Here’s what I love about the Olympics: they’re so much like real life.
No, I’m not talking about sportsmanship and universal peace and understanding — the Olympics really never have been about that. I’m talking about the corruption, cheating and potential disasters that always seem to accompany the games.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place in February in South Korea. And not just anywhere in South Korea – they’re taking place right up there close to the Demilitarized Zone, 50 miles or so from North Korea. Who thought that was a good idea?
Anyway, the Russians have been kicked out because — surprise! — they’ve been doing all sorts of drug cheating and finally got caught. Apparently, Russian athletes still could compete, but not for Russia. They would be athletes without a country and wouldn’t be able to get their drugs from the motherland. Good time to own a drugstore in Pyeongchang!
Now there is talk that maybe the U.S. should stay home, too, since the games are taking place so close to North Korea and North Korea, being North Korea, might decide to just blow everyone up.
The French had a case of nerves and said security concerns might force them to stay home, but then again, who cares? Maybe if it were a cooking Olympics that would be something to worry about.
The South Koreans, being South Korean, have built a bunch of cool places so there won’t be the problems there were at the last Winter Olympics in Russia, where there were all kinds of issues with toilets and elevators and other basic things. But there is a different problem: no one is buying tickets. It’s not like everyone really wants to visit South Korea to begin with, and when they want you to hang out a few miles from those wild and crazy guys in North Korea – well, most potential visitors are thinking it might be OK just to stay home and watch on TV.
To top it off, let’s not forget that the International Olympic Committee is trying to rebuild its image after being exposed as one of the most corrupt organizations in the known universe.
Now, if you think all of this is unusual, think again. The Olympics go all the way back to ancient Greece. City states back then tried to show how tough they were by sending athletes to win the contests at the games. There are reports of bribery and judges cheating for their home cities (sound familiar?) from those ancient games. The games lasted for centuries but eventually were outlawed by a Roman emperor.
The Olympics were revived in 1896 and pretty much picked up where they left off. The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis featured 650 athletes — with 580 of them from the U.S. Those games also reportedly were the first where athletes tried to use drugs to enhance their performance. That has continued through the years. Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen’s death at the 1960 Olympics was linked to an amphetamine and it’s hardly news anymore when Olympic competitors get the boot for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Adolph Hitler famously used the games for political propaganda and during the Cold War the Olympics became a sort of pseudo battlefield. The U.S. boycotted the Moscow games because of the war in Afghanistan and the Russians boycotted the Los Angeles games because, well, because they could. Palestinian terrorists killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 games in Munich and there was a bombing at the 1992 games in Atlanta.
See what I mean? Just like real life.
I guess I should be more positive. After all, the Olympics do make for great TV and there always are inspiring individual stories despite the best efforts of the people in charge. Here’s hoping the Russians and the French show up at the games, no one gets blown up, no one cheats and the athletes really do reach that higher consciousness of brotherhood.
Oh, and that the U.S. wins a lot of medals. Sorry, I just can’t help myself.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.