DRINKING THE OLYMPIC KOOL-AID

It is a spectacle beyond wonder, and an all but incomprehensible effort to stage, primarily for the host city and its organizing committee.  But so, too, for the grand ayatollahs of the IOC, the bishops of their member national committees, and their deep-pocketed supporters, the sponsors.  Yet it remains the labor of the plebian athletes to be the sine qua non for the entire enterprise.  Without them, what?  And so, of the $6 billion generated by the London Games, how much will be shared with those whose exploits make the grand exposition possible?

Well, consider that a 2012 Olympic gold medal has been struck with less than 1.5% actual gold (a mere 6 grams), and you have an apt understanding of the balance of commercial power we are about to behold over the next fortnight plus three. We know who really gets the gold.

My old friend Bob Bright excoriated me recently following my previous post – BOB BRIGHT: AFTER 25 YEARS NOTHING HAS CHANGED.  Bob charged me with becoming an advocate for the athletes rather than a straight journalist.  “Folks, including you, are trying to build a sport around the wants and needs of athletes. How’s that working out? Athletes are here today and gone tomorrow.”

True enough, Bob, athletes do come and go; it is the way of all sportsmen. But take a good look at the sports which have strong athlete representation. Those are the ones that flourish.  In fact, track and field is not built around the athletes, and how that is working out is, as you say, abundantly evident.

Therefore, it isn’t the athletes’ side I am taking. Instead I’m casting a critical eye at the imbalances which continue to hold sway in this sport, and which, over time, have contributed to the withering of the sport’s status on the sporting landscape.  Make no mistake, if the situation were tilted unfavorably to the advantage of the athletes at the expense of the federations and events, and as a consequence the same sad state of the sport was in evidence that we see under the current model, you can be certain that I would write in favor of a corresponding swing in fortunes.  But until that eventuality is witnessed, I will read and write as my eye and conscious lead me.

It has never been my intention to diminish the role of any of the stakeholders of the sport, simply to acknowledge the critical role the athletes play in the proceedings, and the consequences of not elevating their station.  Thus, the issue of athlete rights remains evergreen, and with each passing month seems to be gaining increasing momentum.  Now with bright light of the Olympic flame about to be lit, the subject is rife for further enlightenment. Continue reading