Rot at the core threatens future of Olympics

Rot at the core threatens future of Olympics

Sixteen years ago, when the Olympics were beset by leadership corruption, ethical laxity and doping, my perspicacious colleague Jere Longman of the New York Times suggested the possibility of the Games’ crumbling under the weight of rotten moral underpinnings.

“Future drug and corruption scandals seem inevitable. Preparations for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens remain precarious. The Olympic Games are as decayed as a bad tooth, perhaps facing permanent extraction sometime in the future,” Longman wrote in a May 17, 2000 Times story headlined, “Lack of I.O.C. Ethics Is Business as Usual.”

The Olympics may still be standing, but the rot has gotten so much worse in the past two years that it no longer seems a stretch to envision their demise.

Such a vision may be peculiar to the United States, where the much-trumpeted notions of an Olympic movement with Olympic ideals have no traction, where the coverage of Olympic-related events (and the Olympics themselves) in major media is continually shrinking, where the presence of more than one major pro sport and of all-but-pro college sports adds competition for attention that the Olympics face nowhere else in the world.

How can one have ideals when the leaders of the International Olympic Committee, notably its president, Thomas Bach, have mastered the art of moral equivocation and of what I call Candide-ism: saying all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds?

I am moved to this doom saying by events of the last few weeks involving Olympic costs and doping, the latter now known to be so pervasive as to have invalidated dozens of results from the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.

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In long term, radical change needed to reduce Olympic host burden

In long term, radical change needed to reduce Olympic host burden

If the International Olympic Committee thought the bidding process changes in its Agenda 2020 reforms would end the negativity about being a host of the Summer or Winter Games, it has been sadly mistaken.

The frightening new financial projections about the cost of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and Rome’s withdrawal from the 2024 race on financial grounds make it clear the IOC still has a long way to go in convincing citizens of democracies that being a host of the ever-more-bloated Olympic Games is worth the time, money and hassle.

 The italicized passage above was the opening of my Friday column, which dealt with short- and long-term solutions to a mess so bad that six of the 10 official candidates to be host of the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Games withdrew after formalizing candidatures – and another, Boston, dropped out before filing its paperwork.

In the short term – for the 2024 vote coming next September – I borrowed an idea from my colleague Alan Abrahamson, who posited that the IOC should award the next two Summer Games at the same time, with Los Angeles getting 2024 and Paris 2028.

I suggested that the order makes no difference (click here for that column).  The important thing is doubling down will give the IOC more time to sort out its future.

The long-term answer?  Dramatic changes should be considered.

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Will only fools - and dictators - rush in to bid for Olympics?

Will only fools - and dictators - rush in to bid for Olympics?

If the International Olympic Committee thought the bidding process changes in its Agenda 2020 reforms would end the negativity about the prospect of hosting the Summer or Winter Games, it has been sadly mistaken.

The frightening new financial projections about the cost of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and Rome’s withdrawal from the 2024 Summer Games race on financial grounds make it clear the IOC still has a long way to go in convincing citizens of democracies that taking on the ever-more-bloated Olympic Games is worth the time, money and hassle.

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