We’re almost halfway through 17 frigid days of Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, and U.S. media coverage has been banal, predictable and full of holes. American press outlets, largely ignorant of Korean history and politics, have demonized North Korea and Russia while pumping out trivial stories about the number of condoms at the Olympic Village.
lost in most mainstream coverage is the true human and economic cost
of these mega-events. The cartoonishly ruthless capitalists at the
International Olympic Committee (IOC) shamelessly operate above the
law, and their only goal is to extract a deep profit from athletes.
The IOC’s practices are in direct opposition to democracy, yet
sports pundits like Mike
Tirico will have you believe the global competition is a
magical event that can fix the world.
for adults out there who don’t believe in magic, the Olympics are
rotten from every conceivable angle.
The Olympics are an exploitation machine.
modern Olympics event features worker abuses of all type, from
mistreatment in the youth sports leagues, to sub-living wages for
U.S. Olympic athletes to the routine theft of short-term and
hospitality workers’ wages.
the IOC, U.S. Olympic Committee and general public don’t
appear to be very concerned with athletes’ safety. On one of the
first days of competition this year, snowboarders complained about
windy conditions they were forced to compete in. But nothing
was done, even after six of the first seven runs resulted in crashes.
more, the Winter Olympics inherently advantage athletes from richer,
whiter colonialist countries. Considering how expensive it is to
train for winter sports, and how little athletes get paid, it is
clear that having independent means enhances one’s ability to
The Olympics are a diversion of local resources.
city in the world has higher-priority civic issues and crises to deal
with than the Olympics. But the global sporting event sucks city
resources out of the public trust, putting them into the hands of the
IOC, developers and the special interests driving each city’s bid.
Olympics are often sold as a backdoor remedy to problems like
homelessness, transportation shortcomings or economic stagnation. Yet
there is no evidence the Games have ever improved urban life for
anyone but the wealthy. The Olympics usually promise transit
expansion, but if they deliver, it’s expansion that favors the
hyper-wealthy, not the transit-dependent. The London 2012 Olympics
saw a massive retooling
of the public transit systemto accommodate Olympic tourists,
instead of prioritizing the needs of city residents. We saw this
dynamic play out recently at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, where
rail was only accessible for Super Bowl ticket holders on
the day of the event.
The Olympics have displaced countless people from their homes.
might ask yourself, “Why does it take up to 10 years to prepare for
an Olympic Games?” The answer is that the Olympics are only
superficially about sport. The true engine driving the Games is a
combination of real estate speculation and deep profit extraction.
The Olympics help push commercial, transportation and hotel
developments through cities. This process is what Naomi Klein would
call part of the “Shock Doctrine,” only instead of a natural
disaster, it’s a human-made event which precipitates all sorts of
evictions and displacement as cities turn into networks of boutique
hotels and Airbnbs. The Olympics have displaced millions of
people from Rio de Janeiro, London,
are a disaster everywhere they land.
the Olympics bring huge expenditures of resources that would better
go towards meeting human needs. The Pyeongchang Olympics are
estimated to go about $10
billion dollars over budget. The Tokyo Olympics—still more
than two years out—are roughly $8 billion dollars over budget.
The Olympics empower the police state.
Olympics give local law enforcement and militaries huge boosts in
power, authority, and technology. In the United States, Olympic Games
become National Special Security Events (NSSE), which give the
Department of Homeland Security the authority to collaborate with
local law enforcement. The Olympics also allow agencies to heighten
security and suspend normal civil liberties in the lead-up and during
the Games, including unprecedented
as in Pyeongchang, the Games themselves become exhibitions of
military and state power (see the thousands of flying drones over
Pyeongchang), which dates back to Hitler retooling the Opening
Ceremony to be a demonstration of fascist power. In many cases, the
Olympic bid includes clauses that legally suspend citizen rights to
protest, congregate or speak.
The Olympic stakeholders are some of the worst, most corrupt people
you need to know about the IOC is that it has its own wiki
and controversies and counts Henry Kissinger as an honorary
member. The IOC makes FIFA look like choir boys by comparison. IOC
members get paid more per day to attend the Olympics than the U.S.
government pays its Olympic athletes to perform.
the good news is that the Olympics are historically unpopular right
now as far as finding host cities to bid. If they run out of sucker
cities, or if enough abuses come to public attention, the IOC might
have to dissolve—leaving space to reimagine what an ethical,
socialist alternative to these Capitalist Games could be. One-hundred
years ago, Americans and Europeans were exploring what a
non-capital-driven Olympiad might look like. There were events like
the Workers’ Olympiad, Chicago’s Counter-Olympics of 1932, and a
planned Barcelona alternative to the 1936 Nazi Games that was
cancelled at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
are politically sound, humane ways of hosting international athletic
events, and they all start with prioritizing the needs of the workers
and the most vulnerable of a host city’s population. Anything else,
and it’s just another exploitation Olympics.
>> The article above was written by Jonny Coleman, and is reprinted from In These Times.