Why Continue The Olympics…?

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………

8 thoughts on “Why Continue The Olympics…?”

  1. Rant on, SC. I will surmise that this is one of your most vibrantly-written pieces in the last–let’s say 21 days.

  2. Like many things, the Olympics were ruined by the money and professionals involved. Once those Rubicons are crossed there is no going back. I recall going to Seoul and watching the USA play Canada in hoops (I was on deployment then) and felt the spirit in the air. I also note that unless it was the USA or South Korea involved the tickets were embarrassingly easy to get.

    On other topics, it appears the Warriors may have learned their lesson about dominant teams. It is that dominance invites attention, since everyone else will circle your games and will devise ways to beat you. If they pull a stunt they did with OKC, the Cavs will beat them. OKC lost 14 of their 27 regular season losses after leading in the 4th quarter, as evidenced in Game 6.

    The question of how the NBA salary cap will interfere with the league will need to be answered , for example whither Durant? The Dubs will be hit with this next year (2017) IF there isn’t a strike and/or a lockout since the CBA also comes due then.

    Welcome back…

    1. rugger9:

      I know it is fashionable to talk about “reforms” for the Olympics and the IOC and entities such as FIFA and the UCI, but I just do not believe that “reform” is going to happen there to an extent where those activities and those entities rise out of the primordial slime that they have become…

  3. I am not sure the net was worth it in Atlanta, but we got a lot of cleanup projects through the bureaucratic filters and the biggest hurdle of all, a proposed highway heading east from downtown through historic neighborhoods was finally, after years of litigation, scuttled in favor of a huge park with a surface road and bike trails winding through it. The pathways created have now been connected to an abandon rail right of way and a greenway trail now runs for miles inside the city limits. The Centennial Olympic Park area in downtown was a dangerous drug invested area before the Olympics, but the park has anchored new development and that area is now an attraction for tourists and locals alike.

    1. Doug:

      Hosting the Olympics does bring some benefits; the question is do they match the costs? In Beijing, the Olympic village provides housing units for people. In London, they sited the Games in a part of London that needed “gentrification” anyway. However, in many situations the host countries/cities paid a lot of money to build “White Elephant” structures and paid a lot of money in bribes that could have gone directly to “projects for the public good” had there been the political will to do so.

  4. I’m so pleased that Mr. Charles Lane does not “suffer from rectal blindness.” This year’s Olympics bring a new level to a “scandal ridden set of events run by a bunch of preening snobs whose only interest is self-interest” They have managed to add environmental contamination to the list of significant issues!!!! YUCK!!! Good to have you back!!

    1. katemall:

      Good to be back. Environmental contamination along with disease exposure to things like Zika and to whatever pathogens might live in the polluted waters in the bay where sailing events will take place make this year’s games a real treat for athletes.

Comments are closed.