Tag Archives: IOC

Rio 2016: An Olympics I Cannot, Will Not Support

Never in a million years did I think I’d be writing a post like this.  The girl who grew up wanting more than anything to become an

coubertin

Olympian, who instead became the biggest fan of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement, is experiencing heartache of epic proportion. It’s over.  

At least for now it’s over.  I won’t be so bold as to say that the Olympics and I are “consciously uncoupling,” but I have made the decision to step away.  We’re on a break.  And I’ve got to do some soul searching over the coming months to decide what happens next.  

I’ve been watching the Olympics for as long as I can remember, watching them religiously since I was 10.  I’ve never failed to watch an opening ceremony.  I’ve never missed the key events I wanted to watch.  When I began this blog six years ago, I was able to write about all the feelings the Olympics bring out in me.  I was able to share my excitement with others through my writing, on the radio, and in social media.  It made me love the games even more than I thought I could.  Until now.  

On a personal level, 2016 has been a really tough year.  Surely the Olympics–the one thing I’ve relied on to escape the pain of real life–wouldn’t let me down, too?  It did.  In fact, the IOC had been letting me down for awhile, but I was too naive or stubborn to realize it.

I really wanted to support an  Olympics in South America.  I wanted to see the Olympics expand to other continents.  I wanted the 2016 Olympics to help energize the Brazilian economy.  I was crossing my fingers for a Rio Games that would be recognized for environmental sustainability, an Olympics as green as the Brazilian flag.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.

The reasons behind my painful decision stem from the level of corruption within the IOC which continues to grow.  Cities are being awarded Olympics in exchange for money and other favors.  After the deals are done and the Olympics are awarded, the bulldozers come in, destroying people’s homes, leaving innocent residents homeless.  Those who protest are beaten, imprisoned, or silenced in other ways.  It happened in Beijing.  In Sochi.  And it happened again in Rio.

There is raw sewage flowing directly into the water where athletes will be competing and where visitors will be swimming.  Trash, dead animals, and other large items are also floating around in the waters surrounding Rio de Janeiro, which directly impact the safety and performance of athletes competing in the waters.  (Did I mention the bay in which swimmers will be competing contains raw sewage?)

There’s also this tiny thing called the Zika Virus.  While the source of Zika is a mosquito, the virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse.  It’s the Olympics.  There’s a lot of sex at the Olympics.

Maybe it’s a delayed part of growing up.  Maybe this year’s US Presidential campaign awoke a voice in me, and I cannot in good conscience condone the atrocities occurring in the name of the Olympic Movement.

I still don’t believe Olympic athletes should be paid.  Yet I also disagree that they should be banned from certain privileges while the IOC rakes in billions of dollars.  The IOC isn’t just receiving these gifts directly to its non-profit organization, but individual members of this governing body are pocketing millions of dollars and receiving other favors, profiting off of the trials and tribulations of the Olympic athletes.

This is not the Olympics I grew up watching.  Or, maybe it was, but the level of greed, corruption, and harm inflicted on the innocent has increased.   Because of this, I can no longer feel good about watching the Olympics.  It certainly isn’t the Olympics founded by Coubertin.  

To any doubters or naysayers, I encourage you to watch the most recent episode of “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.”  Some of what Gumbel and his fellow journalists reported I knew about, but not all of it.  My eyes are now fully open.  I am heartbroken.

Some of you might say, “But in a world full of so much despair, don’t we need the Olympics?  Don’t we need them to give us hope?  Why such negativity?”  Yes, with the current world in which we live, we need something every few years to distract us, dazzle us, and offer an escape.  But we need the Olympics of old.  Otherwise, by watching and supporting the Olympics Games of the 21st Century, we are only aggrandizing the amount of suffering and despair in this world.

The one thing I thought I could count on has failed me.  It  has truly and fully succumbed to the powers of human greed and evil.  My heart is heavy.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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“All Sports For All People”

“All sports for all people. This is surely a phrase that people will consider foolishly utopian. That prospect troubles me not at all. I have pondered and studied it at length, and know that it is correct and possible.” – Pierre de Coubertin

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern-Day Olympics, wrote these words more than 90 years ago.  And yet only this weekend did Saudi Arabia make the decision to allow women to compete in the Olympics for the first time.  (Don’t expect to see any athletes competing in a bathing suit or leotard, though.)  Qatar, excluded from consideration for 2020, announced it would submit another bid for the 2024 Olympics. Yet 2012 will be the first year that it also has fielded an Olympic team that includes women.

Writers like Mark McDonald have remarked that the IOC’s track record on equality issues is inconsistent.  The IOC never sanctioned countries like Saudi Arabia for its discrimination of women, but was none too hesitant to bar South Africa from the Games for 28 years because of Apartheid.  I’ll go even further:  Why did the IOC still allow an Olympics to be held in Nazi Germany after it was widely known that the country had established anti-Semitic policies?  Why did the IOC award the 2008 Games to China, a country which fails to respect human rights, including those of its own athletes?

What I find more egregious than the inconsistency is that the IOC has banned countries at all.  Let me explain.  It’s easy to applaud the sanction of countries for their unethical policies.  Initially I supported the banning of South Africa.  It disgusts me that people have been–and still are being–prevented from competing in sports because of gender, race, or creed.   But then I thought about the hundreds of South African athletes who never got the chance to compete in an Olympics because their country was banned.  How many men and women who were fast, strong, agile, and hard-working never got the chance?  How many innocent athletes, who didn’t support the actions of their government, were denied the chance to fulfill their dreams of competing in the Olympics?  How many gold, silver, or bronze medalists did we never see during these 28 years?  And yes, this same argument can be made for all of the black South African athletes, or the Saudi women who never were afforded a chance.

I don’t have a solution, but it isn’t fair to punish the innocent for the immoral and ignorant actions of their government.  It’s no different than those countries which decide to boycott Olympics.  They are decisions from which no one wins and everyone loses.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Pre-Olympics Buzz, Fanatic a Tad Overwhelmed

The Olympics are still about two months away (63 days, 7 hours, 07 minutes at the time I began to write this entry), but already the buzz and excitement are palpable–and not just in London.  Eurovision may be happening this weekend, but around the world people are getting super excited about the upcoming Summer Olympics in London, England. 

It makes me happy to know  that 116 years after the first Modern Games were held, there is still so much interest and excitement about the Games.  I’m also beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed.

So much has been happening over the past week:

  • The IOC and US Olympic Committee have come to an agreement on a new revenue-sharing deal, which means that the USOC will now support American cities which wish to bid on hosting rights for future Olympic Games. 
  • The IOC whittled down its list of 2020 Olympic Host Cities down to three:  Madrid, Istanbul, and Tokyo.   I’m less than thrilled with this final list.  I hope my opinion will change. 
  • On May 18 David Beckham helped mark the arrival of the Olympic torch from Greece to England.  Does this mean he won’t be one of the athletes to bring the torch in to the stadium during Opening Ceremony?
  • A few days later the torch relay made a wrong turn during its tour of England near Bristol, and its whereabouts were unknown for about 10 minutes.  The torch’s flame also went out when it passed through Great Torrington in Devon.    It’s good they’re getting all the kinks out now.  Let’s hope there won’t be a malfunction during the Opening Ceremony like that in Vancouver.

Now, this is just the tip of the Olympic-related iceberg for news and events.  How am I to stay “in the know” about everything when I have a full-time job–that isn’t related to the Olympics?    It’s not that I need to for the sake of this blog.  Rather, it’s something I want!

The heart is starting to beat a bit faster as we inch ever so closer to the 2012 Olympics. 

Faster, Higher, Stronger

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Toronto Bows Out of 2020 Games–Wake Up, IOC!

Pierre de Coubertin once said, “Holding an Olympic Games means evoking history.”  It also means shelling out a whole lot of money.

In these difficult and uncertain financial times, even the Olympic Games aren’t immune.  The city’s mayor announced Thursday that the Ontario capital would not submit a bid.  My heart sank as I read the news, faster than a .

And what was the reason for the decision?   “It’s the economy, stupid!”

The Globe & Mail reported that Mayor Robby Ford’s office released a statement saying that “….out of cost concerns, despite assurances the bid would have come at no cost to city taxpayers.” With Lisbon in the midst of a mammoth financial crisis, Toronto was my other personal choice.  The city’s location, size, and friendly inhabitants makes it an obvious choice to host the Summer Olympics, and why it’s never been chosen continues to baffle me.  I had really  hoped 2020 would be “Toronto’s time.”

The reason behind Mayor Ford’s decision brings up some interesting questions for debate.  Are the Olympics becoming too expensive to host?  Who should absorb the majority of the hosting costs?  Taxpayers?  The IOC?  Corporate sponsors?  Is it worth it to even host–especially if a city will either lose money or only break even?

Residents of Vancouver have been openly critical of the financial costs for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Many Londoners have already criticized the costs of hosting next year’s Summer Games.  Many previous hosts have or are still facing mammoth post-Olympic debts, as debated by several New York Times guest columnists.

Last year GamesBids.com reported that the IOC was considering offering financial incentives to cities bidding for hosting rights.  The rumor began after only three cities submitted bids for the 2018 Winter Games.  And with only Rome, Madrid, Istanbul, and Tokyo having submitted formal bids for the 2020 Summer Games, surely the IOC has to be moving forward with this plan?  With the financial chaos and difficulties facing so many governments, bidding for the Olympics—as well as hosting–just isn’t realistically affordable.

According to GamesBids.com incentives would be offered to cities which are unsuccessful in bidding to  host the Games.  Possible incentives include “…. endowments to local universities to set up permanent athletic scholarships;  grants towards the construction of permanent amateur sports facilities and possibly financial assistance for national teams” that participate in future Olympics.  And here’s the real kicker:  To the city which won hosting rights, “….the IOC may be willing to bear 50% of the financial risk of organizing the Games – including cost overruns of any non-capital expenses.” And why hasn’t the IOC already been doing this?

As a fanatic of the Olympic Games, I believe that hosting the Olympics is a privilege, a grand opportunity.  Yet at what cost should a city and its country try for?  It’s time the IOC wakes up and gets with the times.  As much of a gift as hosting the Olympics is, cities cannot bear the sole financial responsibility.  It’s time the IOC steps up and takes on the role of grantor and awards more than just the designated host city.

Finally, here’s a question I leave with you.  What would Coubertin think of how financially absorbed and commercially driven the Olympics have become?  The Olympic Games are for the world and all nations must be admitted to them.

Swifter,  Higher, Stronger.

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Steve Holcomb’s DUI: Bafflement, Disappointment and Inevitability

On Tuesday, Steve Holcomb appeared in a Park City, Utah courtroom.  The appearance was for a pre-trial hearing concerning his DUI arrest.  Yep, Steve Holcomb, Olympic Champion is also Steve Holcomb, DUI arrestee.

Holcomb’s story leading up to February 2010 was one that was made for the Olympics.  He had been diagnosed in 2002 with a degenerative eye disorder which threatened to end both his competitive career and Olympic dreams.  But with surgery he was able to return to the sport and with the help of his three teammates, steer his way to a gold medal.  His comeback story was one of my favorites from the Vancouver Games.  Yet little did I know–little did any of us know, that while he smiled atop the podium, he had been arrested just four months earlier on DUI charges.  Holcomb’s pre-trial hearing on December 7 set a trial date for March 17, 2011.

Bafflement

The news which first leaked in mid-November came as a shock to most of us fans.  How is it that an arrest which took place in October 2009 is just now being addressed with a pre-trial hearing?  How was Holcomb, out on bail with a possible pending conviction, able to travel to Canada and compete for the US Olympic Team?  How did such a scandalous charge for an Olympic athlete remain hidden from the media and fans?

Disappointment

Yet again another athlete has disappointed fans through poor judgment and irresponsible behavior.  What I find myself debating, though, is whether I’m more disappointed that he (allegedly) committed the crime before the Olympics, or whether I’d be more crestfallen had he been arrested after Vancouver.  In all honesty, it shouldn’t matter.  His behavior is reprehensible, and whether it occurred before or after the 2010 Games, all I can think of saying is, “How could you be so stupid?”  Holcomb was foolish for jeopardizing his opportunity to compete in Vancouver and for endangering his safety (not to mention the safety of others traveling the roads that evening).  I find myself wanting to ask him if he would ever steer a bobsled down the track drunk, because I don’t think he would.

The Inevitability

Perhaps we are the foolish ones for placing these athletes on such high pedestals.  After all, athletes are human and it is inevitable that they are as capable of making mistakes as we are –and as we do in our everyday lives. But it is also inevitable, I think, that we will hold them to a higher standard and place them on a podium above the rest.

Athletes who work so arduously toward reaching a goal are often buoyed by the support of us fans.  So maybe we have a right to hold them to a higher standard?   Olympians’ competing and possibly winning at the Olympics are unique achievements which most of us hold in high esteem.   Their accomplishments and accolades are what we often dream of too, but never achieve.  They are possible only for a small percentile.  Those of us who never played a sport or perhaps never excelled in one can live vicariously through them.  In some odd way, those like Steve Holcomb who earn Olympic glory enable us to share in the happiness.   As a kid who tried to make a balance beam in the front yard, created a make-believe ice rink in the living room, and who begged the parents to go to the local pool, the closest I’ll ever come to Olympic glory is through those athletes I support.  I don’t know how to separate the athlete from the human and not be disappointed when my Olympic heroes are imperfect.  Maybe none of us do.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger.

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Women’s Ski Jumping Approved? Well, Sort of….

It wasn’t the worst news that supporters of women’s ski jumping could have received.  It wasn’t the best, either.  In a statement released yesterday, the IOC stated that it looked “favorably” on women’s ski jumping being added to the 2014 Olympics, but that a final decision would not be made until after the world championships next year.   Yet again, women’s ski jumping has not been given a final clearance for take-off.  But it is the most promising news the sport has received, and as jumper Lindsey Van told USA Today, “They didn’t say no, so we’re headed in the right direction.” (Click here for the article.)

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Filed under Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Figure Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Luge, Olympic Fever, Ski Jumping, Snowboarding

Important Decisions for IOC in Acapulco

Today the IOC began a three-day meeting in Acapulco, Mexico.  Aside from the palm trees, azure waters, and warm sun, IOC officials have some important issues to discuss.  Ironically, while they are all gathered in a sunny, tropical destination, they will be voting on issues concerning sporting events which are hoping for inclusion in frigid snow-covered host cities, beginning in 2014.

The IOC could create an American Idol-style show for IOC Committee results and I’d watch.  I can imagine ESPN or NBC hosting the show, with Bob Costas or Rod Black as the emcee.  They’d revel in keeping the audience enticed:

“And, now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Will women’s ski jumping be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, Russia?  We’ll find out…right after the break.”
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Filed under Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Figure Skating, Luge, Olympic Fever, Ski Jumping