I recall an adage that says we should always celebrate things that come to an end because that gives us the opportunity to start things anew. Well, I am back from our journeys and ready to resume ranting here – at least until our next scheduled travel adventures. Moreover, I return to the keyboard with a sense of affirmation and I shall bask in that feeling for today.
Back in March 2007, I wrote that it was time to “shut down the Olympics”. Here is how I began that rant:
“Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to shut down the Olympics. I’m not talking about anything that is partial or temporizing. I mean it is time to cancel, negate, nullify, stop, cease and desist any, all, each and every activity that has to do with the Olympics. And the time to do it is now.
“They were shut down for a couple thousand years and civilization managed to march forward somehow. Then the Olympics were resuscitated and civilization continued to move forward. No big difference here. Therefore, since the Olympics have become nothing more than a scandal ridden set of events run by a bunch of preening snobs whose only interest is self-interest, I say it is time to call another halt in the Olympics for another 2000 years.”
Then, in April 2008, I wrote that it was time for the Olympics simply to go away. Here is how I concluded that rant:
“So let me get to the bottom line here. The games have been turned into a medley of events where most of the events don’t belong there in the first place; the athletes are merely a bunch of self-indulgent employees of some sponsor; the people organizing the games are about as noble as gun-runners; the television coverage is overdone and cloyingly sweet and pseudo-poignant. And they wonder why the TV ratings were lower this year when these events were on an 18-hour tape delay than they were in Atlanta when they were live. If you can’t see why, then you are suffering from rectal blindness.”
I have also suggested on more than a few occasions that the purported economic “benefits” of hosting Olympic games are more a mirage than reality. As much as I like sports, the Olympics make no sense in the world of 2016. So, how does this provide me with a glow of affirmation?
As I was on hiatus, the Washington Post published two columns by very responsible regular contributors to their Op-Ed page saying that my suggestions from 8 or 9 years ago are not so outrageous – and in fact ought to be given serious consideration.
Charles Lane’s column minces no words; it follows a headline that reads:
“Stop the Olympics”
If you compare Mr Lane’s objections to the Olympics to my commentary from before, you will find that we agree on most points and that he has added more reasons to halt the games that occurred in the years between 2007/08 and the present. He points out specifically that prosecutors in France are currently investigating allegations that the IOC awarding of the 2020 Summer Games to Tokyo involved “payoffs” – or as we called them in the neighborhood where I grew up. “bribes” and/or “extortion”.
With regard to the impending Summer Games in Rio about 2 months hence, here is what he has to say:
“In Brazil, where the 2016 Summer Olympics are supposed to begin Aug. 5, police and prosecutors have found evidence that Olympics-related infrastructure development became a font of payoffs and kickbacks. Potentially involved are some of the politicians implicated in the wider corruption scandal that has destabilized the Brazilian government, at precisely the moment it should have been devoting full attention to the security and efficiency of the Games.
“In response, IOC officials spout indignant rhetoric and issue earnest threats against wrongdoers, just as they have on what seem like a million previous occasions.”
Basically, the Olympics have become a haven for despotic governments, doped athletes and bribery/extortion all of which are supported on the backs of taxpayers in host countries.
Oh, but it gets even worse…
Robert Samuelson regularly writes for the Post’s Op-Ed page on economic matters. He wrote recently a scathing piece that obliterates any of the arm-waving inspirational pleadings regarding how the Olympics provide huge economic benefits for the host city/country. Let me give you just a flavor of some of the data he cites in his piece:
2008 Beijing Summer Games Costs = $45B
2010 Vancouver Winter Games Costs = $7.56B Revenues – $1.58B
2012 London Summer Games Costs = $11.4B Revenues = $3.27B
2014 Sochi Winter Games Costs = $51B
2016 Rio Summer Games Costs sure to exceed $10B
Moreover, he cites research that says the Olympics can cost a host city/country tourism dollars. He points out that in 2012, Great Britain suffered a 6% drop in tourism in the year that they hosted the Olympic Games. The fact is that lots of people go elsewhere to avoid crowds.
Now, if you take one item from Robert Samuelson’s piece and juxtapose it with one item from Charles Lane’s piece you get the following:
[From Samuelson] “After 9/11, security costs also soared. In 2000, they were $250 million for the summer Sydney Games; by the 2004 Athens Games, they had climbed to $1.6 billion and have stayed near that figure.”
[From Lane] “In the words of the Olympic Charter:
‘The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’”
So, how successful can the Olympics be in promoting a harmonious development of humankind and in promoting a peaceful society if folks have to spend $1.6B every 4 years just to try to keep the games from blowing up like a Roman candle?
It is time for the Olympics – Summer Games and Winter Games – to go on hiatus as I just was. The difference is that I was gone for about 3 weeks; the Olympics need to be gone for something around 3 centuries.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………