The Lost Spirit of the Olympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally happened and came and went. And so did the Paralympic Games as well. I was all geared up for watching the biggest sporting event in March 2020 for July through to September that year. Sadly due to the Covid-19 pandemic the event was postponed for a year until it was safe to do so and the majority of the world’s population was jabbed. Unfortunately Japan went into another lockdown during the games and so the athletes played in empty stadiums with nothing but TV crews and officials. But I am not dwelling on everything bad that happens. I am glad the Olympic Games were played in Tokyo and I watched as much of my favourite sports as I could despite the +8 hour time difference between Tokyo and London. I think the British team did really well and we saw some surprising wins in sports that were now introduced to the Olympics.

I watched the archery for as much as I could and I saw some of Team GB’s archers play for their rounds. They didn’t win medals but I was motivated to carry on what I started over 7 years ago to make archery important to the Commonwealth Games. Patrick Huston and Sarah Bettles were my favourites to watch I am glad that they shot well. Watching Olympic archery after a year long hiatus was a grand spectacle. I then decided to get back into archery myself, which I hadn’t played for so long because of the pandemic and I had some financial constraints to suffer before that. Now I am free to get back to it. But as an archery promoter and not a professional archer. I think being famous as the one who made Commonwealth archery important suits me better.

The Olympics are a great spectacle in the sporting calendar of the world. I have been a big fan of the Olympics since I first watched the Sydney 2000 Olympics and I was amazed by the diversity of sport and it’s ability to bring in a lot of spectacular feats of athletic performances. It also brings the culture and character out of the host nation into the games as a means to boost tourism and investment into the country. But there is also an underlying theme of the Olympic movement. The Olympics were originally invented by a French aristocrat called Pierre de Coubertin in 1894 to establish a way in which nations could compete against each other through the language of sport. The idea that Coubertin has was to promote world unity and to promote mutual respect between nations, thus lessening the dangers of war. As he put it:

The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Pierre de Coubertin on Olympic Advocacy

Hence the Olympic Movement is about civil justice and international enterprise. However the spirit of the Olympics has been mired and twisted to some extent by the countries that host it and the athletes that play there. Today’s Olympic Games often see political ideologies thrashed out in the arena by people thinking their politics are more important than that of the Olympic movement. Why can’t athletes recognise that the game they are playing is what they are training for and not a platform for their own game? This is ruining the spirit of the Olympics and according to some commentators could be a sign that the Olympics is fading away into oblivion.

One incredible thing about the Olympics is how it is being used to promote infrastructure and community development projects. When I saw London get ready to shine for it’s own Olympics from 2005 to 2012 a large area of the East End in Stratford was transformed. The Olympic Park was to be built on a wasteland that had been left derelict for years. In the process they not only built new athletics venues, but a shopping complex, cleaned up a canal, and new hotels and an athletes village that would later be used as new homes to residents that would live there. This sounds great for economic development and boosting the fortunes of the nation and building communities, but it also leads to bankrupting the nation if it’s not executed the way it’s supposed to just to bring the Olympics to the host city.

This is the problem with the modern Olympics today. The International Olympic Committee sets a criteria for cities wanting to host the games to include in their bid a real estate development operation. They are not just interested in how they can host the games, they want them to build an Olympic legacy. But that takes a lot of money and it puts people off hosting the games because otherwise they will end up broke and ruined. On average the cost of hosting the Olympics now can run from 5 to 10 billion pounds so you must be a rich and well developed nation to host it. London, Sydney and Beijing have that advantage because they were already powerful economic trading nations with lots of capital and potential customers in a strong and stable political structure. Since London 2012 I have seen endless building projects go up around the Olympic Park to expand on it’s usage beyond the Olympics.

Rio however was not so lucky because it’s biggest economy was tourism, and it didn’t attract that many sports to come to Brazil to play in the arenas that they built for their Olympics. Also the country is not politically stable and it is rife with corruption and bad management that can disrupt investors from coming to do business. As a result their Olympic legacy is in tatters. What the IOC should do is change the way it expects the host cities to put in bids or change the way in which it gives cities hosting rights. I prefer the latter because cities that already have the built in infrastructure don’t need to spend so much on their games. The way I see it is this. Give cities and nations that can host Olympic summer games successfully designated Olympic city statuses and they are granted hosting rights on a rotational basis whenever they are wanting to host the summer games. For Europe, it can be London, Paris, Berlin, Athens, Rome and Barcelona. For Asia it can be Beijing, Tokyo, Mumbai, Moscow and Seoul. For the Americas it can be Los Angeles, Montreal, Rio, Mexico City and Atlanta. Africa has not hosted an Olympic Games of it’s own yet but I can recommend some cities and countries such as Cape Town (South Africa), Algiers (Algeria), Cairo (Egypt), and some capitals from Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Morocco. As for Oceania there are only two suitable countries being Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth) and New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch).

All these cities and countries have to some extent a decent amount of political stability and a good economic structure and built infrastructure to host the Olympic summer games. It will save them millions and provide a lot of opportunities without sinking needlessly into a financial blackhole. Talking of politics and international diplomacy the Olympic movement needs to realign itself with the values upon which it has been founded upon. Pierre de Coubertin’s vision of world unity through sport needs to seen to be realised. We can’t have sports used as a means to capitalise on other people’s problems as Black Lives Matter does. Sports fans are fed up with this counter culture of protest and hijacking of the sports for political causes. Especially in places where some groups are trying to dominate the diversity agenda thinking they have a special right to be hateful to another culture. I’ve seen Jewish football fans told to keep Israeli and Jewish symbols down in the stands, but Palestinian flags are waved by Asian and Muslim football players on the pitch in support of a terrorist organisation that wants to kill Jews. That’s not fair.

The sport events themselves are the way to go to promote civil rights and fair play among nations. They were created for that purpose to promote self determination without the athletes having to make such political gestures. In this year’s Tokyo Olympics a handful of Arabic athletes pulled out to avoid playing against Israeli athletes. Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasood pulled out because he didn’t want to face Israel’s Tohar Butbul. But another Arab playing for Mongolia called Saied Mollaei fought against his Israeli opponent and later said how much he loved Israel and said how much he detested his homeland Iran’s hatred towards them. Putting his principles for sportsmanship ahead Saied has shown the power of the Olympic spirit in mind and has inspired the world to put their divisions aside. So you don’t need to protest when you can play for fairness and equality at the Olympics. As the Olympic charter says:

“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

The Paralympic Games are equally good as gold as they have their own objective to promote the power and self-determination of the disabled across the world. At the time the Paralympic Games started the Afghanistan team was not present at the opening ceremony because of the Taliban taking over the country. But the IPC had the flag of the Afghan nation paraded to show that the Paralympics was missing them and hoped that they would make it safely to Tokyo to show that the Paralympic movement was strong as ever in the Middle East.

What right do the civil justice organisations of the world have to put their protests ahead of that of the Olympic Games’ own objective? Nothing at all because it isn’t their arena for their politics, it is their arena to show how magnificent they are. Being a champion athlete should be about empowering human spirit, not being a power to dominate other people’s freedom with their political machinations. There is no room for parasites and looters in international games.

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