I love competitive sport. I’ve been to three Olympic Games and religiously watched them all whenever I could, until recently. With these Pyeongchang Olympics, I found myself completely disengaged, even more so than the Rio Games. Reflecting, I think the Olympics have had their time and should be nicely retired. Here’s why.The Behaviours of the IOC
The Olympics began under the inspiring, participation, amateur philosophies of Baron de Coubertin. Under the commercialization philosophy of Juan Samaranch, as the bribery, high lives and moral corruption of IOC officials were revealed over time, it became clear that athletes were not the focus of the Games – the personal interests of IOC staff came first.
The disgusting swindling by the Russians in Sochi, the corruption and lack of proper facilities in Rio and the refusal by the IOC to ban the Russians officially, allowing ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ to compete in PyeongChang, clearly showed the weakness of IOC moral leadership. It seems we won’t know for some time how many athletes are still doping. While only two athletes have been immediately caught, the fact they are both Russians and in sports where doping would seem to be of little value, suggests widespread doping has leapt ahead of current testing (surely others with more to gain must also have been doping).
All this made me disengage from this shameful organisation and its events.
Continued Drug Use
The continued failure of top sports administrations to support the World Anti Doping Authority and their findings and to continue to deny the systemic role that doping must be having (eg East Germany in swimming, China in a wide variety of sports, Eastern Europe in field athletics, African countries in long distance running, all countries in sprints) ensure that results will continue to be influenced by known or unknown drug use. We may be thrilled by world records or PBs at Olympics, but who knows if these are legitimate? If the authorities don’t care, then why should be interested, when competition is on an unknown, uneven footing?
The Rise of Annual World Championships
When the Olympics began, they were unique – a once-in-four-years meeting of the best in the world. But these days, there are world championships in most sports every year. Worse, the Olympics are not attended by all the best athletes, because it interferes with their own sports’ world championships, or some other more important event (eg ice hockey, basketball, cycling, baseball). The ‘Olympic champion’ may be dethroned by a ‘world champion’ within months. World Championships are becoming the key event in each sport each year, with the Olympics an interesting event every fourth year.
The Size and Scope of Olympics
Each Olympics has more events, more competitors and more countries to try to involve every vested interest (and the more people, the greater the bribery opportunities for IOC officials). So many sports and events are happening, it is no longer possible to follow the whole show. While ‘everyone’ is present, no one can follow it and viewers have to focus on just a few aspects. This is why World Championships of any one sport are much more attractive. You can understand, follow and identify with the participants.
The Impact of the Olympics on Host Cities
It used to be prestigious to hold the Olympics. Los Angeles 1984 tried to restore financial sense as well, seeking a balanced budget for the Games, not a huge expenditure. But the capital cost of new venues and the clear lack of their use post-Games show that these facilities have little real return. Increasingly, cities no longer want to hold the Games. They end up with white elephants.
The Role of Major TV Markets in Deciding when Events are Held
Athletes are now competing at all times of the day and night to fit viewing schedules of major TV markets. We’re seeing this in all sports. But we may have seen the peak of TV viewing, as viewers switch off being told what to watch and when. This reduces the value of TV rights…which reduces the revenue for host cities…which makes Games less viable…which…
Are the Olympics Finished?
Sport captures the imagination of peoples across the world. But the Olympics now attempt to cover too many sports at the same time to do this. The 4-year hiatus means impetus is lost compared with annual individual sport world championships. Having to watch at crazy times, or having to watch replays no longer cuts it. Adding the impact of drugs, and the poor reputation of the IOC suggests we are headed to specialized world championships as the future for sports. Look at the World Cup, the Tour de France, the grand slam tournaments in tennis and golf. They are all focused.
I watched some amazing skiing and skating aerobatics, but I cared not one jot who won or lost (especially when the ‘results’ are determined by subjective human judges, not objective fastest, longest or highest). It’s time to focus on those sports you/I/we like. There’s enough sport to go around. Choose what you like and forget the rest. Goodbye Olympics.