The Olympic Movement – Spare Me

I have long held the position that the IOC is venal and corrupt and that the Olympic Games themselves are flawed to the core and should be cancelled/abandoned/terminated.  Please take a moment and read this prior rant written sometime in 2003 and then reposted on a new version of the website in 2007.  Here is a summary paragraph to give you an idea of the line of reasoning:

“Remember, some folks will still cash $1B in checks for all of that. And that money comes out of your pockets because it is the US TV contract and the advertising on US TV that fuels all of this. Cancel the NBC contract for televising Olympic games and the IOC might be able to hold a ping-pong tournament in a low cost of living area of the world such as Mali. They probably have enough money left in “savings” that have not been paid out to consultants and officials and international conferences to afford hotel space in Bamako.”

I suggested bluntly and directly sometime in 2008 that the Olympic Games themselves ought to be canceled.  Please take a moment and read that prior rant here; as with the above, here is a sample paragraph:

“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.”

With that as prologue, I hope my starting point for today – or my bias if you will – is crystal clear.  Now let me add this.  The Olympic Games are bad for the countries that host them despite the rosy PR statements you hear from the IOC and various organizing committees.  The Games can be beneficial in countries/cities where the economy is already large and established. In other situations, the economic “benefits” are negative –  not positive.  If you think that is harsh, consider:

  • Athens hosted the Games in 2004.  If the Olympics provided the Greek economy a huge boost, can you explain to me how Greece is in the economic condition that it is today?
  • Rio de Janeiro hosted the Games in 2016 – getting a double shot of “economic benefit” from hosting the FIFA World Cup just two years before that.  According to reports, the unemployment rate in Brazil in 14% and many governments have been known to shade the unemployment stats to the “low-side”.  The Olympic Park is unoccupied; several of the arenas are already boarded up; the former mayor of Rio is under investigation for taking about $5M in bribes.  Regarding the FIFA World Cup “benefits”, one of the largest new soccer venues built for the Tournament in a remote city is now used as a parking lot for buses.

Brazil has a federal prosecutor looking into the bid for the Olympics and the events in the run-up to the games.  He issued a report recently – it is not clear to me if this is a “final report” or an “interim report” – that contained just a few items of concern:

  1. He said that many of the Olympic venues are “white elephants”.
  2. A venue destined to be a public park in a “poor area” remains closed off with its venues unused.
  3. He says there was “no planning” that went into the original bidding and that “bribes and corruption” littered the path to the Games.

Most estimates say that the Rio Olympics cost Brazil $12B.  If you look at photos taken of the favelas in Rio, it should not take you long to think that maybe – – just maybe – – that $12B might have been spent differently by the Brazilian government.  [Aside:  Most coverage that refers to the “favelas” usually equates that word with “neighborhoods”.  I prefer to call the favelas what they are; they are slums.]

Even the casual follower of the events that lead up to an Olympic Games will recognize two recurring themes:

  1. The Games always cost a lot more than originally thought.
  2. The complexity of staging the Games is always a lot more complicated than originally thought.

The Games in 2020 will be in Tokyo; the Japanese economy can take the hit.  The Games in 2024 and in 2028 are still under consideration but it appears now that only two venues are interested in bidding – – Paris and Los Angeles.  Once again, the French and American economies can take the hit.  Once those three sets of Games go off without triggering an economic nightmare in the host city/country, the ultra-politically correct faction of the world will rise up and “demand” that some developing country get a piece of these “benefits”.  I have no idea who will win the bidding for the 2032 Olympic Games, but I will not be surprised to see some folks push for a totally bizarre venue such as Kigali, Rwanda or possibly Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

  • Quick Quiz:  Name one other city in Rwanda and in Uzbekistan…

Please do not try to convince yourself that the Olympic mavens will realize by then that such out-of-the-way places must be taken off the table.  Remember that their brothers-in-venality – namely FIFA – have still to figure out how to hold the World Cup in Qatar because they saw only the bribes and gifts in the bidding process and not the average temperature in the summer in Qatar as they made their decision.

With that as the basis for my conviction that the Olympic Games are at best economically neutral and most often economically awful for the host city/country, let me turn to the events in the Games as blessed by the IOC.  Please understand; when the IOC includes new events in the Games, that means they become benefactors for added international organizations that oversee those new sporting endeavors and by extension they become benefactors for each of the national oversight committees in every nation where they play that sport.  The bottom line here is that adding benefactors to the list means more opportunity to “extract resources” from those new sources.  In US politics, they call this “pay to play”; for the IOC, that would be a literal description.

So, what new stuff is on the horizon?  Of course, it will fit nicely with the Olympic Motto:

  • Faster, Higher, Stronger

            About 2 weeks ago, I told you that the IOC has taken under consideration recognizing cheerleading as a sport and including it in the Games.  Now let me tell you that the IOC has decided to include 3-on-3 half-court basketball in the 2020 Games in Tokyo.  That’s right; the IOC is bringing a made-up playground game to the Olympics.  If anyone here wants to get in on the Olympic action, let me suggest that you start to push for the IOC to recognize HORSE as a new Olympic event right after you establish yourself as the head of USHOOF – the United States HORSE Oversight and Organizing Federation.  Give me a break here…

I said before that it was time to shut down the Olympics; I stand by that position.  In the past, I have referred to the Olympic Movement as a Bowel Movement; I stand by that position too.  Here is the state of play in 2017:

  • The Olympic Games – – summer and winter – – are not much more than an irregularly scheduled Reality TV show.  They contain loads of sub-plots and hidden agendas; they can regularly provide or concoct real or imagined heart-throbbing tales; they provide the TV cameras with lots of staged shots; when needed, they can provide a dose of glitz and glitter.  Oh yeah; every once in a while, a genuine athletic competition where the winner is not decided by the opinion(s) of judges happens to break out.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



3 thoughts on “The Olympic Movement – Spare Me”

  1. Atlanta already had a booming economy in 1996, but the Olympic Stadium and the Georgia Dome are both gone. The equestrian venue is very popular and the swimming venue at Ga Tech hosts numerous meets. But the biggest legacy of the ’96 games is Centennial Park. That area is now an attraction where it was once an area to avoid.

    1. I would suspect it is the exception that proves the rule. I don’t think the discussion would be happening at all if Ueberroth hadn’t turned a profit in LA in 1984 since it would have collapsed under its own weight.

      Perhaps if we MUST have it, put it in a place that is fun to visit and keep it there. Even Athens would work if it isn’t a one-and-done proposition for the venues which is what worked for Atlanta. For the Winter Games I would nominate Lillehammer since one would expect snow in every winter and it has mountains.

      The 2018 Winter Games are in South Korea, which given that the DPRK is next door could become a security nightmare. With KJU being the attention hog that he is, I cannot see his regime passing on an opportunity to, ahem, leverage concessions (“nice Olympics you’ve got here, it’s a shame if something happened to it”, h/t Monty Python) as a price to play nice for two weeks. If one of North Korea’s athletes defect (or a whole team), I cannot see the DPRK regime not doing something to make a point.

    2. Doug:

      Atlanta is a venue that could host an Olympics and the over-arching US economy can take the shock. That is not universally the case, unfortunately.

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