Tag Archives: IOC

Dump the Olympics

A woman attends a demonstration against the Olympic Games near the Maracana stadium ahead of the opening ceremony for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

A woman attends a demonstration against the Olympic Games near the Maracana stadium ahead of the opening ceremony for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
August 6, 2016

There comes a time in life when all good things must come to an end. This is certainly true of the “modern” Olympics with one small change – the Olympics are no longer a good thing.

Once a celebration of the best amateur athletes in the world, the Olympics have turned into a nationalistic orgy,  of cash for the organizing committee, performance enhancing drugs, and cheating on a scale that, with the complete suspension of the Russian track and field and weight-lifting teams, has finally shown to have reached the top levels of competing governments.

It is understandable why people appreciate the efforts of ‘clean’ athletes, who probably do comprise the vast majority winter and summer Olympic competitors. Young people devote many years of their lives to perfecting an athletic skill, often in areas where no real financial award or lucrative commercial contract await them after the games are over. When was the last time you saw an archer or a badminton player or a canoeist with a sponsorship deal that put them on a box of cereal?

On occasion the Olympics have also provided important historical moments with global implications, such as Jesse Owens’ surgical dismantling of the myth of Aryan superiority at the 1936 Games in Berlin. The addition of a Palestinian team, since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, provides recognition for a people often denied it.

Security personnel surround an Olympic torch bearer (rear) running along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Security personnel surround an Olympic torch bearer (rear) running along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

These pluses, however, are far outweighed by a tsunami of negatives. In addition to the bribery, cheating and nationalistic skull-duggery mentioned above, there is the cost that too often leave host cities – indeed, host countries – buried under a staggering debt that takes many years to pay off. The 1992 winter games almost bankrupted France. It took Montreal 30 years to completely pay off its 1976 summer games; by that time the original $110 million US cost, with the combination of capital and interest, had become $3 billion. A study done by Oxford University found that between 1962 and 2012, host cities experienced, on average, a 179% cost overrun in the run-up to the games.

The games that opened Friday in Rio are a further example of how the Olympics can destroy a nation’s finances. Multiple venues in Rio are under-prepared, cost-overruns are rampant, security is iffy at best, and the games are even associated with the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff.

The reason why these ridiculous displays must stop, however, is because the original mission of the Olympics’ has become so perverted that it barely can be recognized. Instead of a celebration of athletics, today’s games  primarily exist for the Olympic Organizing Committee to make obscene amounts of cash (which often include bribes from countries stupid enough to want to try and host the Olympics) and for nations or ideologies to prove that they are superior to all others.

The Communists were particularly adept at cheating in order to prove they had the superior system, and their political descendants in Russia have continued their efforts. Many years ago, I interviewed Nancy Garapick, the Canadian swimmer who was one of the few ‘sure bets’ that Canada had for any gold medal in the 1976 games. (They didn’t win any in the end.) She told me of the night of the finals for the backstroke, when East German swimmers stood in front of her and flexed, aided (as we now know) by years of taking PEDs.

“It totally unnerved me,” she told me. “I knew I didn’t stand a chance against these women.”

She took home the bronze.

Another case in point. The idea behind the Olympic Village was for athletes around the world to make life long connections with other young athletes. As the Olympics have featured more and more professionals, the Olympic village is increasingly where the poor “amateurs” go, while highly paid professional athletes stay in luxury accommodations, like the yacht used by this year’s US Olympic basketball team.

Then there is the increasingly complicated question of security. I am old enough to remember watching what happened at Munich in 1972, with the attack by terrorists on members of the Israeli team. There was the 1996 bombing in Atlanta by Eric Rudolph, an anti-abortion, anti-gay terrorist. These days the Olympics are a target for organizations like the Islamic State, al-Qaeda or Rudolph’s Army of God, meaning security reaches such a level that civil rights are regularly ignored and the cost continually escalates.

For all its pomp and ceremony, for all the good moments it regularly provides, this event has run its course.

Instead of celebrating great athletic moments, we will spend the Rio games wondering how many Russians competitors really are ‘clean,’ how many swimmers and sailors will end up with serious diseases after competing in the filthy waters surrounding Rio, which cyclist cheated this time, how many finalists in the 100-meter final are on PEDS, and what kind of under-the-table incentives were paid to Olympic officials to let then hold these games here in the first place.

The Olympic Games have become a joke. Which is just one more reason why it’s time to just stop holding them. Anywhere.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Correction: Swimmer Nancy Garapick competed in the backstroke; the original article said breaststroke.

LINKS

10 Olympic Games That Nearly Bankrupted Their Host Countries: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/10-olympic-games-bankrupted-host-countries.htm

Doping’s Darkest Hour; The East Germans and The 1976 Montreal Games: https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/dopings-darkest-hour-the-east-germans-and-the-1976-montreal-games/

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Matters of Facts, and Opinions this week

Shepherds direct their herd as they migrate to summer pastures in Serra da Estrela, near Seia, Portugal June 27, 2015. In late June, shepherds young and old in the Seia region of central Portugal start guiding sheep, goats and cattle to the Serra da Estrela, the country’s highest mountains, in search of better pastures. There they stay until the end of September. Modern-day shepherds may have mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends, but their lifestyle has changed little for centuries. The sound of cowbells and the bark of longhaired mastiffs starts early in the morning as the animals – often decorated with traditional woollen balls on their horns - are herded up steep, narrow paths.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Photo-essay:

Old Traditions, New Pastures: Portugal’s last shepherds (unlocked)*

Photographer Rafael Marchante, of Reuters, accompanied a flock of sheep and goats from the Portuguese region of Seia during the first three days of ascent, living alongside some of the last shepherds who preserve this ancient tradition. Modern-day shepherds may have mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends, but their lifestyle has changed little for centuries.Transhumance, the ascent in search of better pastures, normally takes place from June to late September. In the area around the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in Portugal, this seasonal ritual has been followed since Roman times.  Click here for more photo-essays.

Dispatches:

No snow, no problem — China wins 2022 Winter Olympics. By Reuters (unlocked)*

The snow will be fake, but the very real financial muscle China boasts proved decisive on Friday when Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Human rights activists criticized the award, saying the International Olympic Committee had sent the wrong message at a time of growing government pressure on activists and civil society.

Stop killer robots, researchers warn in open letter. By Toby Walsh (unlocked)*

An open letter by major researchers and thinkers calls for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons, known as “killer robots.” The July 27 letter was signed by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Skype co-founder Jaan Talinn linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, plus some 1,000  leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Ebola vaccine holds hope for end of scourge. By Reuters (unlocked)*

The world is on the verge of being able to protect humans against Ebola, the World Health Organization said, as a trial in Guinea found a vaccine to have been 100 percent effective. Initial results from the trial, which tested Merck and NewLink Genetics’ VSV-ZEBOV vaccine on some 4,000 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed Ebola case, showed complete protection after 10 days.

 The search for sustainable plastics. By Phil McKenna (unlocked)*

3314227532_e338e91363_oThe fate of the world’s oceans may rest inside a stainless steel tank not quite the size of a small beer keg. Inside, genetically modified bacteria turn corn syrup into a churning mass of polymers that can be used to produce a wide variety of common plastics. 

Commentary:

Why it’s right not to vote in Canada, by Tom Regan (unlocked)*

There’s a brouhaha as Canada prepares for the upcoming federal election, over whether Canadians like me who live abroad should have the right to vote after being out of the country for a certain period of time. We should not. Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it. It would be like throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded.

Canada’s pipeline project runs through swamp of Malaysian politics, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)*

British Columbians need to know how closely the fate of their $40 billion natural gas pipeline deal is tied to the survival of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. There are two unsavoury reasons. If Najib loses control of his position, his successor may see  projects associated with him as tainted. Should he survive, does Premier Christie Clark relish the prospect of the northern pipeline project, in which she has invested so much political capital and of which she has such grandiose expectations, resting in the hands of a man, Najib, around whom swirls the smell of bribery, corruption and even murder?

Robert Goddard and The Big Blue Marble, by Jim McNiven (unlocked)*

Robert Goddard was the quintessential Yankee inventor. Born in 1882, he was raised and lived much of his life in Worcester, Massachusetts. Goddard was a sickly boy who fell behind in school and did not graduate until he was twenty-two. Spending lots of time home in bed, he became a voracious reader, and was highly taken with H.G.Wells’s War of the Worlds, which was published when he was sixteen. At seventeen he discovered his life’s work while staring at the sky as he pruned trees around his parents’ house. He would devise a way to escape Earth’s gravity and travel through space.

Living With an Ankle Bracelet in America. By M.M., Loose Leaf salon  (unlocked)*

I cannot sleep. There is a device on my leg. It requires that I wake up an hour early so I can plug it into a charger and stand next to the outlet, like a cell phone charging up for the day. Not the day, actually, but 12 hours. After that, the device runs out of juice. Wherever I am, I have to find an outlet to plug myself into. If I don’t, I’m likely to be thrown back onto Rikers Island. At the age of 22, I landed in prison. Though I had grown up around violence, it was my first time in trouble. I’d taken the law into my own hands during an altercation, because where I come from, we don’t dial 911 for help — we see how badly police officers treat people like us. 

Arts:

Anne Murray. Guy McPherson photo courtesy of the Fraser MacPherson estate

Finding Her Roots in Country Music: Anne Murray, by Brian Brennan (paywall)*

At a press conference I once asked Donny Osmond how many times a day he brushed his teeth to keep them so sparkling white. He answered, in all seriousness, that his teeth were capped. Then his publicist kicked me out of the room. Clearly, I was not showing the proper respect. I was also kicked out of the room when I asked the Bay City Rollers if a singer had to be five foot five or less in order to qualify for membership in the band. In Anne Murray’s case, I didn’t ask any silly questions.

The Man Booker is stacked in favour of big publishers. By Stevie Marsden (unlocked)*

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction has announced its longlist for the 2015 award. Now in its 46th year, the award is among the most prestigious in the literary world. It is also incredibly generous to the big publishing houses.

Expert Witness: 

Cecil the lion’s fate a matter of conservation. By Lochran Traill and Norman Owen-Smith (unlocked)*

Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death. But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.

 

Brent Stapelkamp

Cecil and a lioness. Brent Stapelkamp

 

Recommended elsewhere: 

Life with the lions: revisited, Oxford university science blog, by Pete Wilton

The killing of Cecil the lion was one of the lions fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University research led by Andrew Loveridge. Oxford revisits a 2012 interview with Loveridge about his work with lions. … read more on Oxford’s site.

Last but not least, in memory of Cecil and all other creatures killed by “trophy” hunters:

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