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.Read More