I must admit that I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics but turned it off just after the American team, 554 strong, entered the stadium. Perhaps it’s simply that it’s a tradition to watch them but in truth, the Olympics no longer holds the interest that it once did. In fact, for the reasons listed below, it’s time for the Modern Olympics to come to an end.
First, the games are a money losing proposition. The host country while feeling great pride at winning, always loses money and for most of the modern-day hosts, that’s money the country could use to actually help their people. Brazil is a perfect example. If Brazil had simply used the money it spent on building the Olympic venues, to help her people, the lives of ordinary Brazilians would have been greatly improved. Instead, as reported in the incredibly eye-opening and competent piece on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, people were displaced from their homes and waste water continues to flow into the beautiful water surrounding Brazil. Nothing has changed or will change for the people who need the most help. In fact the games help no one other than the IOC, sponsors and government officials. Some Brazilians who work temporary jobs, will lose them with the conclusion of the games.
Second, the Olympic games used to be about amateur athletes. Professional athletes should not be able to compete in the Olympics. No one in this country should feel any pride when our basketball team wins by forty and should feel great embarrassment when they barely beat teams they should school. What made the 1980 U.S. Hockey, “Miracle On Ice” team’s victory over the former Soviet Union so outstanding was that it was our kids, most of whom weren’t great hockey players, who beat a team that could have easily competed with the best NHL Hockey teams of the day. It was literally a miracle. The Olympics should be about giving young people the opportunity to compete on the world stage. The Chinese and Russians need to win in order to prove that there terrible and oppressive regimes produce better humans, thereby justifying their totalitarian, despotic, autocratic, systems of governance. That’s what Hitler hoped to show the world in 1936. Thanks to Jesse Owens, the world saw that greatness can be born of freedom even in a country where there was none for his ancestors just a couple of generations earlier.
Third, and most disturbing, most of the athletes competing, use performance enhancing drugs, even if some don’t get caught. Today it’s easier than ever to pass these silly tests that the IOC or any athletic board gives to athletes. There is simply no way that natural athletes can compete at the same level as those using PEDs. So either more stringent, accurate tests are developed, or everyone is permitted to use the same PEDs so that there’s a level playing field. Make no mistake, no one shatters world records without cheating.
I have been around sports my entire life. I ran for a division 1 school, fenced in a Junior Olympic Program, and competed in many Judo tournaments. Never did I consider taking anything. I preferred to losing rather than cheating. And sometimes I actually won. That’s why Lance Armstrong’s doping is so egregious. He stood up and accepted trophies for winning the Tour de France with absolutely no remorse. It says something about a person that words can’t convey. PEDs, steroids, doping or whatever you would like to call cheating, have been in sports for decades. It’s not a new issue. But in a world where we are becoming more natural, organic, green, shouldn’t our athletes also be natural? I would gladly sacrifice athletic achievement knowing that an athlete succeeded not because of drugs or doping but because of hard work. Babe Ruth didn’t take PEDs and yet he was arguably the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. When was the last time someone hit 70 home runs? A sure indication that MLBs crackdown on steroid use has been somewhat successful. Although I didn’t always appreciate the spectacle that was Floyd Mayweather, I always had great respect for the man and his ability without the use of PEDs. He was great because he was great. His athletic ability carried him to the pinnacle of his sport.
Fourth and finally, given the cost of the games and HBO made this point on REAL SPORTS, the only countries in the future that will be able to host them, are totalitarian regimes. They are the most efficient and can spend whatever resources they wish without having to be concerned about answering to anyone. Hence, the 2022 Winter Olympic games will once again be hosted by China. Beijing is to the winter Olympics what New York City is to tropical paradise. Beijing is not a winter venue and should never have been given the games. There is absolutely no justification for it other than the fact that no other, “Real Winter Venue Country” wanted to host them.
Congratulations to Michael Phelps and all of the other American competitors, winners or not. But the games no longer have the meaning they once did and should, in the not too distant future, fade into history.