Demystifying the Olympic Games

Classical Greek thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates believed and practiced the concept of mens sana in corpora sano...

Classical Greek thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates believed and practiced the concept of mens sana in corpora sano. Consequently, they followed a regimen of both mental and physical training. These famed philosophers, regularly attended a ‘gymnasium’ and supported and attended the Olympic Games.

The competitions originally included just a 100 meters race, javelin and disc throws but after 13 Olympiads two more races joined the stade as Olympic events: the diaulos (roughly equal to today’s 400-meter race), and the dolichos (1,500-meter or 5,000-meter event). The pentathlon (a foot race, a long jump, discus and javelin throws and a wrestling match) was introduced in 708 B.C., boxing in 688 B.C. and chariot racing in 680 B.C. In 648 B.C., pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling debuted as an Olympic event. Founded by Hercules, Olympic Games were not only revered and followed but dedicated to Zeus, the God of Gods.

By 393 A.D. Roman Emperor Theodosius brought the competitions to an end when he evicted pagan traditions from Rome, recently converted into Christianity.

When Baron Pierre de Coubertin relaunched the Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, the competition was surrounded by allure and great expectations as to their role in enhancing understanding among nations. And to a certain degree they delivered at least until the end of the past century when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) entered the world of broadcasting rights for diverse distribution platforms and real estate developers managed to convince emerging market leaders that the hosting exercise could be a launching board to development.

Broadcasting rights represent such an important stream of revenue for the IOC that the games are subject to all kinds of procedural pressures so that they comply with the reality show approach to everything reigning supreme in world television.

Developers, on their part depicted the hosting of Olympiads as the sure path to enter first world status.

Given that broadcasting rights have made winning athletes instant super stars who can enter the world of seven figure salaries, they create incentives to doping.

With the privilege of hosting however comes responsibilities. Investments in facilities for the games is expensive and needs to be in place in a short time frame thereby eliminating any possibility of saving on inputs, work force, designs or equipment.

Given that most developing nations have yet to install rule of law in their territories, corruption runs rife while ordinary citizens suffer revenue reassignment away from health care and education and into sports facilities construction.

In the end, income streams attributable to tourist inflows into the host country are much lower than the debt incurred to develop facilities.

Even worse is the negative impact on the population resulting from neglect of fundamental public services in favor of building what after the Olympic Games becomes a ghost town.

Also expensive, slapdash construction projects like arenas and pavilions give rise to human-rights abuse. Doha, host to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has come under intense international criticism for reported human-rights violations committed in the rapid build-up, as hundreds of guest workers have died constructing the World Cup stadium in Qatar.

In another instance, Azerbaijan hosted the 2015 European Games and the government used opposition to the games as a excuse to crack down on all opposition and independent journalists.

But all these drawbacks have not stained the image of the Olympic Games as a promoter of economic development and political understanding.

This magnetism however is about to come to an end in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio will not only host the Olympiads in the middle of economic and political turmoil but also on the tails of the outburst of a frightening disease: The Zika Virus.

Reports have it that facilities are not and will most probably not be ready for occupancy.

Costs have skyrocketed out of control reaching 2000% in the case of transportation to 800% in the case of the Olympic Village.

With the accessibility to information that prevails in our world and the myriad distribution platforms so far, the Rio encounter has been portrayed as a disaster.

And while the presence of athletes from all over the world competing in all kinds of sports will fill the city with joy, when the farewell ceremony takes place, Brazilians will be left with hefty debts and political upheaval springing form the people’s discontent with the divertion of scarce resources to fund a party for foreigners.

Published by Latin American Herald Tribune on July 31st, 2016