The International Olympic Committee says: [ioc]
The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Well, then, you can stick a fork in it and shovel some dirt over it, because it’s done and it needs to be buried. The IOC faced a difficult problem from the get-go, getting the countries of the world to participate and send contestants and money – but it was a foregone conclusion they’d bring their nationalism and hatred along with them. After all, other than money, what do nations have to offer but their pride and hatred? It was inevitable that when they began to “pull representatives of the world together” they’d do so mostly by standing them next to each other – to more deeply expose the inequality in the international system by literally putting it on parade.
The wealthy and powerful nations bring armies of trainers, high-tech gear, horribly badly tailored Ralph Lauren blazers (will you look at that piece of crap?) and – naturally – a full staff of pharmacopeia-cheaters. The poorer countries can’t afford all that stuff, so they get shunted aside, but note: when there’s a breakout talent from a developing nation, everyone does show them the honor they deserve; fair is fair. But nobody dwells on the shortage of dressage teams from sub-saharan Africa, or the absence of a Yemeni contingent at all.
Today’s scandal is that, naturally, their financial advantage wasn’t enough for some of the governments and winning at any cost was so important that they had to systematically cheat, with a huge doping program. So Russia is banned from the winter olympics in South Korea. More precisely: Russian nationalism is banned – no Russian government officials, the Russian flag won’t be flown, the Russian anthem won’t be played, and any Russian athletes that compete will have to be waived in and will have to wear Ralph Lauren designed neutral grey uniforms. There is only one part of the preceeding sentence that is “fake news” – can you spot it? Wow, you’re good – the neutral uniforms will not be designed by Ralph Lauren. [nyt]
At this point, if I were Marc Ecko, I’d whip out a line of nationalism-free sportswear for olympians and offer them free to any contestant that was willing to help push the meme that they there for the athletic competition and not the nationalism and all the flag-covered crap needed to get recycled into rags and given to Medcins Sans Frontieres Médecins Sans Frontières to use for bandages.
This is a potential watershed moment, in which the olympics could become about the athletes and their love of the sport and all of the politics, cheating, corruption, and Ralph Lauren designs need to go. Think really quickly: you probably know Usain Bolt ran in something colored like the Jamaican flag but … uh… do you give a shit? You did know he was Jamaican, I assume. He’d have run just as well in stuff from the sporting goods section in any retail mall. My point is: if you enumerate the fucks you give about the olympics you will probably discover that they are almost entirely about the athletes and their performance. So be it.
Here’s my simple recommendations for how the olympics can regain their relevancy briefly, while achieving an uplifting and clarifying level of honesty:
- Take the nationalism completely out.
- Open the events to top competitors in the sports based on other events, popular nomination, and a jury of past champions in those fields that are qualified to recommend them for the qualifying rounds.
- Open qualifying rounds are designed to eliminate the lower tiers of scorers with a strict numerical cut.
- The main events’ competitors are, simply put, the best and the winners are the best of the best.
- Competitors may get their funding from national governments (thank you), corporations, rich patrons, crowdfunding, or whatever.
- Competitors may (presumably it’s part of their funding contract) negotiate that if they’re running for Ralph Lauren.com they will wear whatever horrors Ralph decrees. But, key point: the competitors and the funding source make that negotiation – not the competitors’ national owners. The US does not get to select Ralph Lauren and tell Simone Biles that because she’s American she has to wear that outfit. The world should not ever roll in such a lopsided way that anyone can tell Simone Biles what to wear. Imagine if the US Government tried to tell Bob Dylan to wear Ralph Lauren because he’s an American …
- To slightly amplify on #6: if a particular government wants to stipulate that their entire stable of athletes must agree to the Ralph Lauren jackets contractually, and instead Google swoops in and “signs” some top talent out from under them … oh, dear me, what we just had was a failure to negotiate effectively, national team, time to go rethink your strategy. This would create a fascinating “game before the game” as national teams and athletes tried to optimize their outcomes – and it’d level the playing field. Especially when some sporting shoe company nobody ever heard of before found some transcendent talent somewhere in some back lot gym, gave them the best gear and training, and crushed the nationalists’ contenders. Because it’d no longer be possible to lock out transcendent athletic talent by controlling the athletes’ passport – it’d be, like, an international event about the whole of human potential and maybe Tesla technical acumen and Amazon’s clever use of Alexa and who knows what marketing brilliance.
- The International Olympic Committee can identify components of the overall event which are funded through sponsorship, and may negotiate sponsorship with the funders accordingly. Just like they do in pretty much every other sport, everywhere. But, hey, if Tesla wants to sponsor a running track, personally, I like the irony. If George Soros wants to sponsor a dressage event, be my guest, let him bid against Ralph Lauren.
- But wait, you say, “corporatizing the games will destroy them!” to which I reply: they’re already destroyed. Let’s put some corporate marketing icing on that cake, call it Titanic2.0 and sell sponsorship space on it to the same idiots that are fighting over the internet banner ad economy. They’re jackasses but they’re better at running a business than nationalists are.
Of course these suggestions deconstruct-out the entire value proposition of the olympic games for nationalists. I’m sure you know what my fuck-meter is reading on that score. Nationalism is what has been ruining the games all along; they have been a pawn to nationalists since they were restarted by rich British and French aristocratic imperialists as a way of showing everyone how awesome their empires were. In other words: they started as product marketing. There were political moments of importance in the olympics, to be sure – such as 1936 in Germany. And political moments of embarrassment like when the US led a boycott of the 1980 winter olympics in Moscow because the USSR invaded Afghanistan. And the boycotts of the olympics after the US invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – wait – why has there been a single olympic event held since 1980? The whole mess has always been rich ultra-nationalists’ chance to push humans around like little meat chess-pieces and pat themselves on the back for somehow being related to them. I was born within the same map-lines as Simone Biles but I don’t feel I get to take any pride in her performance because of that fact. I can and have sat back and said, “it’s so good to see that some humans are really incredibly amazingly good at what they do!”
If the IOC wants their meal-ticket to continue and grow, they need to revitalize the brand, “reboot” it, catapult it to the next level. That means going halfway Hunger Games and using the corporatists’ financial power to shove aside the nationalists. It wouldn’t take much – some small country that can have an olympic team simply needs to auction their identity off for corporate sponsorship and then trojan-horse the entire games. Hey, why are all these great athletes suddenly getting honorary citizenship in Adobe-(formerly known as grand cayman)? Not to cross the streams too deeply but this also addresses another elephant in the room: the NFL is only able to do corrupt stuff like blackball Kaepernick because they are a single corporate entity that controls the vertical and the horizontal: one crack and the dam breaks. I guarantee you that some marketing genius at Nike has probably already suggested buying an entire national olympic team and re-branding it, but they got shot down by cooler heads who equate “don’t rock the boat” with “don’t blow up the harbor.”
In a display of true nationalistic incompetence and arrogance the US’ stunt UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, said that the US might not send a team to the winter olympics because of safety concerns on the Korean peninsula. [salon]
When asked if it was a “done deal” that U.S. athletes would be in attendance, Nikki Haley said on Fox News, “There’s an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea — it’s about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?”
Well, not turning the area into a war-zone is a good way of protecting US citizens in the area. And, by the way, did you just admit that the entire populations of North Korea and South Korea are more or less irrelevant to how you see your mission in the world?
People of both Koreas: blow out the olympic torch. Agree to not have a war during the event on the condition that all the nations leave their flags, drugs, spies, and Ralph Lauren designer jackets at home. Only the athletes, and their trainers, and they can wear whatever they like. The Koreas, right now, could say “we could stop this whole mess, but we won’t – if you renegotiate and turn it over to the corporatists instead of the nationalists because they know how to run a business.”
Nobody will remember the stadiums; they’ll get dynamited eventually.
Hat-tip to ice dancers (I love ice dancing; it’s utterly nuts!) Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik who will be competing this year. Typically, we are expected to say “will be representing North Korea…” or some such nonsense but – no – they will be representing themselves. They’re just doing that nationalism stuff because otherwise the nationalists control their ability to go dance on ice.
We all need to push back whenever we hear someone say “representing the US…” or whatever country. Unless you are acting in service of national foreign policy, you are not “represening the US…” Nikki Haley? Representing the US. Donald Trump? Representing the US. Bob Dylan? Representing Bob Dylan. Beyonce? Representing: the universe that is Beyonce. Somehow we managed to keep the nationalists from shitting all over the musicians – can you imagine if they had tried to re-frame Prince as representing the US? The US would have pulled back a bloody stump. Why is this? Because music has a corporate support structure and the artists are able to negotiate the degree of independence they can have, based on their fan-support and talent. Prince would have eloquently arched his perfect eyebrow and said, “I don’t need you. You need me,” and thrown the entire guitar and walked off stage. So if someone starts talking that nationalist olympic stuff to you, just say, “hey, why don’t you focus on the athletes. They’re all amazing competitors regardless of where they were born and it’s a shame all these flags and saber-waving keep getting in the way. This should be about them, not lines on a map.”
“who knows what marketing brilliance” is Marcus-code for “whatever hateful crap marketing people come up with and convince themselves is brilliant.”
Sure, let Warner Brothers put together a track and field team and make ’em all wear superhero outfits. It’d be a hit. You know it would. Especially if they were great athletes who really kicked ass. Honestly, I’d probably cheer out loud if someone dressed like batman blasted past a track full of other people and stood on the podium with his head down, his fists clenched, Dark Knight pose, and then gave a black power salute. I’m only dreaming, don’t mind me.
It’s late and I’m tempted to “not go there” but I must. I really must. OK, so the Russians cheated. I’ve read a bunch about how they did it and it sounds like a creative well-staffed effort. Not as professional (or anywhere near as expensive) as the cheating arrangement that let Lance Armstrong appear to be a vastly better bicyclist than he was. Anyone who supports banning Russia from the olympics must reasonably support banning the US from the Tour De France more or less forever – because that was more coldly, calculatedly, and soullessly executed cheating than the Russians have managed to come up with, yet. Play along with me for a second here: suppose the nationalists are right and it’s appropriate to – you know – blame a nation for cheating – and punish them accordingly; then why is it unreasonable to point at Lance Armstrong’s Tour De France cheating and blame the nation for cheating and ban the US from the olympics, too? I know they’re different events at the ground-level: bicycling in france versus olympicsing but the meta-level event is nationalism and both the US and Russia cheat like hell at nationalism.
Text encoding: This is text that looks just fine in wordpress editor. `Or so it seems.’ Sometimes I can’t even double-space. And dash and em-dash are different too–hey, I did not know we’re not supposed to use spaces on the sides of an em-dash.