Thus, eliminating the IOC as a magnet for payola.
Stop the bribery, the corruption, the doping, the forced removal of families and destruction of whole neighborhoods, and the huge cost overruns no country can afford.
Or cancel the Olympic Games. Seriously.
Colleen O’Connor is a retired college history professor, native San Diegan and a competitive swimmer.
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