The Olympic Dream

I love sports.

I have always loved sports, of pretty much every variety. I’ve been participating in them, in both an organised an informal capacity, since before I formed my first memory. I cannot remember learning to skate, and there are photos of me out for a run with my Dad, taken prior to my forming permanent memories.

I love playing sports more than watching sports, but I still love to watch sports. Particularly when the participants are the best in the world. I love watching the Super Bowl. The World Series. The World Cup. The Stanley Cup.

And the Olympics.

The Olympics hold a special place, above those previously mentioned. It’s the fact that it’s amateur sport on display, and the four year gap between games.

There’s something special about people who have sacrificed to be the best in the world at their discipline, rather than those that are grossly over-rewarded for playing a game. There’s something special about people who get perhaps a single chance to shine, as they can spend up to ten years at the pinnacle of their sport yet have that decade include but one Olympic Games. One chance on the world stage. There’s something special about the fact that they are unused to celebrity, and lack the media training that leads to the cliches in a professional athlete’s sound bites.

The Winter Olympics are particularly special.

While my own sport is part of the summer Olympics, they don’t compare to the winter games — at least, for a Canadian.

It might be that I can relate to all the sports. I skate. I ski — downhill and cross country. I toboggan, which is close (in spirit) to the luge, skeleton and bobsled. I play hockey. I have even curled. Unlike the summer games — I’ve never pole-vaulted, or thrown a javelin, or found myself in a judo fight — I feel like I can relate to every sport in the winter games. And that makes the ability of each athlete stand out.

It might also be that my country is good at the winter games. Canada doesn’t have many outstanding summer athletes. And that’s because our gifted athletes are playing hockey. Or skiing. Or skating very, very quickly. And so on.

It feels good to take sides – at least, when your side is victorious. Let’s not count that out.

And so, with the winter games in Sochi beginning tomorrow (with an opening ceremony on Friday), I should be very excited.

I’m not.

Instead, for the next several weeks I’ll be avoiding all news stories about the games — save those that mention scandal, or protest. I won’t be watching on TV. I won’t be cheering on Canada, as we try to defend our place at the top of the gold medal column from 2010.

The Olympics are, reputedly, about inclusion. About coming together, despite our differences, to play games in front of the world. And as such, holding the games in Russia this year is an embarrassment. Russia has gone out of its way to be an unwelcoming place to people who are members (or supporters) of the LGBT community.

It is, in fact, a crime to voice support for homosexuals.

It is, in practice, acceptable to assault and humiliate homosexuals.

And the Olympic Games should not be held in such a place.

So, fuck you Olympics. I refuse to watch. And I refuse to buy anything from your sponsors — thanks for listing them — who should have withdrawn their support, but did not.

And Coca-Cola? This kind of shit will have me avoiding your products forever. Future conversations at restaurants will look like this:

Me: I’d like a Pepsi.
Waitress: Is Coke OK?
Me: No. Just water, then.

And Olympic athletes?

I understand. You have worked your whole life to get to this point. And I want to watch you — so let me. Unfurl a rainbow flag at your medal ceremony. I’ll watch the reruns.

I promise.


Queer Olympic rings by BlueLucy

2 thoughts on “The Olympic Dream

  1. I was recently talking about the Olympics, and I was saying that the bloom is off the Olympic rose. I believe in the Olympic spirit, but I don’t think the Olympics does anymore. So it is funny that you should mention this now, on the 20th anniversary of me starting to lose my faith in the Olympics. Here are some highlights.

    88 Summer in Soul – Ben Johnson is stripped of his gold for doping. This didn’t bother me too much, he cheated, he got caught and was punished. It was sad that he was a Canadian, but it was how the world should work.

    94 Winter in Lillehammer – IOC officials are outraged at not being put up in a 5 star hotel in a city of 25 000 people. This is when it all started, before this I had higher standards for IOC members, and it was then that I learned they are rich fat cats who don’t really care about people. I also learned that the facilities left at the 88 Olympics in Calgary are largely disused and left to crumble. Stories like this may have existed before but I was probably too young to understand.

    96 Bosnian War – Zetra Olympic Hall, site of closing ceremonies of the 84 Winter Games, is torn down and used as materials to build coffins for civilians killed in the Siege of Sarajevo. I realize that I can’t pin this on the IOC, but for some reason when thinking of the Olympics as a whole, I cannot separate this from the rest.

    98 Winter in Nagano – Ross Rebagliati is stripped of his gold in snowboarding for marijuana use. Snowboarding has always seen by the generation before me as an activity for degenerates that pollute their precious alpine spaces so the old white men that make up the IOC were loathed to include snowboarding in the Olympics and sought to shame it.

    2002 Winter in Salt Lake – Jamie Sale and David Pelletier lose gold because of judge bribing. Women’s Hockey gold medal game, American referees call 13 penalties against Canada, and 0 against the US. It turned out that the corrupt figure skating judges had previously been suspended for corruption and after serving their suspension were welcomed back. In baseball if you are aware of a conspiracy and don’t immediate report it you earn a life time band from the game. I guess the Olympics have lower standards.

    2008 Summer in Beijing – Beijing selected despite human rights record. This was the first time I boycotted an Olympics, I had had enough.

    2010 Winter in Vancouver – Own the Podium program displays that what it really takes to win Olympic gold is money. Also Sweater Steve leverages the games as an unofficial election campaign to help win a majority government the next year. I did watch a fair bit of this Olympics, mostly because it was in Canada, but it didn’t improve my view of the Olympics.

    2014 Winter in Sochi – Sochi selected despite human rights record. It was back in the summer when I first planned to boycott this Olympics. There was just too much wrong with it, and it has only gotten worse.

    Hey I think it is time for a Olympic report card. Here is a list of what the IOC says their mission is. Let’s see how they are doing.

    1. Encourage and support the promotion of ethics and good governance in sport as well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned

    2. Encourage and support the organisation, development and coordination of sport and sports competitions

    3. Ensure the regular celebration of the Olympic Games

    4. Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace

    5. Take action in order to strengthen the unity, to protect the independence of the Olympic Movement, and to preserve the autonomy of sport;

    6. Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement

    7. Encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women

    (Fail) 2002 Winter in Salt Lake – Canadian Women’s Hockey Team is reprimanded for celebrating their gold medal win with cigars and beer. I doubt this behaviour would have been noticed if it was the men’s team.

    8. Lead the fight against doping in sporting

    9. Encourage and support measures protecting the health of athletes

    10. Oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes

    11. Encourage and support the efforts of sports organisations and public authorities to provide for the social and professional future of athletes

    12. Encourage and support the development of sport for all

    13. Encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly

    (Fail) – Winter games especially tend to leave crumbling infrastructure in their wake. What are you going to do with the ski jump and luge track the year after the games?

    14. Promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries

    (Fail) – In addition to crumbling infrastructure they leave large debts for the cost of putting on a games.

    15. Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education

    16. Encourage and support the activities of the International Olympic Academy (IOA) and other institutions which dedicate themselves to Olympic education

    (Fail) – There have been several bribery and corruption scandals to date.

    So the IOC has a score of 6 out of 16 for following their own rules. Feel free to disagree with me on their report card, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to prepare this.

  2. I think that we can agree (and be unsurprised) that most of the things listed in the Olympic mission are bullshit PR. I mean, it seems like they do nothing BUT the opposite of #10 — they even make host cities pass laws in the corporate interests of their sponsors!

    With that in mind, however, I think the vast majority of the things you cite are overblown. Of course politicians are going to try to take credit for a good Olympics. Of course developing the best athletes in the world costs a lot of money. Of course the people running a multi-billion dollar event every other year expect to be put up in five star hotels. Of course some people try to cheat.

    These are people, after all. Politician people. Business people. Competitive people. Flawed people.

    As a result, most of these things don’t particularly bother me — by which I mean, I don’t think that they reflect poorly on the Olympics as a whole.

    The new Russian laws — and the practice of encouraging violence towards gays that lies behind it — is abhorrent on a whole different level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *