Olympic Spirit 21st Century Style – Crass, Win at all Costs, Hypocritical

Olympic spirit


Ahh, the Olympics, a time to rejoice in the joy of competition, the thrill of victory, the spirit of sportsmanship, or not. Is anyone else completely turned-off by the nature of the modern Olympic spirit? I think I first noted it in 1980 and 1984 when cold war enemies traded boycotts but it was probably coming before that.

To start my little journey I’m going to don my time-travel hat and head back-back-back in time. Where did I leave that thing? Closet? Nope. Counter? Nope. There it is, how on earth did it get in the freezer? Anyway, pop it on the old noggin, brrr, spin three times, special effects and KAPOW!

Ancient Times

The ancient Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece from about 760 BCE to 394 CE when it was suppressed as a way to promote Christianity. The reason it was suppressed is that the ancient games were largely a religious festival as well as a sporting event. The religion being to honor the pagan god Zeus. The ancient Greeks stopped their wars and even death penalty sentences during the truce imposed during the games.

Modern Olympic Spirit

Moving on to more modern times a fellow named Pierre de Coubertin, building on a foundation laid by others, reconstituted the games. He saw them as a beacon of amateur sport as opposed to professional athletics. He also saw them as a way to spread cultural ideas and tolerance among nations as athletes competed with one another. In fairness, he wasn’t all that enlightened as he excluded women from the games. His vision for the Olympics are summed up in this statement:

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.

Sound familiar? No, not a surprise. It is not familiar because it has no place in high-level professional sport. In amateur sport, yes, but when money is involved, winning is everything.

The original modern Olympics in Athens had forty-three events. Now there are 400 money-making opportunities, er … events. (total includes the Winter Olympics).

The new Creed

In the modern Olympics we pressure athletes to leave because they once dated racists but allow terrorist states to participate. One or the other please. In the modern Olympics professional, not amateur, athletes are the rule. Bribery to get the Olympics and Bribery win a match? We’ve got that. Cheating, rampant (the excuse that everyone else is doing it being completely legitimate). A trail of broken child athletes in the wake of commercialism and dollar hunting, plenty of that. Terrorists? Yep, them too. Brazen political exploitation, sign me up.

The Olympic Creed: The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.


I don’t like the Olympic Spirit Anymore

Were did it all go wrong? Berlin 1936, Munich 1972, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984, frankly, I don’t even know where to start and where to stop.

I can say this, I don’t much enjoy it anymore, be it NBA players or girls dancing with balls. I suppose I’m alone or at least in the minority judging by television ratings. Oh well, it’s not the first time I’ve been on the outside not wanting to look in.

Tom Liberman

3 thoughts on “Olympic Spirit 21st Century Style – Crass, Win at all Costs, Hypocritical

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