From the August 29, 2008 American Spectator
September 8, 2008
by John C. Wohlstetter
Now that the Beijing Summer Games have ended, the scorecard can be totaled: (1) one American ally raped and pillaged by a major Olympic country, while the American president cavorted with our team as tanks rolled over the countryside, to stony silence from the International Olympic Committee; (2) a gargantuan opening spectacle that featured digital video fakery, pictorial substitution of a photogenic child for the real kid singer, and 2008 zombies pounding in unison on drums; (3) Chinese kid gymnasts whose true ages were likely below the 16 years minimum; (4) China reneging upon its promise to allow protests during the Games, even sentencing a pair of elderly, frail women to one year at a labor camp for applying to stage a lawful protest -- with the IOC, having promised that awarding the Games would induce Beijing to respect human rights, ignoring Beijing's duplicity; (5) once again, widows of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games unable to persuade the IOC to formally memorialize them, lest Arab sensibilities be offended.
The modern Games, as conceived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin for 1896 in Athens, bear not the slightest resemblance to the amateur ideal those embodied. Today's Games are a multi-billion dollar cash cow. Even before his gold orgy at the Beijing Games, Michael Phelps was earning $5 million annually; he earned a $1 million bonus from Speedo for his epic harvest. Training is a full-time job; there are no true amateur athletes anymore. Cheating is endemic. Pseudo-sports like synchronized swimming dot the video landscape, and sports like tennis and baseball clutter a vastly overstuffed extravaganza. There are countless world championship events, none of which existed in 1896. Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union and East Germany, and now China deformed the Games by their totalitarian sports programs.
The Olympic Charter sets forth the "fundamental principles of Olympism," of which the second merits particular notice:
2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
As Russian athletes competed in the Games, and as Russian Tsar Vladimir Putin attended Beijing's opening party, Russian tanks rolled to begin the dismemberment of Georgia, which had the temerity to think its entire sovereign territory rightly its own, and freedom from Russia's tyrannical embrace its right as well. In 1980 Jimmy Carter exacted a price for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by imposing an Olympic boycott of the Moscow Games. Russia, having raped an Olympic country while the Games were going on -- indeed, using the start of the Games as a cover to move while the world was preoccupied with the Games -- has been awarded the 2014 Winter Games. They will be held at Sochi, a mere 15 miles from Abkhazia, one of the two Sudeten provinces Russia now claims. The IOC, which cares no more about Georgians than about the slain Israeli athletes, will do nothing.
Baron de Coubertin lived long enough to see the Nazis profane his festival. He might have thought 1936 an aberration. Count the Baron fortunate that he didn't live long enough to see how his ideal was superseded by mega-commercialism and drowned -- literally, in the blood of innocent people -- by tyrants who used the Games for political prestige.
Make no mistake: the Games will go on. They need not. But they will. Too many people watch; too much money changes hands for the Games to be tossed onto the ash-heap of history. But the IOC can be forced to clean up its obscene act. Nations that have anything resembling a conscience must boycott the Games and prohibit companies from sponsoring or engaging in any activity, including broadcasting.
As the Games are now a permanent feature of the international political and sports landscape, watched by billions, let us at least divorce them from the Baron de Coubertin's good name. Label them the mega-commerce event they have become. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this: Nobody faults Tiger Woods for raking in megabucks.
Above all, dispense with the phony Olympic principles and keep under wraps strutting IOC nabobs with their stomach-turning pieties as their heads turn away from massive human rights violations, ostensibly celebrating the "harmonious development," "peaceful society" and "human dignity" of "Olympism," traduced yet again in 2008.
China detained American activists who protested repression of Tibetan dissenters, to silence from the IOC. Over Russia's latest atrocity IOC uttered not one peep. Yet the IOC did find time to chastise as contrary to "the Olympic spirit" serial showboating by Jamaica's Usain "Lightning" Bolt, Jamaica's triple gold medal sprinter. "One world, one dream," proclaimed motto of Beijing 2008, was lost on Putin and the IOC.
Call the Olympics, from now on, by city and sponsor and year -- for example, "The 2012 London Speedo Olympic Games," if Speedo antes up. Let corporate sponsors conduct a global bidding war for rights to brand each Games, which will help the host country defray the massive expense of staging them. Let athletes, if they wish, compete for corporate sponsors, or jointly compete for their country and their sponsor. Think of it: Nike trails Puma in medal count, with just three days to go.... Let Baron Pierre de Coubertin rest in peace, and let his name no longer be profaned by the modern Games.
To accomplish this requires that we change the maxim of the Games -- citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger) -- to one more suited to the Bacchanalian spectacle to the 21st century Games. A maxim from Horace, the Roman sage, could work:
Et genus et fornam regina pecunia donat -- "Money, like a queen, gives both rank and beauty."
John C. Wohlstetter was a Hudson Trustee.
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