February 13, 2010

The Olympics - The Professional Lie in Amateur Sports

am.a.teur - noun
1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.
2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize.
This is how Random House Dictionary defines amateur.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is like a stack of openly corrupt politicians. Unlike our publicly elected representatives, however, they don't hide the bakshish they reap in order to take public money to put on this rather elite spectacle. They spend years travelling the world taking gifts which, in most other circumstances, would be considered a bribe.
bribe - noun
gift to corrupt; allurement
bribe - verb
influence by a bribe
Webster's New Dictionary

Any dictionary will say roughly the same thing - that a bribe is an inducement in the form of some sort of gift - money or otherwise.

Millions of public dollars are spent each year, by countries around the world, in an attempt to woo a handful of decision makers to put on two shows every four years (summer and winter) ... That's "millions of dollars spent to persuade a handful of people to spent millions upon millions of public dollars staging what has got to be the most expensive show on earth."

We can reasonably establish that the Olympics are granted based on some system of inducement through treatment, insanely disproportionate to the average income of the average person who contributes to these inducements, of these highly elite IOC officials - but let's set aside this matter of how much candidate hosts spend (and IOC officials garner) through the process of deciding which country is going to spend millions of average earner dollars on this show, after all, this is about "amateur" sports - not professional bribing and gift taking.

So, time has come to ask ourselves who these amateur athletes are. Well, I'm really not too interested in who they are so I'll just pick out a couple of examples which I think will make my point quite amply.

From the Vancouver 2010 Olympic website, "The Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman [Mike Komisarek] will also miss the remainder of the National Hockey League season." and "The US already lost defenceman Paul Martin of the New Jersey Devils with a broken arm."

am.a.teur - noun
1. Any professional athlete that takes a break, for a period of two weeks, from being paid for their athletic performance.
2. Any athlete who is "supported" at a rate equal to or higher than the average income earner by a corporate or other sponsor.
International Olympic Committee (At least, I think they MUST define an amateur this way. It's the only logical explanation.)

According to Money Under 30 .com, Michael Phelps (an American swimmer) would be given a very cool $1,000,000 (yes, that's a million dollars - more than the average North American worker earns in 10 years!), by Speedo (the swim suit company), if he broke the 1972 record for seven gold medals in a single Olympics. Oh, and "Yes", by the way. He earned his bonus with eight gold medals plus about $150,000 in American taxpayer dollars for his impressive feat as an "amateur" athlete! These amateurs earn thousands for, even, bronze medals.

Some would argue that these athletes need the money as training for the olympics is a full time job. There you go! Even the proponents agree with me. It's a job. They are not amateurs.

So, do I resent those amateur athletes? Not at all! they're simply not amateurs - not by any definition except, apparently, IOC's ... and the governments that support them ... and the corporations that hand them thousands and millions of corporate dollars.

What I do resent is governments spending millions of dollars to put on this show under the guise of promoting amateur athletic and international co-operation ... a show that only a select few can afford to see live ... a show that further impoverishes the poor and takes the streets away from the homeless ... a show that enriches a few while athletics programs for grade school students get cut ... a show fraught with international political fighting (China's routine objections to representation by Taiwan being only one obvious example of the distinct lack of international co-operation) ... a show that uses millions of public dollars while doing nothing for society at large.

To keep perspective, I recognize there are many (perhaps most - I neither know nor care) that earn nothing. That excuses nothing! Do I respect the athletes? Depends. Eddie the Eagle - love the guy! He is what the Olympics is supposed to be about. He was a true amateur who spent his own dollars to go out there and compete. Good for him!

Moral support should be offered to any athlete who wishes to compete. Need plane fare to get there? Go to family, find a corporate sponsor. Sorry - not my money. I can't afford to fly myself around the world - why should give away what I can't afford to give myself? Government dollars? Hey, no problem - just refund, to me, the share that would be mine. Let those that think government should support the Olympics pay a special olympic tax. If they think it's money well spent, they should pay ... but not I! Think I'm undemocratic? Think again. A recent Canadian poll said that a (small) majority of Canadians think it's not money well spent (relevant since these games are taking place in Canada this year). This should be interpreted as meaning that any Canadian government funding of the 2010 Olympics is contrary to the basic democratic principals under which Canada is supposed to be governed. (I bet a whole stack of Canadian elected officials will be visiting ... at tax payers expense.)

As to the Vancouver games, specifically; the money spent and the displacement/victimization of homeless and other poor as a result of services to the games is an issue for citizens of British Columbia. As of August 30, 2009, according to Associated Press, Vancouver was experiencing a $37 million shortfall on it's $1.75 billion (1,750,000,000) operating budget. Can you imagine how many schools, around the world, could be built? With a population of just under 5 million (5,000,000) people in British Columbia, that comes to a total of about $400.00 per man, woman and child; homeless and non-homeless; rich, poor and working-poor. Keep in mind, this is only the operating budget. Any "gifts" to the deciding IOC officials, awards/bonuses and/or government support given to athletes, free tickets (unaffordable to the average person) for friends of officials and competitors and the myriad of other moneys spent on these games is in addition to this operating budget ... and the homeless problems that are resultant from these "games" won't go away after the event.

Looked at another way, that's about 30 cents for every person in the world. Considering there are people in the world who earn as little as 50$/month (and less), can you imagine what that 30 cents would mean to them? I would rather our governments take my money and give it to a poor person in a third world than waste it on the most financially horrific show on earth.

Olympic amateurs? It's a lie that taints the entire event!

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