So here we are in the midst of another Olympics Games. I haven't been watching it much, but a headline in a local newspaper caught my attention:
"Olympic Games Symbolize Hope"
It was one of those feel-good articles stating that the Rio de Janeiro Games will be 'extraordinary' and provide the world with a sense of hope: Hope in that a struggling country can take its place on the world stage. Hope for young people who aspire to be the best in the world. Hope that we can rejoice in the spirit of sport and set our global differences aside.
The reality is that the preamble leading up to these games is hauntingly familiar, and Brazil is just the latest host country to be underprepared for the Olympics; Broken infrastructure promises, cost overruns, evictions of thousands of low income people, and semi-completed venues are the norm for most countries that have taken the Olympics. Rio has deployed 85,000 security forces and they will likely require more. In most countries, including our own Vancouver Olympics, it is the cost overruns around security, and overly optimistic predictions of tourism that have led to cancellation of the proposed benefits from the games. The infrastructure promises that the Athlete's Village will be converted into social housing are never fulfilled due to cost overruns,, and are instead sold off as expensive condominiums. For the housing and athletic venues, the developers reap a windfall of profits, while the government and taxpayers are left to pay for it.
Brazil, which is already suffering from the collapse of oil prices and political scandals, will feel the financial effects of these games long after the games have reached a 'successful conclusion' and the IOC has left town with it's pockets stuffed with cash. The Brazilian government set aside 12 billion dollars for these games in the middle of an economic crisis, diverting funds from healthcare and education. The government has displaced more than 77,000 people to demolish low income housing for construction of the athletic venues.
Due to the history of countries left with staggering costs as a result of hosting the Olympics, the IOC is having a harder time finding countries with an interest in bidding for the games, forcing the IOC to partner with authoritarian regimes, by awarding the games to China in 2008 and Russia in 2012 (the 2022 Winter Olympics will return to Beijing).
The IOC's 'commitment to hosting green games' should also have people shaking their heads in wonder. What commitment? It's hard to believe they're being environmentally sensitive when the athletes will be swimming or rowing in water contaminated with feces and garbage.
Speaking personally, as an individual who has overcome depression, alcoholism to became a competitive marathon runner, I really do want to see the stories of people overcoming adversity to become the best in the world, I just don't think that is what the Olympics is about, at least not in this century. I do believe the Olympics really were started to foster a mutual understanding and friendship through friendly competition and fair play. At some point, however, the games were taken over by sheer gluttony and avarice. The Olympics has moved from being a venerated, respected symbol of hope to being managed by an organization that is unaccountable, incompetent and corrupt. The five rings represent a mega sports entertainment empire which is tightly controlled and sold to the highest bidder. Perhaps when the value diminishes, the Olympics will return to its goals of promoting peace and being a real 'symbol of hope.'