The delayed Olympics are a hot mess and it’s not just the blazing temperatures in Tokyo. We can blame it on COVID-19 and politics. Only world wars have put a lid on the prestigious showcase of the world’s top athletes.
U.S. viewing of the opening Olympics ceremony was at a 33-year low. Did people forget about it once it was postponed last year to the COVID-19? Maybe it’s only those who have a vested interest in the games who have been paying attention.
The Games were postponed last March due to the pandemic which was then raging around the globe. The event couldn't be totally canceled because of the billions spent on branding and marketing.
The host committee has spent more than $20 billion on the un-spectacle, motivation enough to push forward. A cancellation would’ve been meant $4 billion in loss broadcast revenues alone. A Japanese professor of economics predicted that without the buying power of spectators, the games could lose $23 million. You do the math.
There has been as much controversy swirling as there have been athletes in motion. First came the protests by the Japanese people to cancel the Olympics due to the pandemic but stubborn Olympic officials persisted. The rise of COVID-19 cases in the host city forced a state of emergency. Polling of the Japanese people revealed that two-thirds had no confidence that the organizers could keep the Games safe. It appeared that more effort was put into building robots than keeping the deadly virus in check. To show its deep displeasure, Toyota pulled its billion-dollar ad campaign from the Tokyo markets.
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We can't overlook the racial bias and decisions made by Olympic officials this time or any other time. Like the banning of track legend Sha'Carri Richardson from the Olympic competition when she tested positive for marijuana. Many saw it as a double standard. And those specially-designed swim caps for nappy heads? They were banned too.
The Olympics are a long way from its original objectives, that of promoting peace among nations and recognizing amateur athletics. At any given time, some country is warring with another. The athletics more are professional than any in the NBA, NFL and other acronyms.
The pageantry and patriotic wins come at a high price, for the athletes as well as for the folks who have no part in the decision to bring the circus to town. What’s left behind is debt heaped on citizens, militarized police forces and equipment designed for terrorists at their disposal, displacement of people and destruction of their environment.
While we're re-examining the mission of the Olympics, let's look at how the athletes are treated during their training and at the games, especially the women and those of color. The tough competition and stress on athletes and officials of color jeopardize their mental health. Thank goodness Naomi Osaka had the courage to step back and do self-care. An investigation is still ongoing but it could be that the suicide of Moriya Yashushi last month was related to missing money and documents. Yasushi was the accounting manager of the Japanese Olympic Committee.
How long was Dr. Larry Nasser allowed to wreak physical and psychological damage on young, female athletes? The Games are more about the money than the athletes and goodwill.
I don't know what the future holds for the Olympics. What I totally believe is that the International Olympics Committee is incapable of re-imagining this 3000-year-old competition so that it's more humane for people and the planet.