The Olympics Have Lost Their Way

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I’m a little bitter, and not just because Rio won the 2016 Olympics over my home town in what many call a flawed decision by a flawed organization (The International Olympic Committee). 

I’m bitter because here I am in the middle of the craziest and most violent election of my lifetime, and I’m being encouraged by NBC to eat McDonald’s and cheer for Americans.

I’m bitter because people are being killed by armies and terrorists around the world while I’m being encouraged by NBC to drink Coke and cheer for Americans.

I’m bitter because what is a part of my father’s, and by effect my own, ethnic identity is now nothing more than a flawed, nationalist marketing campaign.

This is not the Olympics, and we should be as ashamed of what the Olympics have become as we are of our choices for President of the United States. (Well, two of them anyway, I’m voting Gary Johnson).


The United States today is in many ways the Greece of ancient times. Having ruled the known world, the Greeks were the most efficient people (making use of crummy, mountainous land), with the most efficient armies (having destroyed Persian forces 10-100 times the size of their own) and the most culturally influential and accepting of any people on Earth.

Greece was the birthplace of the Olympics and the concept of sportsmanship. But sportsmanship to the Ancient Greeks wasn’t just about shaking the hand of a competitor from a country you despise or smiling in the face of defeat.

The Greeks would halt the world for their Olympic games. Wars would be put on hold, arguments between philosophers and politicians would be tabled for another day, and the very best of each of the Greek city states would come together to compete at Olympus.

In some cases, the Olympics put a permanent end to war. They represented the unity among the Greek people, and it was these Olympics that contributed to those people’s constant triumph over oppressors.

Ancient Greece has endeared that culture to all of Western Society, as it is arguably the birthplace, perhaps second only to Christianity, of most of what we call Western Culture.


During the Cold War, the United States boycotted the Olympics, and convinced dozens of nations to join them, when hosted by the Soviet Union and vice versa.

In 2004, American soldiers watched the Olympics in Athens from posts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2012, Americans sent millions of dollars worth of arms to support fighting in the Middle East while athletes fought for gold in London.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) knows full well that not a single city which has hosted the modern Olympics has been left in a better position than when it arrived. In Rio, hoards of poor citizens are blocked from entry into the Olympic Village by the police forces of the city and country of Brazil.

To host the Olympics today is to wish bankruptcy upon your people. To host the Olympics today is to pretend that our problems don’t exist for two weeks, as opposed to using these games as a means to find peace through commonality. Even today, many people believe Chicago lost the bid for 2016 in part due to conflicts between NBC and the IOC regarding profit sharing.

These Olympics are not for the athletes, for the cities or for the people. They share only a name with those of the Ancient Greeks.

To anyone watching the Olympics today: You are witnessing a shell of what these games can be. Perhaps that’s why there is historically low interest in the 2016 Rio Games. . . maybe we all know, deep down, that this is but another beautiful quality of humankind ruined by greed, power, and bureaucracy.

Take note of that. We Greek-letter organizations to share in name only a connection with the esteemed principles of the Ancient Greeks. We too are succumbing to a structure, or structures, depriving our students of the experience they deserve.