Earlier this month, an actress in Greece dressed up as a high priestess and lit the Olympic flame, sending the torch on its first steps toward the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. While supporters of the Olympic movement may characterize the event as a moving tribute, for the rest of us it should be a prompt that the Olympics really need to remain nothing more than a show.
Unfortunately, this month has been a reminder that the Olympic movement wants to be something more than an athletic pageant. Regretfully, it persists on asserting itself as a moral arbiter. Despite a checkered moral history of its own that includes Olympics set up to press agendas that were either abhorrently fascist (see the 1936 Berlin Games) or questionably nationalistic (see the 2008 Beijing Games), organizers believe they can define rules on do’s and don’ts outside of the sporting arenas.
Two weeks ago, the New Zealand Olympic Committee decreed that an athlete seeking funding for his Olympic dream in the less-than-lucrative sport of taekwondo can’t choose his own way to raise said funds. Logan Campbell, who competed in the 2008 Games, decided that rather than burden his parents with the cost of paying his way for training and travel in the hopes of winning a spot at the 2012 Olympics in London, he would start a brothel.
Such an establishment, if registered, is perfectly legal under New Zealand’s liberal laws. But the New Zealand Olympic Committee felt compelled to police the matter. “Based on the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect, we would place your actions as totally inconsistent with these values,” the committee said in a letter to Campbell. “Your open solicitation of ‘clients’ for your ‘business’ while using the Olympic or Olympian connection must cease immediately, or the NZOC will be forced to consider taking legal action against you.” The sports sub-organizing body, Taekwondo New Zealand, had already warned Campbell that his involvement with his high-end escort agency could impact his selection to the Olympic squad.