Should We Have the Olympics?

"If anyone reading this column still believes in the “Olympic ideal,” please give me a call: I’ve got a stadium in Rio de Janeiro I’d like to sell you."
Let's address some of the major critiques of the Olympic Games and dream about what the ideal Games might look like in the future...if they are held at all.

I must confess, I let the glitz and glamour of the Olympic Games get the better of me most of the time and try to ignore some of the more troubling aspects of hosting the Olympics. I enjoy the theatrics of opening ceremonies, the celebrations at podiums, and the joy of bringing countries together.

In my Intro to International Affairs class freshman year of college, our professor held a debate. We were told that we could either be "pro-globalization" (which was a new term to me at the time) or "anti-globalization." A large majority of us chose pro-globalization, while we had one standalone anti-globalizer. His arguments were compelling. The "race to the bottom" deteriorates working conditions in developing countries. Unwanted diseases, commodities, and terrorists can cross borders- an issue we see play out time and time again. Global markets can be volatile. Why should we worry about forming unions and bridges when in fact a globalized world appears to have so many more issues than the seemingly simpler times of pre-globalization?

However, we are reminded of the benefits of globalization daily, even if they often go unnoticed. The call to vote themselves out of the European Union has landed the UK in a difficult position that may involve years of declining value currency, stiffer travel regulations to even its most neighboring countries, and a view of isolationism not seen since perhaps Japan pre-WWII. Global policies on issues like contagious diseases, global warming, and terrorism are imperative in today's world because there are no longer any issues that affect any one country at a time.

What does any of this have to do with the Olympics?

I am still pro-Olympics because in IAFS 1000, I stood on the side of the room with the pro-globalizers and must constantly choose to be optimistic about the world we live in. International Affairs can be a difficult subject because it encompasses, as the name suggests, all of the world's affairs. Terrible things happen daily. I believe we are on the cusp of amazing things if only we choose to support that which we view as right (US elections are a prime example) and do our best to dispel hatred and fear.

The Olympics, utilized effectively, can be a tool for greater international cooperation. If, in contrast to tradition, hosting the Games was shouldered by multiple countries, perhaps Brazil would not be in its downward spiral towards August. The Games should be about recognizing great human achievement through sport. I believe the original motto can be made to include "international cooperation and strength," including at the very least tolerance and at the most ideal, understanding.

This message is muddled by extreme costs, unjust policies that do not alleviate poverty, and often unfinished projects that result in years of debt. The Olympic Games must change. They need to be held in places that can handle the weight but could also benefit from a positive international spotlight. The Games could probably also use a huge budget cut, including the cost of running the International Olympic Committee (its own can of worms when speaking of corruption). I've written about these topics in more length in the Policy and Theory section of my blog.

There are few news stories I look forward to following these days. Every story seems more shocking than the last, and I often yearn for the days when I was a freshman in college who had not yet heard of globalization and understood the true implications of our interconnected atmosphere. At the same time, I look upon the Olympics with hope that maybe someday there will be immense change that allows the Games to be a spotlight of good and a reminder that we, as humans, are extraordinary. We run faster than we've ever run. We overcome disabilities to achieve greatness.

My wish is that someday, I will be there to bear witness to it all.


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