Whose Olympics?

By Sal Citarella

To readers of RG: I had thrown the original of this article together rather spontaneously, when the world-wide pandemic had not appeared quite so daunting and the fate of the 2020 Olympics was still in doubt. Now that events have overcome me, I’ve had to revise it somewhat but, for what it’s worth, it still reflects my own ambivalence of how The Games are played.

You may or may not agree. Comments welcome.

Me being a runner, I’m also an optimist. The next workout, the next race is going to be a good one, right? Virus? What virus? Computers get viruses, not runners or other athletes.

Regardless of how I feel, the rest of the world seems ready to crawl into a cave and hibernate. We’re doing it in California but for a guy who hasn’t had a job to lose in years, a nice “cave” to hibernate in and plenty of trails on which nothing (man or beast) need come within six feet of me, it’s not all bad. The big unknown is how long this condition will go on.

Let me be clear; things can really be dire for many of us; you have my sympathy and I’ll do what I can to help. 

One issue in the news currently and of great interest to us, is, the Olympics have been delayed.

We must ask can the athletes train adequately under the restrictions so much of the world is currently operating under? Would it be safe for those who wish to attend? What of the tremendous effort and expense Japan has already put out to host the games?

In consideration, one might say, if the training of all the world’s athletes has been hampered, then all are still equal. Absolute performances might be diminished, but whoever wins any event will still be an Olympic champion. There are upsets and surprises every year.

Ah, but if the games are conducted under a cloud, will the TV revenues suffer? Maybe not, if live attendance is diminished. What of tourism, hotels, restaurants in Japan, would they not suffer? Probably so, but I wasn’t going to go to Japan anyway.

Delay the games for six months or two years, some say. And those expensive facilities sit idle? And a different crop of athletes gets to perform?

I don’t know the answers to any of the above but it forces me to ask one big question, whose Olympics are they? Who, if anyone, do they “belong” to?

The host country? Capitalism or socialism? The athletes themselves, amateur or professional? The trainers? The shoe companies? The drink and supplement vendors, both legal and illegal? Are countries competing against countries or is it individuals against individuals? Are team sports inherently different than individual events? Is the honor of any country’s drug-testing program at stake? Are they just an opportunity for an individual or a country to make a political statement?

Or are the Olympics yours and mine?

While surfing online, I spotted this; perhaps I’m not the first to muse about the future of the Games:

A cartoon from the 1936 Olympics imagines the year 2000 when spectators will have been replaced by television and radio, their cheers coming from loudspeakers.

And recall Coubertin’s Olympic ideals as expressed in the Olympic creed:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Is that still relevant?

Perhaps a little de-emphasis might be good after all and this might just be the perfect time.

Categories: Features

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