When the London bid for the Olympics was first put out, the cost was estimated at $3.9 billion. One analyst put the ultimate cost at over $90 billion. You may ask where that money is coming from, and that's exactly what British taxpayers may want to know, especially since it's coming from them
It really is an impressive show. The feats the gymnasts perform are amazing. Most of the simplest maneuvers they perform on the balance beam, for instance, almost nobody could come close to doing on the ground, never mind on that narrow beam. Then there's the weight lifters. Watching them it's clear that it's not simply a matter of brute strength. They are amazingly quick both on their feet and with their hands and shoulders. What separates these athletes from the other merely truly excellent ones is their total dedication, their total focus, on developing their particular abilities.
Then there are all sorts of "sports" that are not shown on TV. In fact, they're hidden from the public eye.
For instance, there's the tax dodge scam. Take for instance the Olympic horse of Ann Romney, wife of US Republican Party presidential contender Mitt Romney. Well, the Romney's probable wouldn't be too happy for you to take that horse, since it earned Ann $77,000 in tax credit. That's not such a feat, really. After all, all she had to do was be smart enough to have the right parents and right connections and that little tax scam was easily arranged.
Then there are the magic tricks, such as the amazing disappearing spectators trick. That trick was performed by Visa card along with their helper, the International Olympic Committee. Most magic tricks are performed with the aid of a helper as well as by some practical special effects. In this case, the magician - Visa Card - had a helper in the person of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and their special effect was a few lines written into the Olympics contracts. Just a simple rule requiring that all tickets must be bought with Visa and Visa only. Are you an aspiring young athlete in London, still in school and too young to own a credit card, but want to watch some of the very best in the world in your sport? No problem. You can turn on your TV! Because you can't buy a ticket with the cash in your pocket - the IOC and Visa made sure of that.
Another sport is the bottomless pit money toss. When the London bid for the Olympics was first put out, the cost was estimated at $3.9 billion. That's no chump change there, but it is when compared to the real cost, now close to $14 billion and counting. One analyst put the ultimate cost at over $90 billion. You may ask where that money is coming from, and that's exactly what British taxpayers may want to know, especially since it's coming from them.
The Olympics are advertised as an event that brings the nations of the world together. It's also advertised as a gathering of the world's greatest athletes. If that were so, why are almost none of the events won by athletes from Nigeria or Bolivia or Bangladesh? Why are almost all the winners from the most wealthy and powerful nations? Is it possible that millions of dollars in training facilities has anything to do with it?
As for bringing the people of the world together in the spirit of international brotherhood (or even sisterhood) -- that's not what the chants of "U.S.A… U.S.A" sound like. In fact, the Olympics are one of the world's great shows of nationalism and patriotism. As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said about why he decided to go for getting the 2012 Olympics in Britain: " "We can afford to do the Olympics. We’re Britain. We’re not some Third World country.”
The modern Olympics were first put together by the French Nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin after his country was defeated in the Franco-Purssian War of 1870-71. Feeling the shame of that defeat, he tried to start a physical education program in the French schools so young French workers would be better prepared to kill young workers of other lands in imperialist wars. When this effort collapsed, Baron de Coubertin conceived of the Olympics, which were later further developed by another great man of the people, the Spanish nobleman Juan Antonio Samaranch, also known as the Grandee of Samaranch. Samaranch was an official in the fascist government of Generalissimo Franco.
As seen by the comment from former British PM Blair, the Olympics are totally political in that they are used to bolster the national prestige of different regimes. One of the most blatant such uses was by Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, was perfectly clear on the purpose: “German sport has only one task: to strengthen the character of the German people, imbuing it with the fighting spirit and steadfast camaraderie necessary in the struggle for its existence,” he stated. As such, the Berlin Olympics were organized as a propaganda piece for the Nazis. German Jewish athletes were excluded, with the acceptance of the IOC chairman, Avery Brundage, who said it was just a "Jew-Nazi conflict." These Olympics were famous as a pageant advertising the Nazi regime, a pageant that was staged with complete IOC cooperation.
Fifty-two years later, things were not quite the same. In the 1986 Olympics in Mexico City, two black American athletes decided to make clear the racism that was so blatant and prevalent in the United States. When they stood on the winner's platform, Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised clenches fists to make their point. They were rapidly packed up and sent home. Some days later, at the same Olympics, another American gold medal winner gave the opposite message. When George Foreman won the Olympic heavyweight boxing championship, he ran around the ring waving an American flag. That demonstration of patriotism was considered completely acceptable.
Taxpayers Foot the Bill
As with any major event, there is money to be spent (the taxpayers') and money to be made (for the corporations and the already-rich). That, after all, is the real "sport" that drives the world economy. The money and other prizes that are awarded starts with the campaign for which city will host the Olympics. Massive bribes are offered the members of the Olympic Committee. These include everything from money to paying for members' children's college education to providing prostitutes. And in case you are wondering how those old fogies on the Olympic Committee can take full advantage of the prostitutes, they have also been provided with large supplies of Viagra! Once IOC members and "associates" are at the Olympics, the host country must provide 40,000 hotel rooms, including 1800 four and five star rooms and 500 air-conditioned limousines for them.
Just as Visa is an official sponsor of the London Olympics, so there is an official food sponsor -- the only one allowed to set up food courts in Olympic village. That sponsor is none other than McDonalds… the dinner or champions. Or not. Perhaps Bernie Madoff will become the official banker of the next Olympics.
Another favorite Olympic sport is "hide the drugs". Victor Conte explained how this is done: Drug testing is done at the time of the Olympics. However, according to Conte the main time to take drugs is during the peak training months back last September and October. Conte explained this to the International Olympic Committee, but they weren't interested. And it's not as if Conte were just anybody. He should know. After all, as a "nutritionist" to the stars he served several years in jail in the US for helping drug up US baseball players and other professional athletes. But how can the Olympics continue to attract interest (and money) if records aren't broken? As for the athletes, there is so much at stake for them that one survey some years ago revealed that the majority of athletes asked said that if there were a drug offered them that was undetectable and that enabled them to win an Olympic gold medal they'd take it… even if it meant the drug would kill them a few years later!
This is an indication of the enormous pressure that is placed on these elite athletes. Watching them perform, in many cases the pressure is written all over their faces. Some of the crack under the pressure; some rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, what few of them seem to do is simply enjoy the moment and enjoy the use of their bodies and their talents.
Enjoy it; You're Paying for it
Yet despite all of this, the Olympics are a tribute to what the human species of capable of. And to our British fellow workers, we say: Enjoy them as best you can. After all, you're paying for them.
John Reimann is a retired carpenter and an expelled member of the Carpenters' Union in the United States. (He was expelled for leading rank and file struggles against the union bureaucracy.) He is a long-time socialist, who organized for a number of years in Mexico. He is presently a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.