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Michael Drew Headshot

Olympics: Not For the Pure-Hearted

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I don't know about you, but I'm shocked - shocked! - to read about corruption around the coming Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

You mean, the Olympics aren't pure of heart and spirit?

I don't think they ever were.

Even going back as far as the first Olympics, in 776 BC, the events were a matter for jingoism and political posturing. And when the modern Olympics games began at the end of the 19th century, some 1,500 years after Emperor Theodosius banned them in 394 AD (they'd been played in some form or another for roughly 1,000 years), do you think that a mere celebration of human achievement and sporting honor were at the heart of the games?

Whenever people gather to watch athletes from different countries battle each other, you're going to have country-against-country conflict. You're going to have special-interest groups. You're going to have illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. You're going to have political agendas.

Do you think cities around the world want to go to the expense of hosting the Olympics because of the honor of hosting the Olympics? No -- it's because they think they'll earn money for tourism and business after spending large amounts of money to create Olympics villages and arenas and rinks and stadiums.

Sport is rarely played anymore for the real enjoyment of it (if you've seen little league baseball games, you know how fraught they can be; I was terrified of them when I was a boy, afraid of disappointing my father if I didn't perform up to the level he had demanded).

High-school football, college athletics and Olympic games are all related: they all demand a certain level of professionalism even as they sort of celebrate the achievement of the (well-funded) amateur.

Competition leeches from the sport to the arena, in different senses of the term: political, cultural, propagandistic.

So, are you going to tune in and watch these Olympics, in a city where no gays exist, according to its mayor? Under the aegis of an organization whose agenda is hard to figure out, but doesn't seem to include pure athleticism (if such a thing even exists)?

Or are you going to curl up with a good book, a good movie, a binge-worthy series and hope your country does well but get your news about the events later, if at all?

Or maybe it doesn't matter, and you watch the Olympics because, well, sports are sports. And it's rewarding to watch great athletes. Even when they're competing in events as weirdly bombastic as the modern Olympic games.

Top Medal Winners
1 Russia 13 11 9
2 United States 9 7 12
3 Norway 11 5 10
4 Canada 10 10 5
5 Netherlands 8 7 9
6 Germany 8 6 5
Latest Medal Results
Ice Hockey - Men
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United States
Cross-Country - Men's 50km Mass Start Free
Russia - Alexander Legkov
Russia - Maxim Vylegzhanin
Russia - Ilia Chernousov
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