PARTSCH: Olympics ring with hypocrisy, corruption
Gazette Managing Editor Raymond Partsch III
The toxic water washes up wave after wave of debris and garbage: decayed baby dolls, old television sets, deflated soccer balls, rusted washing machines and even a few severed human limbs.
The chants of angry mobs are heard in the distance, growing louder and more vile with every waking moment as police strap on riot gear.
The pathway leading away from the chaos has crumbled into the water, while thousands of residents in poorly-constructed shack houses are too scared to enter the streets.
As a building burns in the distant, street gangs execute innocents and people flee to avoid a deadly disease outbreak. All the while, on a television set a tiny man talks about games.
Is this some sort of post apocalyptic film like “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “The Hunger Games” films? Or is the tiny figure on the TV set really the sinister Jigsaw from the horror movie franchise “Saw?”
Nope. This isn’t a fictional story about disease, corruption, and violence. This is the Rio Olympics, and the tiny man is not Jigsaw but instead NBC sportscaster Bob Costas.
The dumpster fire that is the 2016 Summer Olympics begun this past weekend, with an opening ceremony held on Friday night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Within the first two days of the destined-to-become-infamous games, a boxer was arrested for sexual assault and a local architect was murdered by gang members near where the Olympic Torch is held.
It seems only fitting that the games would start off this way, especially considering all that has occurred in the months leading up to them.
The site of the beach volleyball competition is where body parts had recently washed up on shore. The Brazilian Senate impeached the country’s first female president Dilma Rousseff over massive corruption charges. Tens of thousands have been holding mass protests. A large portion of a $12 million new bike lane created for the games was washed away. The living quarters for the Australians caught fire, then the team was robbed. And a live jaguar was shot dead after it got away from its handler during a torch ceremony.
That is on top of the country suffering through its worse recession since the 1930’s (with law enforcement and fireman protesting due to not being paid), endemic poverty and rampant gang violence (NPR reported that nearly 60,000 people were murdered in the country in 2014 alone, making it the “deadliest place in the world outside of Syria”), the waterways used for competition are, as The Associated Press reported, “contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria,” and of course there is the immense Zika outbreak which has now spread to the United States.
You still excited to see who claims bronze in water polo or grabs the gold in gymnastics?
The harsh reality is that the modern Olympic games have become synonymous with corruption, economic ruin and tarnished medalists.
Mass doping has practically ended the importance of the medal ceremony. ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported in July that a total of 57 medals had been stripped due to doping violations in both the Summer and Winter Games since 2000. That number will continue to grow as the World Anti-Doping Agency is currently retesting samples from the 2008 Bejing Summer Games.
It was reported in July that 40 Russian athletes alone tested positive for doping during the 2014 Winter Games held in Sochi, Russia.
As rampant as doping is, the insidious price tag of hosting the games is even more destructive.
The 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece is the perfect example of this. Today, 21 of the 22 permanent venues built for that Olympics lie abandoned in the decade-plus since the games returned “home” at an over-budget cost of $14 billion. The derelict and graffiti-covered venues are now home to wild animals and gypsies and has become a popular destination for “ruin porn” enthusiasts, the photographic genre which feature pictures of abandoned and decaying structures such as auto factories and plants, homes swallowed up by vegetation. Think Detroit or Chernobyl.
Economists point to the billions lost on hosting the games as a trigger to the country’s financial ruin, which have bled over to the instability of the European Union.
The 2008 Summer Games in Bejing, which cost an estimated $43 billion, have begun to follow suit as well. The main Olympic stadium, nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest,” cost a reported $480 million to construct and costs the country $11 million per year to just maintain and has no permanent tenant.
The template of this was laid out by Montreal when it won the bid to host the 1976 games. The cost of the games was only $1.2 billion back then but it took the city until 2006 to pay its final bill, and Olympic Stadium, former home of the Major League Baseball’s now-defunct Expos, is rotting away to the point where the retractable roof can’t even be opened.
In the past forty years, the majority of Olympic hosts have suffered dire financial strife afterwards with a handful of exceptions. Los Angeles (1984 Summer Games) ended up with a surplus of $220 million afterwards largely due to utilizing existing buildings instead of building elaborate new structures that become ghost towns afterwards.
Barcelona (1992 Summer Games), Atlanta (1996 Summer Games), Calgary (1988 Winter Games), Salt Lake City (2002 Winter Games) all followed a similar template, as Olympic structures were later used by sports teams, as university housing or apartments-condos. London (2012 Summer Games) also appeared to take this path by focusing construction on temporary structures.
Yet, smart and low-cost designs -- that aid a city’s infrastructure rather than help destroy it -- is not the type of pitch that allows a major metropolitan area to be awarded an Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, a private organization.
The IOC, which is becoming more like the corrupt FIFA with soccer, is more concerned with massive permanent architecture being built for an event that lasts a mere 17 days than it does of the current and future economic stability and safety of the host country.
Brazil, for example, has a population of 200 million people, and according to The World Bank nine percent are living on less than $3.10 per day. Yet, the country was not only awarded this year’s Olympics but also the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Economists predict that Brazil will lose $15 billion on these Olympics.
The rising price tag and crippling economic impact has begun to scare away potential cities to even bid on hosting. Boston, Toronto and Hamburg all have bailed on the 2024 Summer Games, Los Angeles and Paris are the likely frontrunners to host.
And no one wanted to host the 2022 Winter Games that it was finally awarded to Bejing.
There is no telling if these games, the first ever held in South America, will force Rio into a financial catastrophe as the games did to Athens (even though it appears likely) or if the country’s current political unrest will result in a civil war, which happened to the former Yugoslavia.
Sarajevo, which hosted the Winter Games in 1984, suffered through decades of bloodshed. The former medal stand would later become a popular site for executions.
Maybe it won’t be that dire but the Olympics have turned into something that is not worthy of our pride, dedication and support.
Every four years we Americans proudly salute our Olympians and yell “USA! USA! USA!” during the two-plus weeks of competition, even if most of us don’t even know what half the events actually are, like say dressage or modern pentathlon.
I too love the Olympics and find myself getting wrapped up in the moments, and the event has given birth to some of the most memorable sports moments of all time (Jesse Owens in Berlin, The Dream Team, The Miracle on Ice, etc.) but the games, and the modern bid process, has become as toxic and deadly as the water around Rio.
We can no longer just ignore what is going on with the IOC and the Olympics, just because it may cramp our Olympic spirit. The games that we adore and which are part of our cultural fabric has become rotten to its core, even evil, and that is a thought far more horrific than any movie.