FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Should We Abolish the Olympics?

The first modern Olympic Games, with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) running the show, was held in Athens, Greece, in 1896.  There were 14 nations represented, with a total of 241 athletes competing.  Jumping ahead 112 years, to the 2008 Olympics, held in Beijing, China, there were 204 countries represented, with some 11,000 athletes competing.

That reference to 204 countries confuses me.  I confess to having thought that there were only 196 countries in the entire world, not counting the Vatican (but including South Sudan, which became a separate country on July 9, 2011).  In fact, I have alluded to that 196 figure many times, in both conversation and written material, and never had anyone challenge me on it.

Even if the Vatican had somehow gotten IOC approval and been allowed to compete in Beijing (having sent, perhaps, a relay team composed of cardinals and bishops), that would still bring the number to only 197.  Although we’re all acutely aware of China’s reputation for resourcefulness, how they managed to rustle up 204 countries remains unclear.  I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for it.

Numbers aside, let’s consider the Games themselves.  The goal of the Olympics was, originally, to promote goodwill and harmony through competition.  Remove the politics and self-interests, remove the prejudices and social barriers, put aside the bad blood and adversarial histories, and allow the nations of the world to create the kind of mutual respect and understanding that can only be produced via contests of pure athleticism.

Obviously, that noble goal hasn’t been achieved.  In fact, a cynic might even suggest that it’s worked in reverse.  Since 1896, there have been two monumental World Wars, atomic bombs, various genocides, pogroms and systematic annihilations, dozens of “lesser” wars, as well as hundreds of instances of military adventurism and butchery.

The case can even be made that the century following the inaugural 1896 Olympics, was the most violent century in the history of the world.  So if peace and goodwill were the desired goals, the Olympics have failed utterly.  In truth, it causes one to wonder if that notion of a “big track meet” acting as a catalyst for world peace wasn’t wildly naïve to begin with.

Geographically, much has changed.  While the Olympics may have made sense when it took two or three weeks to cross the Atlantic, jet travel and cyberspace have combined to shrink the world dramatically.  Anyone wishing to engage a foreign citizen need only fire up his computer.  So magical is the Internet, you can transport yourself to a foreign culture with only a few keystrokes (and with only a few more you can view its pornography).

Then there’s the money.  Virtually every country to host an Olympics has incurred debilitating debt.  The cost of staging one of these things is positively staggering.  And that tired old argument claiming that hosting the Olympics brings a country instant “prestige” is pure propaganda, and the one claiming that the Games  “help” the local economy is not only misleading, it’s a cruel joke.

Hotels, saloons, restaurants and taxi services benefit, but the rest of the population is left holding the bag.  The New York Times reported that in preparation for the 2016 Games, Rio de Janeiro is going to raze several slums, displacing thousands of the country’s poorest people, all for the sake of increasing national “prestige.”

Speaking of money, NBC spent a ton of it.  Not only did they shell out a reported $2 billion for rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Games, they reportedly paid $4.4 billion for the next four Olympics—the 2014 Winter Games, the 2016 Games in Rio, the 2018 Winter Games, and the 2020 Summer Games.  Of course, the result of that huge expenditure will be a veritable avalanche of TV commercials.  How else do you think a network gets its money back?

The Olympics have become a bloated, gaudy, over-hyped anachronism.  Those who complain that they would miss it should be reminded that they can see track meets, gymnastic meets, swimming meets and wrestling matches any time they like at local high schools and colleges.  But those events regularly draw miniscule crowds.  Why?  Because without the phony hype and hoopla of the Olympics, nobody cares.

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail