The Olympic Games Are An Ethics Train Wreck, And Have Been For Quite A While

Olympic mascots

The 2016 Rio Games Opening Ceremony was the apotheosis of a rotting tradition that has lost the slightest resemblance to its so-called ideals. The Olympics are a TV spectacle justified by dollars now, using fake and dubious values to obscure the obvious.

Some moments that gave my ethics alarms twinges last night—

  • Political propaganda. It’s sporting event, not a PSA for climate change regulations. Shut up and play. Or perhaps “Shut up and cheat” is more accurate.
  • Speaking of cheating, the ceremony featuring Tom Brady’s Brazilian model wife as a special effect was jarring, but maybe that’s just me.

This was all just yucky frosting on the unethical cake, however. Before the Games began, the continuing corruption of the Games was again approved when the IOC announced that 270 Russian athletes would be allowed to compete despite a major doping scandal last year that indicated that the Russians routinely cheated, and that there was no reason to presume that any Russian athlete wasn’t. Never mind: the desire for ratings—the US vs. Russia!—and/or bribes paved the way.

Meanwhile, the swimmers are competing in raw sewage. Ocean water along Rio de Janeiro’s famed beaches are contaminated with bacteria and viruses, so much so that the World Health Organization  warned athletes participating in open water sports to not swallow water, to cover any open wounds during competition and to wash off immediately after exiting the water. Why is the US subjecting its athletes to this kind of peril? Why are any of the nations?

I don’t watch football players damage their brains while the NFL pays them to do it, and I’m certainly not going to cheer young athletes risking brain eating amoebae so NBC can sell beer for Anheuser Busch.

When did the Olympics start churning my stomach? It may have been when the U.S. started using NBA stars in the basketball competition, and relishing the opportunity to beat amateur Angolan players 154-12. Yecchh. It may have been when I learned how the female gymnasts were kept sprite-like long into their teens by inhibiting their puberty, and how many young gymnasts were sexually molested on their way to Gold.  Or when I listened to some of my scuzzier male friends explain what they liked about watching them….

Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie revealed feelings similar to mine, and listed his “Incomplete List of Why Nobody Really Gives a Shit About the Olympics Anymore.”

His list included in part…

  • The end of the mostly-fake-but-still-compelling fiction that participants were “amateurs” who competed out of mere love of the game.
  • A fuller understanding of just how much cheating went on among the athletes. First, it was the massive revelations about juicing by Iron Curtain teams but post-Cold War, it became clear that many Western athletes (Ben Johnson! FloJo! Marion Jones!) who won our hearts were faking it too (except for Carl Lewis, the greatest track and field Olympian yet one who was never fully embraced by the crowds, either).
  • The disturbing spectacle of the Games being hosted by tyrannical and/or bankrupt countries and cities that wasted huge amounts of money on conspicuous consumption.
  • An endless stream of scandals implicating national-level Olympic Committees but also the IOC itself in just terrible, terrible behavior.
  • The IOC’s insane attempt to control and regiment all aspects of the Games on the Internet, including a prohibition on GIFS, Vines, and other home-brewed content. Apart from all the scandals, the IOC is the athletic equivalent of Metallica, busting the balls of its most-fervent fans in the hope of squeezing a few more nickels out of a dying franchise.
 The Olympics have become the sporting event equivalent of Golden Dancer.  Maybe that’s what they always were.

16 thoughts on “The Olympic Games Are An Ethics Train Wreck, And Have Been For Quite A While

  1. Great reference from Inherit the Wind. Apt also. I’ve been disillusioned with the Olympics for many years. Permitting professionals was a slap in the face to Jim Thorpe. And the gymnastics and ice skating stuff was impossible to ignore. Worst of all, the politics of it. It went from being a way to celebrate our global community to being one more thing that promotes division and discord.

  2. Ninety-four years ago, Aston reported the discovery of “powers beyond the dreams of scientific fiction” in his 1922 Nobel Lecture. Seventy-one years ago, the ethical train wreck that now engulf society began when those “powers” destroyed Hiroshima on 6 AUG 1945. Two months later, nations and national academies of sciences were united under the UN on 24 OCT 1945 to “forever” divide humanity between:

    1. A few who would rule the world with “secret knowledge”, and
    2. The ignorant masses that would forever serve as their slaves.

    Thanks to the AGW scandal, the “secret knowledge” dividing humanity is now “forever” exposed for all to see:

    Click to access HigherPower.pdf

  3. The only way I watch Olympic events is by streaming the events live from the Internet. I can’t stand the TV coverage. I don’t even care if I watch US competitions. I just like finding the sports I enjoy and seeing them live. The commercials on the TV Broadcasts are ridiculous and the Tape Delays are pointless.

  4. Gisele Bundchen is Tom Brady’s wife, not his girlfriend.

    Unless you’re talking about someone ELSE… in which case, Tom’s in the doghouse.

  5. “Or when I listened to some of my scuzzier male friends ”

    I refuse to believe that you have ANY scuzzy male friends. Ex-clients, perhaps…friends, no.

  6. I actually cheered when the NBA was allowed to participate… the Iron Curtain countries had been cheating in this way my entire life, and it was obvious. Their athletes lived in year long training facilities supported by the state.

    Not that this makes it an ethical choice, of course… just a viscerally satisfying one for a much younger me.

  7. “It’s sporting event, not a PSA for climate change regulations. Shut up and play.” Obviously that’s impossible if it’s a hundred degrees outside, those are highly relevant to each other.

    • Thus proving that you equate climate with weather. It’s been hot in Brazil for thousands of years. Typical science-free climate change propagandist. Do better next time. I don’t have much patience today.

      • And there you have touched upon one of their biggest misrepresentations.

        Global warmers always talk about things such as “warmest year in the historical record”. What they, of course, never discuss is that the historical record only consists of one hundred and fifty or fewer years’ data. So the truth is, you may have the warmest year in a span that represents 1/50 millionth of the Earth’s history.

        When Dino walked around with Fred Flintstone, the temperatures were much warmer than they are now. (Of course, I am referencing the real Jurassic and similar periods.) There were periods when there was no ice on the planet. There was also at least one period when the entire planet was an ice ball.

        Carbon dioxide is an inefficient global-warming gas. What rising carbon-dioxide levels indicate is that the climate is warming; CO2 rises as a result of temperature increase rather than causing it.

  8. I am perennially ambivalent about the games.

    1) I CANNOT stand the fact that our nation (and other relatively like-minded Commercial Republics (or reasonable facsimiles)) vicariously justify the existence of crap-hole tyrannies and backwards nations by showing up to the same competitions as they do. That we tolerate the fact that they cheat often enough. But mostly that we stand as “equals” on a competitive stage with them.

    2) I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE that our system and culture (and other relatively like-minded Commercial Republics (or reasonable facsimiles)) consistently beats the ever-living snot out those same crap-hole tyrannies and backwards nations without resorting to cheating and underhanded moves that they resort to.

    3) Soccer doesn’t count. Soccer isn’t a real sport….. it’s the modern derivation of crap-hole ancient cultures kicking around the severed head of defeated enemies after battle. It’s savage and uncivilized at its root. (Which is why it’s popular in every culture other than America)

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