As far as I’m concerned, the International Olympic Committee owes the city of Chicago $50 million. Chicago threw that money at a huge bid trying to win their affections; getting the 2016 Olympics became one of the city’s great fiascos. Money aside, the city nearly killed itself trying to destroy a large public park in a low-income residential neighborhood in order to build a stadium and athlete housing and tried to add a piece of imagery to the city flag to commemorate the games. All of it proved to be for nothing when the IOC threw a hissy fit because the Olympic logo it proposed featured their precious, beloved torch, which is apparently not allowed to be used in any Olympic imagery. Overall, Chicago’s then-Mayor, Richard Daley, appeared to be banking his entire urban development plan on getting the Olympics.
While everyone gets sappy-eyed and teary over the best underdog story or cheering on the United States in a patriotic fervor over the next couple of weeks, the only thing I can do is shake my head sadly at the peoples’ sheep level flying off the charts. The Olympics are here, and once again we’re allowing ourselves to be caught up in a series of games in which the main committee hates human rights, destroys everything it touches, and brings nothing but two weeks of prestige to cities which really don’t need it. Wow, London 2012. The Olympics are taking place in the Capitol of the World. I hope the IOC didn’t stub its toe stepping on the other cities trying to make the cut.
The Olympics are the greatest sham in sports. The International Olympic Committee raises social injustice to an art form. China 2008, anyone? Current displacement in Rio de Janeiro? To make Mexico City presentable for the 1968 Olympics, hundreds of workers and students were deliberately killed. What about the famed 1936 games in Berlin? We learn about that one in school, raised with glorious images of Jesse Owens gliding past Hitler and shaming his vision of an Aryan superiority world. But the public schools where we see that image, as they so often do, don’t tell nearly enough of the story. The fact that Owens was forced to race against race horses when he returned home is omitted for some reason. So is the fact that he was only racing because the US refused to send its original runners, who were Jews, out of respect to the fucking Nazis. And by the way, the famous running of the torch was created by the Nazis during this Olympic year to propagandize. It does not, contrary to popular belief, go back to ancient Greece.
In 2008, Beijing put a whopping $42 BILLION price tag on the Olympics and displaced over two million people in order to make them possible. London spent over twice what it originally projected to make the Olympics happen, and everything still isn’t hunky dory there. Surely we’ve all heard about the security problems, so there’s no point in repeating that here. And that money, by the way, is coming entirely from the taxpayers. The Olympics were held in Montreal in 1976, and not paid off until 2006. Athens went over 1000 percent over budget in 2004. The argument frequently used to reel in the Olympics is one we’ve heard so often from civic developers: It will kick up the economy and create jobs. Sports facilities in general, though, have repeatedly proven to be terrible about doing that. A typical experience comes from the Sydney Olympics from 2000, when Olympic tourism introduced a gross domestic product raise of all of one percent. Three years after hosting the Olympics, tourism increased less in New South Wales – the Australian province where Sydney is located – than it did in the rest of the country. Its stadium didn’t make any money, and presumably the grand new jobs produced were mainly two-week-long stints selling T-shirts. The stadium only had one event, an opera, scheduled in 2009.
The athlete housing from Seoul and Atlanta both necessitated the razing of low-income neighborhoods, with the claim the housing would be converted into cheaper, better homes for the poor, but social activists in both places say all it did was pave the way for richer people.
The Olympics might have been about sports back when they were rebooted in 1896, but the spectacle of the modern Olympics were created in Berlin in those 1936 games. All the great pageantry was created in those games, and that effectively turned any sport the Olympics were about into a big, nationalist, international pissing contest. It’s a safe bet the IOC is in America’s pocket, because the United States just appears to miraculously excel at every new event the games introduce every four years, no matter how obscure. One of the newer Olympic events in the Winter Olympics is called skeleton, which is basically luge except it’s headfirst instead of feet-first. The USA has won more medals than any other country, an odd development when one considers the fact that we once battled it out for summer supremacy with the Soviet Union and kept getting burned in the Winter Olympics. There are some countries where it’s a big deal if one of their athletes returns with a single bronze medal. Yet in America, there are people who would have considered 2008 Olympic hero Michael Phelps a complete failure if he had come home with only seven gold medals instead of the eight that were expected of him.
The medal system was only created when the Olympics were introduced in their current form in 1896. While modern athletes doing the ancient Greeks proud seems to be a common image, the ancients actually had more teeth. They didn’t use a medal system. If you competed, you either won or you lost. First prize got all the privilege and glory one could imagine. Victors were given olive branches, but had songs written about them and sculptures of them created and were often given prizes like large chunks of money and vats of olive oil. Second prize got run out of Athens. The games in ancient times were also a lot more brutal. Especially the fight contests – boxing, wrestling, and a particularly brutal form of fighting called pankration. Boxing was nasty business back then; fighters wore thick leather straps instead of gloves, and fights went on, without breaks, for however long it took for someone to go down. Pankration only had two rules, no biting and no gouging. All the athletes played in the buff.
Corruption in the events is just a straw man for the very real corruption that happens in the high echelons of the IOC itself. The Olympics are bullshit for sheep. I won’t be watching.