The Olympics Should Be About Athletes, Not IOC's Phony Agitprop
To paraphrase an old line, “I tuned into the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and a climate conference broke out.”
The stars of the 2016 Olympic opening ceremonies are purported to be the athletes themselves. Their hopes, their dreams and their accomplishments in pursuit of gold. And there was some of that on the floor of the Maracana Stadium in Rio as the heroes of the Games marched in to start the Summer Games.An athlete’s smile can light up the world.
But they were forced to share the spotlight with an environmental message preached by the Brazilian organizers and the International Olympic Committee. “Green Games for a Blue Planet” was the catchy phrase that emerged from the focus groups to describe their virtuous work. In place of higher, faster, stronger came a dirge about the degradation of the planet.
In one pathetic example of symbolism over actualization, the five rings of the Olympic logo were all colored green. I know I felt better. Did you? A steady procession of speakers, singers and dancers hammered home the message that unless we dedicate our every waking moment to Gia we will burn to a crisp.
Or choke. Or drown. Or all of the Al Gore seven signs of the enviro-apocalypse.
This hijacking of the athletes’ moment of glory might have been simply annoying were it not for the fact that this entire charade took place next to the open sewer that dumps Rio’s raw sewage into the nearby ocean. As the swimmers and sailors who have bobbed through the detritus and body parts in Rio’s waters can attest, the only green in Guanabara Bay comes from putrefaction.
The Rio brain trust talked at endless length about “sustainability”. The thing most sustained, however, was the green agitprop of the IOC mandate. In the annals of “do as I say not as I do” this one was worthy of a gold medal.
Making the hectoring tone of the warmist priests even more annoying was how organizers who’d brought the Games to Brazil had made cleaning up the local environment a key to their bid. They earmarked $4 billion for the effort. Then, the Brazilian economy tanked after the bid was awarded to Rio, and a number of things were scaled back for this Games.
Treating the effluent produced by Rio’s 12 million citizens? That $ 4 billion became just $170 million actually spent. No doubt most of that was on the innocuous pap of “facilitation of peer-to-peer exchange” and “driving urban action” promoted by Rio’s progressive mayor. The verbal ooze continues to flow like a mighty sewer.
Did the IOC make mention of these failures in its bloviations Friday? No, it made the Olympic athletes stand for three hours of gratuitous hand-wringing about fraternity and egalité. There was no talk of swimmers ingesting microbes to combat the bilge they might swim through. No talk of sterilizing paddles or mass-scale fumigation to combat Zika virus.
This pandering to the Naomi Klein eco-loons might work in Davos, but it has no place stealing the spotlight from Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky or Penny Oleksiak and the bronze-medal winning Canadian female freestyle swim team.
The advertisers on the broadcasts were onboard with some of the touchy-feely stuff, too, but they did a better job integrating the flavour-of-the-day into stories about the athletes. Make no mistake, however, if the commercial interests who fund the IOC wanted this stuff gone it would be gone faster than you can say Usain Bolt. So no one's hands are clean on this file.
Honesty. Can the athletes stage an Olympic Brexit to separate themselves from this effort to politicize their efforts? Is there no way to staunch the people in suits who lecture the masses while taking bribes on the side? Can we have an emancipation for the runners and swimmers and their like before the IOC takes down the entire Olympic apparatus with its proselytizing?
Perhaps viewers voting with their remotes might be cause for reflection at the IOC. While there are contributing factors, the overnight TV ratings for the Opening Ceremonies— much of it in North American prime time— were down 28 percent from London in 2010. (Canadian TV numbers were not available at press time.)
How about next time it has a bidding process, the IOC and its well-heeled coterie of princes, autocrats and feather bedders accept a bid from a city that wants to spend a fraction of what Rio or London or Beijing blew on their efforts at mass Kumbaya? How about they make those savings by dumping the one-world clap trap of the Paris Accord to concentrate on the athletes themselves? How about asking competitors what they want.
Give them clean water, Clean air. And a clean slate free of the message-bearers. That would be a truly Olympian effort.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).