I hate the Olympic Games, all of them. Intended to bring friendship, they instead arouse infantile and, or, toxic nationalistic instincts. For me, this nationalistic fervor wipes out the sports and performance values. Not coincidentally, the most recent games, with the exception of London, have been organized by the dictatorships of China and Russia. The Olympic Games are state-sponsored vanity projects aimed at masking the host nation’s failings on the world stage. Not surprisingly, most Olympic Games end up as economic failures with few concrete benefits. Many host countries have exploited the games to advance their nationalistic agenda, making sport competition an instrument of their imperialist political goals. Conversely, some participating countries’ heads of state exploit the prowess and medals of their athletes to either boost their standing or mask their failures.
Potential host countries sell the games to their skeptical citizens by promising livelihood improvements (one may ask why these needed improvements are not made in the first place!). Fortunes are spent on grand sports venues and infrastructures, many of which become white elephants. The local population has little say in decision-making but often advocates that education, health, housing and infrastructure are better investments than a stadium.
Last but not least, because the games are both exploited and manipulated for nationalistic purposes, they have led to institutionalized cheating through out-of-control doping schemes. True, enhanced performance drugs are as old as the games themselves and drug-free sport is an oxymoron. Fighting doping has become a hypocritical pursuit. Athletes routinely take enhancing or comfort drugs; however some are afforded smarter and harder to detect drugs and, as a result they may outperform their competitors. In other words, records and medals depend on drug improvement; athletes become guinea pigs of the underground doping industry and pawns of their government’s disillusions of grandeur. These athletes are expandable, willing or forced to take dangerous life-shortening drugs to achieve their governments’ sports goals. Too many countries are doping complacent, but in Russia, doping is state-sponsored. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has nonetheless allowed more than two-thirds of Russian athletes to compete, despite a blanket ban request from the anti-doping agency. IOC is as usual playing politics.
The two faces of Brazil
Now the party is over. Brazil is going through its worst economic recession in decades, compounded with a whacky political crisis. The low price of oil and the billions of dollars-corruption scandal affecting Petrobras, the state-owned oil giant, left the state of Rio de Janeiro bankrupt. Frustrated people wonder why the money is spent on a party rather than on public service improvements and job creation. Ironically, neither Lula nor his successor, Dilma Rousseff, will be in attendance at the opening ceremony. Expecting her impeachment trial, Dilma has been suspended from office. Lula will keep a low profile having been indicted on charges of obstruction of justice. Hopefully, the games will run without too many glitches, something positive in the current doom and gloom.
Brazilians love a good party
The unpopular, lame duck French president, François Hollande, was the first head of state to visit Rio, officially to lobby for Paris to be awarded the 2024 Games. This is Paris’ fourth bid since 1924. Hollande was probably looking for a break from France’s gloomy situation. In its bid, Paris is proposing Seine-Saint-Denis as the Olympic co-venue, a region famous for its violent ghetto-type banlieues. Is Hollande hoping that sport become an alternative to Islamic State enrollment for banlieus’ disenfranchised kids? Knowing that many athletes are shunning Rio, fearful of the Zica virus, one may wonder whether they will welcome banlieue hospitality!
By keeping the media distracted from unpleasant topics like IS, the Zica virus and Trump, among topics, the Rio Olympic Games will provide a three-week escape from current miseries.
Panem et circenses.