What exactly are the Olympics? A noble sporting event that unites the world in athletic competition and sportsmanship for a few weeks, hopefully bringing out the best in all? Or is a a shameless, corrupt, corporate/cartel-driven faux sporting event that is as real as the fake “artisinal” bricks in Cinderella’s castle in Disney World?
Depends on where you stand. And yes, both answers can be correct.
I’ve been fortunate enough to cover two Olympics, and see the truth firsthand. For the athletes, it is the highest event in their sport (short of winning the soccer World Cup or hockey Stanley Cup). All the cliches about training hard, sacrifice, families putting everything into making their kid’s dreams come true are real. I’ve gotten to know many Olympic athletes, and even if they finish 17th, they still have the accomplishment of being an Olympian on their resume. They’re proud, happy, it’s their moment to shine for a bit. All good.
Then on the other side, is the corporate domination, the political drama, the IOC’s mafia-like ways, the added wrinkles of governments/countries doing things that other people don’t like, and the gigantic amounts of money flying around. Billions, as in a big B. Being at the Olympics is like being assaulted with everything corporate all the time. McDonald’s here, big Coke display there, VISA kiosk there – you get the picture.
Sochi is a swirl of manic construction right now, with unfinished hotels and general lack of being finished. But Vladimir Putin says they are ready, so yippee for that sage update. (Putin World is NOT open yet. Bummer.)
A bigger question to ponder: are the Olympics becoming an entity that’s too big to fail….like General Motors …or are they failing and cracking under their own weight before our eyes? Sochi is flawed, Rio in 2016 probably will be the same…maybe it is a time for discussion on what we (in the global) sense are doing here. It’s the world’s biggest reality show, with some blood, sequins and sweat thrown in.
But what’s the real price in the end?
Not sure. But will be thinking about it over the next few weeks.