The Glory of the Games
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 11:08
The Olympic Games were revived in the late 1800s thanks to the tireless support of Pierre de Coubertin, a French Baron, in hopes that friendly international competition between countries would help maintain peace in Europe. From this beginning, the Olympics were supposed to be a time for countries to unite and celebrate their athletes in a friendly competition as well as promote good sportsmanship and healthy lifestyles. However, the modern Olympics quickly became distorted. As countries began to see the Olympics as their chance to prove their superiority over others, and it lost its true purpose in a mixture of commercialization and poor sportsmanship. Now, the lengths to which countries, coaches and athletes themselves will go to ensure they stand on the podium is shameful. I can personally still recall the disappointment when learning of our own Ben Johnson’s drug use in 1988. 100m in 9.79 seconds; it clearly was too good to be true.
I had hoped the 2012 Olympic Games would have been different. After having only one athlete disqualified for the use of performance enhancing drugs in Vancouver, I was optimistic. Unfortunately, a number of athletes were sanctioned before the games even began and several others were disqualified during or after for failing drug tests; most notably Nadzeya Ostapchuk, a female shot putter from Belarus who was stripped of her gold medal. In addition, Ghfran Almouhamad, a female hurdler from Syria tested positive for a banned stimulant and the American judo fighter Nick Delpopolo tested positive for marijuana.
Unfortunately, doping is not the only way athletes and countries have embarrassed themselves in their relentless pursuit to stand on the podium. In the 2012 London Olympics, eight female badminton players were disqualified for attempting to throw games during the qualifying rounds. Two doubles teams from South Korea and one doubles team from both China and Indonesia were disqualified for blatantly trying to lose games so they would face different teams in the quarter finals. This lack of sportsmanship not only diminishes the quality of competition and the entertainment value, but also lowers the integrity of the Olympics. There’s nothing worse than watching a game where both competitors are trying to lose.
Another factor which significantly reduces the integrity of the Olympics is the way in which the countries treat their athletes. Some countries have begun training children for specific sports at extremely young ages, and when they believe the child has a potential to win a medal, they seclude them from society. They are taken from their families, friends, education and then placed into private training facilities where they spend most of their childhood. Once they have retired from their international sporting careers (or in other words they are now too old and a younger person has taken their place), they are often left to fend for themselves with deficient schooling. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some countries spend millions of dollars on supporting professional athletes and development programs while ignoring their amateur athletic programs that are used by a great number of the population. The U.S. win a lot of medals at the Olympics, but the average American is out of shape. If the US spent more money on developing and supporting youth sports, perhaps they would not be going through an obesity epidemic.
Finally, where host countries used to spend millions of dollars preparing for the Olympics, they now spend billions. Although they might make a profit on a global standpoint thanks to advertisers (such as McDonalds, the official restaurant of the Olympics), local economies are left to deal with stadiums that go unused. Also, I don’t know what is more unfitting than the idea of the Olympics, whose athletes are supposed to be role models, supporting the unhealthy lifestyle of fast food burgers and supersized fries. These are all distractions that take away from the hard working athletes who are fulfilling their dreams by competing for their country honourably on the international stage.
The Olympics should focus on the athletic feats of the competitors and medalists should not have to share their spotlight with disqualified athletes.