Stop the Olympics.
It is time to pause and reimagine them. Maybe even leave them for good.
When I wrote this in April and asked for suggestions on how to fix the Games, readers responded with thoughts on how the Olympics could evolve to remain relevant and, yes, morally defensible in future years. .
It didn’t take long for a consensus to be reached.
readers asked The ethics of organizing the Tokyo Games During a summer in which Japan is still battling hard with the coronavirus pandemic.
He cited a long Olympic history of increased budgets, doping and bribery scandals, massive forcible removals of residents in host cities to make way for new venues, the decision to award the Games to countries with autocracy, and shoddy human rights history, Like Russia and China. And this is just for the beginning.
The image of the Olympic movement took another hit last week with the announcement that star American sprinter Shakari Richardson may miss the Games because, horrifyingly, she Was suspended for a month for marijuana use.
Still, leave the Olympics for good? That idea didn’t fly. But most readers were not happy with the notion of a future maintaining the status quo.
Dick Roth of Park City, Utah, said, “When it comes down to all that trouble, sports are a celebration of humanity and can be a tremendous force for good.” He should know. Now 73, Roth won the swimming gold medal for the United States during the last Tokyo Summer Olympics in 1964.
When I reached out to him over the phone last week, Roth spoke about his relationship with swimmers from Russia and Japan, and the sense of humanity he believes has fueled his life since then. Is done.
But he was also made clear about the fact that time had changed everything, not for the better, and now the Olympic movement would have to dramatically change its course.
Start at the top with the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee, which dominates sports with an amazing vocal deafness.
“The IOC comes from the culture of the upper classes in Europe from the very beginning,” Roth said. “They’re so out of touch. They need to realize that it’s not all about the money, nor all about the gulls. It’s about the athletes. The competition. That’s what’s losing.”
It’s not just former athletes who know something is wrong. Carrie Davis, 42, a Spanish teacher in Denver, rarely pays much attention to other sporting events. But ever since she saw gymnast Mary Lou Rayton at the 1984 Summer Games, Davis has a deeply revered tradition of the Olympics, which she now shares with her three young children.
These days, though, she worries the sport is doing more harm than good.
“Let’s face it, the Olympics need some serious changes right now,” she said.
The recommendations she gave echoed what I regularly hear from readers with drumbeats:
No other Olympics host with a terrible human rights record. No more driven by an insatiable desire for new places that shimmer at every stop. The Tokyo Games will cost about $15.4 billion, almost twice as much as expected and more than any other Summer Olympics.
“There is nothing that benefits the rich and hurts the poor,” Davis said. “Use what’s already there, and that’s it. Nothing more.”
I’m glad to hear a significant base of support for the Olympics defying the single-city model. In this vision, events will be held in pre-built locations and spread across the continent or across the globe. Think swimming in Sydney, boxing in New York, track and field in Eugene, Ore.
Emily Douglas, a 30-year-old bank fraud investigator from Atlanta, took to the idea.
“What’s the use of having all the sports in one place, in one country?” Douglas, who has fond memories of the 1996 Summer Games in his native city. “Is it in the same place so we can have the opening and closing ceremonies? Well, they’re fine, but for me they’re not the highlights of the Olympics. It’s all about the competition, and it can happen anywhere.” “
The spread of games can reduce corruption in the bidding process. It can also reduce the IOC’s power to captively detain a single city or country.
“The decentralization of sports, of course,” said George Hirsch, chairman of the board of the New York Road Runners, the organization that oversees the New York Marathon. During the summer of 1952 Hirsch competed in his first games in Helsinki.
“We will reduce these huge costs and commercialization of sports,” he said. “I put it all in the category of bringing sports back to a human level.”
However, it is likely that discussions of what the Olympics should look like, where and how they should be held, revolve around the real problem. I was surprised to learn how equally distrustful the organizers of the Games are.
I haven’t heard much defense of the IOC, a non-profit that receives funding from the Games while ruling with an elitist, autocratic segregation that is decades behind the times.
To wit, the relentless effort to control athlete opposition in sports.
Consider also Richardson’s suspension announced by the US Anti-Doping Agency. The harsh punishment for marijuana no longer makes sense. But if you’ve been waiting for the Olympic overlord, one of the most powerful forces in all sports, to firmly back Richardson, well, wait.
Players are only pawns in the Olympic movement.
Yes, we can change the look of the games. But unless the IOC is completely redesigned, what will really change about the whole undertaking?
A lot of Japanese residents would undoubtedly agree. As polls show that most of them do not want the Games to go on this summer while the pandemic continues, residents have faced constant thoughtless comments from the jar on the Olympic Committee. For example, one member told The Evening of Standard of London that the Tokyo Games will take place this summer, “Except Armageddon.“This is one hell of a message to send to the only nation on Earth to experience the horrors of nuclear war.
“People have resigned to the idea that the Olympics are going to go ahead, but people are disappointed and scared,” said Koichi Nakano, who teaches political science at Sofia University in Tokyo.
He said that the IOC is creating that fear.
The Japanese, Professor Nakano said, believed the Games would be reconsidered more seriously if the host cities were London or Paris and local residents were vehemently opposed to such.
“So, we have the sense,” he said, “an unaccounted for, European, conceited group of people tracking Japan.”
“The Tokyo Games,” he said, “need to be cancelled.”
Professor Nakano was right. Not that the Olympic overlords would listen. When has he ever done this?