Okay, maybe not everybody. Not the movers and shakers who profit from the Games’ intricacies, not the brokers, not the travel agencies, not the gougers, swindlers and parasites who come out of the woodwork, and certainly not the swinish IOC sycophants whose snouts are buried so deep in the money trough, they have to force themselves to come up occasionally for air.
Ask the 4,200 families in Rio de Janeiro who were forcibly removed from their modest homes in order to make room for Olympic venue construction. Ask them in Portuguese if they are “proud” to see Brazil host the Games (the first South American country to be so honored), and ask if that “pride” offsets being uprooted and discarded.
In the mid-1950s, people rightly complained and protested when a few hundred Mexican-American families were evicted from Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodger Stadium. While this was undeniably an unvarnished power-play orchestrated by the money boys, compared to the international-scale mischief being done in Rio de Janeiro, that Ravine debacle, disgraceful as it was, barely moves the needle.
Also, consider the Big Picture: If we look solely at the net effects on a host country’s economy, the Olympic Games, historically, have been notoriously disruptive. The last Games that didn’t plunder the economy was the 1984 Games, held in LA, and the fact that they managed to come out ahead was largely the result of luck.
Didn’t it take Montreal (site of the 1976 Olympics) something like 25 years to pay off the debt they incurred? Didn’t the good people of Quebec go ape-shit over getting stuck with that monumental tab? In truth, hosting the Games is nothing more than a vanity move done in the service of a miniscule percentage of the population.
Moreover, whatever “purpose” the Olympics once served, it has long since been erased, if not flouted. The world is infinitely smaller than it was in 1896, the year of the first Games—back when it took Americans two weeks to cross the ocean to compete on foreign soil, and when only a handful of people (mainly students and teachers) could even locate Ethiopia on a map, much less claim to have met a citizen.
Today there are two Ethiopian restaurants in Los Angeles. One of them is right down the road from a Somali cafe, not far from the Ukrainian deli and a Thai take-out that used to be a Turkish coffeehouse.
Alas, the Olympic Games are an anachronism, a throwback to another era. All good things must end, including the Soap Box Derby, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, and the swimsuit portion of the Miss America Beauty Pageant. The world has shrunk. For crying out loud, I get e-mails from Africa. I correspond with wealthy Nigerian widows asking me to help them recover money (“Dearest Beloved”). I’m still weighing their offers.
Maybe the best argument for abolishing the Games is the fact that so many events now feature professional athletes. How repugnant and self-destructive is that? The one aspect that made the Olympics watchable—its amateurism and “innocence”—is now gone. Does anyone honestly get a thrill from watching a group of NBA all-stars demolish a team from Mongolia by 44 points? (“USA! USA! USA!)
And speaking of money, there’s the $1.2 billion that NBC paid for rights to broadcast the 2016 Games. $1.2 billion?? Holy decimal point, Batman! If we wonder why there’s so many commercials, that’s what you get when the network needs to sell $1.2 billion worth of air time to advertisers in order to recoup its investment.
This whole thing disturbs me. It bugs me. I think maybe I need a drink. I prefer Reyka vodka. It’s from Iceland.