It’s not all fair game.
I’m a big fan of the athletes, athletic competition, and the ritual of the games, but I certainly can’t say I’m a fan of the commercial excess, the corportaziation, and politicization of the olympics. Really, anything that isn’t a sport is a distraction. Unfortunately, the athletes do not receive the reward that I feel should be their due.
But don’t take my word for it (not that you do, do you?), here’s what Ronda Rousey, Olympic bronze medalist in Judo at the Beijing Olympics, and MMA champion had to say:
Everyone talks about how awesome the Olympics are, but you know what? After the Olympics they give you ten grand a handshake. And you know what, it costs way more than ten grand to get there. The Olympics didn’t give a damn about me after I was done. And I gotta do what I gotta do to make a living. If I gotta pose for some magazines…I’m not gonna show my nipples or asshole or anything like that but if I gotta walk around at the beach in a bikini, why not let someone take a picture of me and put it in a magazine?
All these companies make millions and millions of dollars to put the Olympic rings as like a logo. I walked into 24 hour fitness the other day. They’re a multi-million dollar sponsor of the Olympic games. And they have all these Olympic rings all over the place. They know I’m an Olympic medalist. They know I’m an Olympian. They will not let me in there without paying. I have to pay to go into 24 hour fitness. I have to buy every single Gatorade bottle. That money does not go to the athletes. That money goes into a lot of really corrupt national governing bodies that bounce that money around, they give it to all their friends, and almost none of that money makes it to the athletes. USA Judo is the most corrupt organizations ever, and they hated me because I was not afraid to say it, and they always gave me as little funding as possible.
At the 2007 worlds they sent more officials and more people from their organization, and then they made most of the athletes pay for themselves to go. They only sponsorerd three athletes to go, and they sent like eleven different people. And I remember at the Pan Am games, or Pan-Am champsionships in wherever we were at, a bunch of the athletes had to pay for themselves to go and then they flew some PR girl at the last minute. Thousands of dollars just to show up and hang around. And they’re sending all their people first class, and they’re spending all this, you look at their budget and they’re spending thousands of dollars on entertainment for each other. All the people that work for this organization are sitting in these amazing hotels, and the athletes, I’m sitting in a hut. A chalet in the middle of Belgium.
All that money and none of it goes to the athletes, and the second that you’re done fighting they just give you a kick in the ass out the door. There’s nothing set in place to help the athletes after they’re done. What are you doing while you’re training your whole life? You’re not getting as much education as you could. You’re not getting as much work experience as you could. And so what happens after the Olympics Is that you have all these athletes that have no work experience, no education, and they have no health. And it’s all bullshit.
And that’s why I’m like screw everyone’s idea of ‘oh what sports are supposed to be like’. I did what sports were supposed to be like, and I was living in my car. So you know what, fine. I’m gonna talk a bunch of shit. I’m gonna pose in a couple of pictures. And I’m gonna break a couple of girl’s arms, and I’m not gonna feel the least bit sorry about it because you know what? At least I can feed my dog.
The Great Olympic Tax Swindle
In July and August this year Stratford, East London, will become a temporary tax haven. Millions of pounds will be channelled through foreign subsidiary companies operating in the area before it leaves these shores for the pockets of shareholders and CEOs the world over.
How is this possible in a country like the UK you might ask? The sad fact is that enacting tax avoidance legislation has now become a criteria for hosting international competitions such as the Olympics.
Big name athletes such as Usain Bolt (along with the organisers) have applied pressure to potential host nations to ensure that winnings (and profits) are not taxed. (8)
Without these tax sweeteners the IOC would simply take their corporate circus elsewhere and so begins a race to the bottom in a bidding process that echoes the offshore system. New tax rules ushered in as part of the winning Team GB bid include ‘a temporary exemption from UK Corporation Tax and UK Income Tax for certain non-resident companies’. (1)
The legislation is written to include ‘partner’ organisations such as McDonald’s and Visa. Both, along with other ‘partners’, look set to make a tax-free fortune. The former will a monopoly on vending branded food and the latter a total monopoly on venue and ticket payment methods.
The HMRC says “For the purpose of this exemption a London 2012 Partner is an organisation (known as a Commercial Delivery Partner) that is supplying services to LOCOG in return for the right to market and advertise themselves or their products for commercial purposes by reference to their association with the Games. It includes a company connected with the Commercial Delivery Partner.” (1)
The new legislation also exempts all foreign nationals working on the games in the UK from paying income tax on any earnings. Thousands will be exempt from taxation from competitors to media workers (including journalists, technicians and producers) to representatives of official Games bodies and technical officials (including judges, referees and classifiers) along with the athletes themselves.
You Must Throw Like a Girl
The IOC targets female athletes.
Caster Semenya was a world champion – then she was sidelined for 11 months of invasive gender testing because she was too fast and too muscular. She’s back in time for the 2012 Olympics, but now there’s a new rule targeting women who are “too good” at sport to be “real” women.
This rule violates everything the Olympics are about. Seeing people achieve the very fastest, highest, strongest limits of their sport is an inspiration for tens of millions of people globally – to work hard and love what you do. This new rule tells every kid watching the Olympics that you don’t just have to work hard, you have to look “right”.
With only a few days before the Olympics start, with all eyes turning to London, we have to show the International Olympic Committee that not even they have the right to tell someone that who they are is wrong – that there is no such thing as “playing like a girl”.
Time to take the Games Back
And how exactly do we do that? Developing world-class athletes is no small feat, and requires a large investment in time, energy, effort, and funds. Sponsoring athletes is a big money-maker for them, and I don’t know of anyone who begrudges athletes making a living off of their sport. There are degrees of separation between making a living and making a killing. Athletes shouldn’t have to sell their souls, and neither should they be making millions upon millions (then again, neither should anyone else).
The first step in the long journey of recovery from this atrocity, is to hold community athletic events. In every city, at community centres, at public pools, parks, and game fields. Everyone should be able to participate, and the money should be reinvested in the community. At the very least it will get us out from in front of our computer monitors.
Ideally (and I’m nothing if not an idealist), each city (or region in more rural areas) hold their local competitions, the winners qualify to district finals, the winners of which go on to city finals, then regional, provincial/state/prefectural/territorial/etc…, then national, the international. The whole process should take 4 years, such that the international competition occurs on the same schedule as the olympics. The games can’t be called “olympics” for legal reasons, so a new name would be in order. I suggest “the games [tm]”.
At any rate, anyone could participate, and only those with persistence, talent and luck will make it to the international finals.
It may not be as lucrative as the olympics (certainly not for the IOC or corporate sponsors), or top-tier athletes, but in the end, it would be more participatory for competitors, and a lot more fun. Imagine having to race against top athletes at your local community centre. Oh what fun.
Timing the Games
As I understand it, the ancient olympic games began on the New Moon (which would have been last week on July 19th), and continued for two weeks, ending on the Full Moon. This is one tradition that I would prefer to see reinstated, as the excitement of the competition builds to a lunatic climax.
147 Days to Dec 21st 2012