Charles Lane thinks the Games have outlived their usefulness, if they ever had any:
have just one question: How many more such embarrassments must we endure before ending this corrupt quadrennial exercise?
The modern Olympics were founded by a French aristocrat, Pierre de Coubertin, who believed in promoting international peace and understanding by reviving the ancient Greek custom of periodic truces for athletic competition.
Whatever might be said for that idea in theory, it hasn’t panned out in practice. The ostensibly apolitical Games have been marred by several boycotts — of Montreal in 1976 (by African nations protesting apartheid), of Moscow in 1980 (by the United States and other Western countries protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) and of Los Angeles in 1984 (by communist countries retaliating for 1980).
The Games also have created a target for extremists, from the Palestinian terrorists who killed 11 Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972 to ultra-rightest Eric Rudolph, who placed a deadly bomb at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. Consequently, these celebrations of international conviviality proceed under heavy military guard.
That last bit is certainly true, although it says more about the nature of terrorists than it does about the Games themselves.
The problem with Lane here isn’t that he’s necessarily wrong, it’s that he doesn’t provide any solution better than “end it, don’t mend it.” If we want the Olympics to be what they could be and should have been, then we’ve got to get governments out of it — and professional athletes, too.
The Olympics were supposed to be about amateurs competing for pure sport, and that got lost in a sea of Cold War rivalries and NBA stars.
Amateur, or bust. The same goes for government funding.
My interest in the Games has waned, the further they’ve moved from their roots. But I’d happily tun back in every four years if they’d get back to them.
Oh, and one other thing: NBC and Bob Costas have got to go.