The Case Against The Olympics

For more than a century, the Olympics have served as a beacon of hope, a testament to international fellowship, and the ideal of sporting camaraderie. Or, you know, that's the theory anyway. But the reality is often very different, with nations using the games to further their own political agendas, officials caught up in bribery scandals, and athletes cheating and doping their way to ill-gained victory. Peace, love, and brotherhood? Someday, maybe. But for now, here's the case against the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee is a hotbed of corruption

If there's one thing FIFA, the NCAA, and the NFL have proven over the years, it's that when you mix sports and huge amounts of money, there's bound to be widespread corruption. And despite all their lofty rhetoric, that has historically the case with the International Olympic Committee. Several recent Olympics have been rocked by bribery scandals, most famously the 2002 Salt Lake Games, with members taking payola from potential host nations in order to sway voting according to the New York Times. And with many voters having lifetime membership, there are pretty much no effective checks or balances to prevent further corruption. The main tenet of sports the IOC demonstrates? To the victor go the spoils.

The games exist to feed corporate greed...

For an event that was founded as a competition between amateur athletes, the Olympics seem to place an unusual emphasis on getting paid. Between deep corporate ties (Coca-Cola has sponsored every Olympic Games since 1928) and television deals (NBC paid a whopping $1.23 billion for the rights for the Rio Games alone), the IOC is raking in incredible amounts of money, according to USA Today. True, some of that gets kicked back to the individual athletic commissions of the member nations, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Games exist less to promote "a peaceful and better world through sport" as their mission statement claims, and more to line the pockets of big business by commodifying what is supposedly a public service.

...At the expense of the host nations

You'd think that hosting the biggest event in the world would be a major draw for just about any country. Not only does it bring international prestige, but with all that money flowing, it's sure to stimulate the economy in the host city. Right? Well, no. In fact, quite the opposite. Montreal, for instance, didn't finish paying off the debts it incurred from the 1976 Games until 2006, and London is expected to spend three decades paying off the 2012 Games as well, according to an article published by Quartz. It's gotten so bad that some cities (such as Boston) have outright rejected the chance to host the Olympics due to financial concerns. And for good reason: the IOC takes the profit while the hosts shoulder the debt. And you thought NFL stadium deals were bad...

The Games have become a propaganda tool

Given that the Olympics are supposed to be promoting world peace and understanding, it's ironic that the member nations consistently use the Olympics as a tool for political propaganda. Personally, I blame Hitler. Now, I'm not just invoking Godwin's Law here. Ever since Hitler's attempt to use the 1936 Berlin Games as a platform to promote Nazi ideals, other nations have followed suit, kicking the Olympics around like a football in their broader political games. Over the years, dozens of countries have boycotted the games for reasons both noble (a coalition of African nations stayed home in protest of apartheid in 1976) and petty (the Soviet bloc refused to go to Los Angeles in 1984 in retaliation for America boycotting the Soviet games in 1980). But with every protest, whether good or bad, the original apolitical ideals of the Games get further corrupted and abused. Are they even relevant anymore?

Cheating is rampant among both athletes and judges

Corporate greed and political shenanigans are bad, but you almost expect businesses and governments to act badly. More egregious, then, is the way that athletes and even judges routinely cheat. Doping, of course, is the most prominent form of cheating among athletes, forcing medals to be stripped in nearly every Summer Games since 1968 (helpfully illustrated in an infographic by Troy Dunham based on research by Arman Wallia). Judges, meanwhile, have been implicated in widespread cheating scandals as well, such as in 2002 when the figure skating gold medal was brokered through a backdoor deal between Olympic federations, according to ESPN. If the integrity of the competitions themselves is in question, what is the point?

The 2016 Games are sending Brazil into chaos

This was supposed to be Brazil's decade, their big coming out party on the world stage. Between the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, Brazil was ready to take its place among the global powers. Instead, the strain of putting on the Olympics has Brazil teetering on the edge of collapse, says The Telegraph. Only months before the Games' start, many of the venues remain unbuilt, the public transportation system is in chaos, the government is close to dissolving due to allegations of graft and corruption, and regular folk are protesting in the street after thousands of citizens saw their homes seized by the state and razed to the ground to make way for new Olympic construction. It could end up being the biggest disaster in Olympic history...and an even bigger disaster for Brazil itself.

The IOC can't protect fans or athletes

Security is always an issue at an event the size of the Olympics, but 2016's Summer Games are shaping up to be the most dangerous Olympics of all time, not just for fans, but also for athletes. While both the Brazilian government and the IOC swear that everything will be fine once the Games actually start, street crime in Rio is currently at an all time high. CNN reports that cops are helpless to stop packs of thieves from attacking tourists in broad daylight on the city's famed beaches. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that many athletes have threatened to skip the Games entirely due to health concerns after several aquatic events were scheduled for an area polluted with over 1.7 million times the safe level of human sewage. Not to mention the mosquito-borne Zika virus currently causing a national panic. It's clear that Brazil doesn't have the infrastructure to ensure the safety of the Games. But as long as the IOC gets their sweet funding, it seems as though they are willing to turn a blind eye.

The Olympics are meant to show the best humanity has to offer. But between corporate greed, organizational malfeasance, and political grandstanding, the spirit of the Games has been trampled into the ground. Hopefully at some point the systemic corruption of the IOC can be cleaned up and the Games can be restored to their glorious ideals. But until that happens, the Olympics will continue to take home the gold medal in corruption.