Image Courtesy Of: https://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-sanctions-16-athletes-for-failing-anti-doping-tests-at-beijing-2008
The recent presidential election in the United States has sparked some very interesting fears. The most common one is a feeling of danger; “I don’t feel safe” is a term that is often repeated, characteristic of a country that sometimes needs something to happen just to relieve the monotony of extreme capitalism: Work-Eat-Shop-Eat-Sleep-Repeat. In order to assuage some of the international concerns over Donald Trump’s election the U.S. Olympic Committee has made some interesting claims that highlight some of the major concerns.
The delegation for Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 made their first presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), an organization (like FIFA) that is “representative of a corrupt global power structure” in the words of Forbes. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made one of the strangest comments I have ever heard uttered about the U.S. in August when he claimed that if Mr. Trump won IOC members would say, “Wait a second, can we go to a country like that, where we’ve heard things that we take offense to?” In many ways, the words “a country like that” mirrors the rhetoric that some Americans use when describing “other” countries: “I heard it’s really bad there”. Behind this over-the-top rhetoric, of course, there lies a relationship between sports and politics. As Bloomberg notes, Mr. Garcetti was a supporter of Mr. Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton and the LA bid’s chairman Casey Wasserman not only donated “millions to the Clinton Foundation through his charitable organization” but he also held a fundraiser for Ms. Clinton at his home.
Alex Reimer, writing for Forbes, believes that Mr. Trump could be an “ardent critic” of the Olympics coming to the United States due to this corruption:
Trump fixated on the pay-for-play accusations surrounding Clinton’s time in the State Department. But perhaps nothing represents the culture of patronage more than the Olympic bidding process. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, for example, were ripe with scandal. Members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee bribed certain IOC members, paying for luxuries such as family vacations, plastic surgery and Super Bowl tickets. Several IOC officials also walked away with cash bribes between $3 million and $7 million.
Corruption is endemic when sports and (big) money converge, but unfortunately state media in the United States miss the point (as they so often do, perhaps intentionally). ABC news highlighted the words of the bid’s key speaker Allyson Felix who emphasized that “America’s diversity is our greatest strength”. Ms. Felix added “We’re also a nation with individuals like me, descendants of people who came to America, not of their own free will but against it. But we’re not a nation that clings to our past, no matter how glorious – or how painful. Americans rush toward the future”. While Ms. Felix’s words regarding America are re-assuring, unfortunately they do not really reflect reality. In many cases, in fact, the United States does “cling to its past”.
Americans’ obsession with race stems directly from an inability to come to terms with the fact that slavery was an essential component of early America’s industrial development. One example of this inability to come to terms with the fact came when students and faculty at the University of Virginia were “offended” when the president of the University quoted the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson in an email to the student body. In a typically American response, Assistant Professor of Psychology Noelle Hurd drafted an open letter saying “We are incredibly disappointed in the use of Thomas Jefferson as a moral compass. Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves”. Apparently Ms. Hurd—despite being able to successfully obtain a PhD—never learned to think critically during her education and is evidently unaware of what the social structure was during Thomas Jefferson’s time. No one can ever say that it was a good or a just system, but to judge people from 200 years ago on the standards of today is fairly absurd. The president of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education went so far as to call for all schools named after slave owners to be re-named. In particular, he asked that George Washington high school be renamed as Maya Angelou high school.
Of course this is a slippery slope. Names are powerful, and Turkey’s renaming of stadiums is part of a similar process of rewriting the national narrative. In this case, however, it is indicative of America’s obsession with the past: There is a lot of guilt but very little improvement. Instead of actually trying to better the lives of African Americans in the country, the Democratic party (which most African Americans vote for) has only entrenched them in a form of political slavery by taking their votes for granted and giving them little in return in terms of tangible improvements in quality of life. After all, if their economic situation improved then they would have little reason to vote for a party that runs campaigns based on improving their lives. The party therefore has little interest in improving anything since it would mean lost votes. African Americans in the United States deserve to have better lives and more opportunities; renaming schools for famous African Americans is just a pathetic attempt to pander without providing real improvement. This means that the exploitation of a long suffering group of Americans continues on.
The delegation for LA’s Olympic bid is also complicit in this system. While I wish that the United States could, as Ms. Felix says, “rush towards the future”, her very presence in the delegation as an African American athlete is indicative of these flawed policies. If LA succeeds in winning the bid, the beneficiaries in the (corrupt) system will likely be mostly White, even if the key speaker is not. It is just another job of window dressing that fails to address the root causes of African Americans’ marginalization in U.S. society and fails to offer real avenues for improving the situation. Remember the last Olympic games held in the United States. After the 1996 Olympics, held in the largely African American city of Atlanta, Georgia, it was the same: the poorest communities did not benefit at all from the development boom surrounding the games.