Saturday, 13 August 2016


RickMercer, one of my favourite Canadians, states that ranting is good for you. "Rant and be merry," he advises, "and rant about what you love. That's what I do."  unabashedly love the Olympics, Winter and Summer.  And so I'll rant.

Waving the maple leaf, I emotionally cheer on our young and heroic Canadian athletes. I watch with respect and awe the athletic abilities and mental toughness displayed by athletes from around the globe. I take to my heart the courage and bravery displayed by athletes such as our Rosie MacLennan who just won trampoline gold for Canada. Last autumn, Rosie suffered her third concusion. Did that stop her? No. Battling back from dizzy spells, spacial challenges while in the air and debilitating headaches, she performed her medal winning performance mere months later. That is athletic grit.

Why then do I feel such disdain for the IOC and what they have allowed the Olympic Games to become.

Leadership should begin at the top.

Norway recently dropped its bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Their withdrawal was in part due to the potential burdensome tax implications for their citizens, resulting from massively ballooning costs of required host facilities, but also because of IOC demands. Journalist Frithjof Jacobsen wrote, "Norway said no to the inflated, ridiculous, remote money-gobbling and unsympathetic organization that is today's IOC. Demands for luxury treatment ranged from complementary chauffeur-driven limos at the beck and call of each IOC member during the games to "a meeting and cocktail party with King Harald before and after the opening ceremony, with the royal family or Norwegian Olympic Committee picking up the tab". While efforts are being made to cut the cost of future games, or so we are told, the list of IOC demanded perks unconscionably grows and is out of touch with the realities of our world.  Reminds me of let them eat cake! 

As many economically sound nations pass on future Olympic bids due to out-of-control costs, now averaging a staggering $16.2 billion per games, financially strapped countries are sadly putting forward Olympic bids in hopes of showcasing their nations to the world. The list of host cities and countries burdened by decades of debt is growing. Montreal is on that list.

And nowhere has the contrast between wealth and grinding poverty been more evident than in Rio where multi-million dollar Olympic venues lie in the shadows of Rio's slums, favelas. Gary Mason of the Globe & Mail writes that, while dining at a popular open restaurant, he, "watched one family of four go through a garbage can, the mother holding what looked like a year old baby in her arms with another toddler by her side, while the father sorted through the trash looking for any food scraps he could find". Please don't tell me that any financial benefits from hosting the Olympics will trickle down to such families; I'm not that naive.

The Athlete's Olympic Oath reads, "....committing ourselves to sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship". As a teenager, glued to our TV set during any Olympic competition, it was the sportsmanship that made my heart soar. What a fine example of the best of sport those games set for an impressionable youth. 

Now the absence of any meaningful IOC intervention is allowing that very sportsmanship to decay as the cancer of politics, extremism, and sore loser reaction, infects the Olympic body. 

An Egyptian Olympic judo competitor refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent after the match. Tradition in judo requires a bow or handshake following competition. Neither was forthcoming from the Egyptian. So much for the oath he took. Where, I ask, is the IOC in all of this? Ah, they have set up an investigation as to "why". Oh, puh-lease. The Egyptian athlete, when called back a second time to the mat for the handshake, just waived off the ref. The evidence is on record; why has that player not been expelled from future Olympic competition? Does the Athlete's Oath mean nothing now? 

After a tactically brilliant game, The Swedish Women's Olympic Soccer Team defeated the heavily favoured Americans. Why was there no official response (U.S. or international) after Hope Solo, goalie for the U.S. team, announced after the game "...think we played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today". So much for setting an example of true sportsmanship, as Solo promised when she took the Athlete's Oath. So much for her word. And what of the South African competitor who tauntingly danced and shadow-boxed in front of Phelps before their swim meet. Both Solo and the shadow boxing swimmer should have received stern warnings.

Canadian Dick Pound, a past Vice President of the IOC, had long warned of drug use and widespread doping in Olympic sport. Some hypothesize that Mr. Pound lost his run in 2001 to replace Samaranche as IOC President due to his persistent emphasis of this problem. None are so deaf as those who will not hear. Fast forward to 2016 and proof that state sponsored doping by Russian athletes is a fact. What does the IOC do? Certainly not lead. The issue of banning Russian athletes from competition was handed down to individual sports federations. It appears that the IOC lack the courage of the very athletes they claim to support.

We cheer on our Olympic athletes for their courage, bravery, mental toughness and dedication to the sportsmanship.  Where is the leadership and strength of the IOC? They need to stop feathering their little nests and follow the example set by most Olympic competitors. 

End of rant!

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