It’s Time To Rethink The Olympics

With the Olympics over most people are coming to realization that something was off about this year’s Olympics. Ratings for the events were terrible: much worse than they have ever been. Controversy plagued the games and the logistics were a mess.

There are many theories why these games were such a disaster, but one thing is clear: the Olympics are rapidly becoming outdated. Originally the games were a symbol of hope and unity, but now, the last few games have spawned real discussions about why we even have the games and what they actually accomplish.

The biggest issue right off the bat is the cost. At around $14.4 billion, the enormous cost of these games is glaring compared to the homelessness and poverty in Rio de Janeiro. It’s not unfair to ask whether the money was well spent. If there was enough money to put on multi-billion dollar Olympics games, why was that money not spent to do something for the impoverished and homeless in Brazil?

What this shows is that the Olympics games are not for everyone in the world. On the contrary, the Olympics are only for the middle and upper class, the bourgeoisie, the class that are content enough in their lives to waste the time to watch international athletes compete against each other in a country that has a huge host of problems.

The hubris is almost too much to bear. People across the world sat around their TVs, making themselves feel better about lofty ideas like “unity” and “cooperation”, while at the same time the poor and homeless in Rio de Janeiro got nothing to help themselves.

Oh but wait, there were some efforts to help the poor! The head chef of the Rio Olympics organized a program to give the leftovers from athlete’s meals to the poor people in the city. How generous of them! The athletes and organizers decided to let the poor eat the scraps from their table, instead of actually just using the money for athlete food to help the poor directly. It’s trickle down economics at work!

Forgive me if my heart is not really warmed by the “generosity” of giving the poor scraps from the tables.

Or how about the idea that the Olympics is good because it lets repressive governments interact with the free world? Wasn’t that heart warming to see a North Korean and South Korean athlete pose for a selfie together? Many commentators cheered about the symbolic gesture. “This is why we do the Olympics!” they proclaimed. But how many of them are smiling now that Kim Jong-un has threatened to send under-performing athletes to labor camps?

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So what is the solution?

Honestly, I would like to see the Olympics abolished. They do not offer anything more than a glorified Superbowl style event. Their cost is unjustifiable and is a symbol of the growing class divide between the rich and the poor. There are very few benefits of the games.

But if we have them, we need to make some changes to the bidding process.

Any country that has the Olympics games should need to pass more stringent requirements. For example, a country hosting the Olympics must have a low level of poverty and homelessness. Any country that wants the Olympics should also be able to pass various checks of economic and political freedom, which would have disqualified countries like Russia and China from holding the Olympics. This would give incentives for countries to work to solve those problems.

Simply put, if a country can not find the money to help its poor and needy, or the generosity to give economic freedom, then it does not have the money or logistical ability to hold the Olympics game. They have to solve their own problems before the world comes and visits.

The real solution to Olympic issues is to set up a system where the games rotate between cities. The Olympics committees can pick ten cities around the world to host the games and are representative of the world population. Good examples are Los Angeles, Seoul, Sydney, London, etc. Then the games would rotate between those cities. This means the infrastructure is already in place in those cities. They will only have to build the stadiums and villages the first time the games come to them, then after that everything is already in place.

There would be provisions in the Olympics charters for a country getting put into the rotation, but they would have to pass very stringent requirements. Only countries that are working to solve their own problems would host the games.

Rethinking how we do the games is an important step. Personally, I believe they are an anachronism that is an example of a damaging brand of liberalism, one that implies that manufacturing “feel-goods” will magically make solutions appear, without any concrete action. They are also a symptom of late stage capitalism, which slowly has turned everything our world into a brand with an illusion of unity.

They offer little benefit in our world today. A few feel-good moments do not justify multi-billion dollar expenses. But if we must have them, they need fixing.

To end, here is the only picture from the Olympics that matters, the one that shows what is wrong:

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