The Rio Olympics are set to start in three days, and to describe my feelings about it as “mixed” would be the understatement of the millennium.
Where do I begin? Should I start with the folly of planning a multi-billion dollar sports spectacle in a nation that’s economically devastated and politically unstable? Or the greed that prevents the sponsors of athletes – many of whom are often meagerly compensated despite being the entire fucking point of the thing – from even so much as mentioning the word “Olympics”?
And where do I even begin when it comes to doping? I don’t even know where to start. It’s just too much. It’s ruined so many of the sports I love. Now when I hear about a phenomenal athletic performance, it’s hard for me not to wonder in the back of my mind whether that athlete was doping or not. Can you blame me?
Where do you even start when it comes to talking about everything that is wrong with the Olympics?
Yet I, like a complete dope, will most likely watch tons of the coverage, thereby giving my implicit approval that yes this is fine, yes I am OK with this, anything to keep me entertained. The IOC and all of the various forces of greed and corruption that orbit around it depend upon that implicit approval to keep doing what they’re doing, and to pretend as if they’re doing so because they care about global goodwill and not because they’ve found a really efficient way to keep themselves rich and powerful.
I am so frustrated about it because I am someone who loves sports passionately, but the sports I love receive virtually no media attention outside of the Olympics Trials or the Olympics themselves. If I want to see the athletes who I actually care about as they perform at the peak of their game, I’ve got to watch the Olympics.
And as a fervent supporter of women in sport, this is particularly aggravating, because outside of the Olympics, top female athletes receive next to no media attention. Yes, we hear about Serena Williams – and rightfully so – and occasionally about women’s college basketball or professional soccer, but that’s about it. If I want to see women in other sports performing at the top of their game, I have to watch the Olympics.
And yes, there is a tiny nugget of truth to all the bullshit about global goodwill. I’ve lived in the United States my whole life, and have spent about a total of two weeks outside of its borders. The Olympics – particularly the Opening Ceremonies – give me a chance to see other people from around the world, to see how proud they are to represent their countries, to show that patriotism isn’t just reserved for those of us who wave the Stars and Stripes around while chanting “USA! USA!”
I have legitimate, honest-to-goodness reasons to love the Olympics – as do so many of us – and it infuriates me that this singular opportunity to exhibit some of the best qualities of human has been so thoroughly debased by some of the worst.
That desire to connect with our fellow humans around the planet under the common guise of sport is a lovely thing, and we are all being exploited because of it. I certainly feel exploited. Not to the same extent as the athletes, and certainly not to the same extent as the marginalized people of Rio and Brazil, but I definitely feel as though this part of my better nature is being taken advantage of by people who apparently lack scruples and moral fiber.
I want to be wholeheartedly excited about the Olympics, but my god, the Olympics make it so hard.