The Olympics are the poster child for waste and corruption. That the Winter Games are currently playing out in China just makes matters worse.
The International Olympic Committee, abetted by politicians and profiteers in countries seeking to host the Games, has been a hotbed of graft, over-budget spectacles and financial failures. That the Games were awarded to China after the fiasco in 2008 – and Sochi in 2014 – tells us all we need to know.
There was a move to boycott the 2022 Games, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got symbolism in the form of politicians taking a pass on the usual junket. Now, Canadians and others can vote with their television remotes, opting not to watch.
Failure to boycott the games would mean we’ve learned nothing from the ill-considered 2008 experience and the increasing militancy of China since that time.
Human-rights organizations asked the International Olympic Committee to move the Games from China due to its widespread human-rights abuses. Canadian officials did join in that call, also citing Beijing’s strangulation of what remains of democracy in Hong Kong.
Outside of proper channels, there’s a contingency of those who would punish China for its part in propagating and failing to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Beyond the Olympics, there are calls for wider sanctions of China for its abuses, including intellectual property theft, aggressive militarism and interventionist policies.
While the time to firewall China would have been decades ago before the Walmartization of offshore production began in earnest, it’s not too late to give the country the pariah treatment, efforts of some to capitalize from the repressive regime notwithstanding.
Canada will have to join in a more aggressive American-led policy to counter China’s militancy.
Such a strategy will be more encompassing, taking time to develop. In the meantime, boycotting the 2022 Olympics would have sent a worthwhile signal. Better still, the IOC should have moved the Games, removing China from consideration until it becomes a better world citizen, perhaps as a democracy.
Allowing the Games to proceed in China as they did in 2008 begs a comparison to Berlin in 1936. Hosted by the Nazi regime, international participation in the Games was a de facto recognition of Hitler’s government, legitimizing it on the world stage.
The ill-advised decision to award the Games to China indicates the International Olympic Committee needs to change. While apologists for the Games prattle on about playing politics, their comments about sportsmanship and international harmony have a hollow ring. Politics and posturing have been a part of the Olympics in the modern era. In fact, they appear to be the raison d’être for the spectacle.
Some would like nothing better than to see global reaction tip in the direction seen in South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement – an example of where boycotts played a key role.
Unlike South Africa, however, China holds major political and economic clout. Nations that do business with China – that’s most of them these days – are wary of making waves: human rights issues are secondary when so much money is involved.
Still, it’s something that we were discussing a boycott. Canada and other nations should have gone down that road, if only to help prevent China from trying to legitimize what goes on inside its borders.
Sure, an outright boycott would be hard on athletes unable to attend the event – after having trained for four years – but that alone is no reason to avoid taking action. Nor should we give much credence to the argument it’s easier to influence China from within the tent, rather than with external pressures – diplomatic efforts thus far have had little impact.
In an ideal world, the Games would be about fostering international cooperation, but only the most naïve among us would maintain the Olympics are not purely political events. From Black power in Mexico in ’68 to the Mid-East power struggle on view in Munich, and the tit-for-tat boycotts in Moscow and Los Angeles, 1980 and 1984 respectively, the Olympics have long been associated with politicking.
Given that the Olympic ideals have long vanished, if they ever existed, perhaps it’s time to look at doing away with the Games altogether. At the very least, scandal after scandal has shown that sports involving judges must be removed. Only those with absolute winners – fastest, highest, longest – should be considered.
In the interest of removing the corrupt system of bribes, kickbacks and expense-account padding associated with choosing a site, if the Olympics are to continue they should do so from permanent locations, one each for the summer and winter flavours; no more junkets to determine which city will have the chance to raid the public purse and make a mess of its infrastructure in exchange for a few weeks of ego-boosting satisfaction for a handful of politicians and other hangers-on.
With so much money on the line, not to mention the status of those involved with the IOC and the various national committees, don’t look for changes any time soon. Instead, expect to hear nonstop platitudes about athletic competition and international glory.
Simply turning the channel is the last recourse we have – declining viewership would send a strong message to the most important group: the sponsors.
Over-hyped, over-commercialized and filled with dubiously judged sports, the Games just scream out to be ignored.
Corporate sponsors dictate much of what happens at the Olympics, which in turn become another marketing vehicle for those products. Athletes have been known to binge on the likes of junk food following major competitions, but the stuff is hardly a staple in their diets, so equating such products with sports and athleticism is hypocrisy in plain view.
I wouldn’t be heartbroken if the whole thing was called off. In the absence of any political action, the best we can do is maintain my own boycott: I certainly won’t be tuning in for any of the TV coverage of the event. Others doing the same might send a message that can in fact be quantified through the ratings system.
Tuning out doesn’t have the immediate impact of an outright boycott by participating countries or the likes of withdrawing funding for such events, but it will eventually get the attention of the broadcasters who profit on the backs of the suffering taxpayers forced to pay for the Olympics.
Money is the impetus for the Games, so removing it speaks volumes.
In the face of intractable commercialism, expecting changes – let alone the outright cancellation of the Games – is a fool’s hope. A good start would be to find two permanent sites for the Olympics – one summer venue, one winter counterpart – to remove one of the most corrupt facets, the selection process, from the mix. The size and scope of the IOC could be curtailed drastically.
Best of all, the residents of transient host countries would no longer be forced to bear the enormous cost of presenting an event that provides a financial benefit to only a few while saddling the rest with the debt.