I used to love the Olympics. Really I did. Even the patriotic schmaltz-fest that was the ’96 Games in Atlanta holds a special place in my heart (watching the Men’s Gymnastics finals, some friends and I put together our own version of a mixed-media relay … I’ll save that story for another time).
So it saddens me to have learned what a corrupt money-grab the modern Olympics have become. As one of my favorite sports bloggers notes, the IOC may be even more corrupt than notoriously corrupt FIFA:
The IOC’s politics are way more unpredictable and opaque than FIFA’s. The IOC has all kinds of influences and stakeholders that might not be as obvious to observers as those within FIFA. Here are some examples.
FIFA’s Confederations make for more bloc voting, which both corrupts and simplifies the process. Meaning when Jack Warner or Issa Hayatou promises their confederations’ support, they not only mean it, but can get it done too. Have no doubts that CONCACAF will vote as a block (even Mexico) in favor of the US hosting a World Cup. The IOC and any alliances/blocs within it, tend to be harder to read. It’s well known for example that FIFA chief Sepp Blatter’s powerbase consists of CONCACAF, Asia and the Persian Gulf states especially. If Blatter says he favors “X,” it’s safer to assume that thus CONCACAF, AFC, and the Gulf States will go with him. Also, look and see where FIFA Goal Program funding is going. You can almost guarantee these countries will side with Blatter. This sounds paradoxical, but FIFA is so obviously corrupt it almost makes it more transparent.
Within the IOC, it’s less clear and involves more figures “outside” the formal process.
I think Anne Marie Cox (aka the original “Wonkette”), says it best when she notes that Chicago dodged a bullet:
Critics can try to pinpoint the reason that Barack Obama’s charm offensive failed him in Copenhagen. But as a former Chicago resident and patriotic American, I’m glad the city lost the bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. The Olympics, while rooted in grand traditions of fair play and noble amateurism, have become a corrupted and corrupting institution. The bid to be host city is an opportunity for untrammeled graft and favor-trading; the bid for the medals themselves is increasingly a contest of bank accounts, not bodies.
It’s a sad truth. And as a true fan of sports — and of what the Olympic idea might represent — it’s one of the reasons that I frankly don’t care if the Games are in Chicago, or Rio, or Timbuktu. For my part, I’d rather watch Michael Phelps smoke a bowl than go for the gold. At least that’s honest, and not overburdened and corrupted by the greed of big corporations and small men.