Thursday, August 21, 2008

Physician, heal thy organization

I was glad to hear that International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge decided to take a stand for the good of the Olympics. However, I wondered which of the many available targets he would shoot at. Would it be China's failure to live up to its promises of democratic reforms [Amnesty International]? Perhaps the arrest and sentencing to "re-education through labour" of those people who dared to apply for permits to protest [Deadspin]? The censorship of the Internet [MSNBC] sites available to journalists who had been promised open access? The massive cheat-at-all-costs campaign the Chinese have employed to win the gymnastic events with underage athletes[Juliet Macur, The New York Times]? The rounding-up [Jay Nordlinger, National Review Online] of Falun Gong practioners, disaffected minorities and Chinese writers who dare criticize the regime, probably to be shipped off to secret forced-labour camps [Geoffrey Clarfeld, National Post], where they might even have their organs harvested [The Canadian Press via CTV News]? The forced closure [Richard Spencer, The Telegraph] of air-quality monitoring units? The lingering effects of Andre Guelfi and the ISL types who bribed their way into control of the IOC's corridors of power [Andrew Jennings, All Sports magazine] ?
The felons, fascists, dictators and corrupt officials who currently fill Rogge's own organization [Andrew Jennings, Transparency In Sport]? Nope, all those are trivial. Rogge found a much more significant target than those minor annoyances: the post-race celebrations of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt[National Post].

It's tough to describe just how out of whack Rogge's priorities are, but Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel makes a vailiant effort. "Jacques Rogge is so bought, so compromised, the president of the IOC doesn’t have the courage to criticize China for telling a decade of lies to land itself these Olympic Games," he writes. "All the promises made to get these Games — on Tibet, Darfur, pollution, worker safety, freedom of expression, dissident rights — turned out to be phony, perhaps as phony as the Chinese gymnasts’ birthdates Rogge was way too scared to investigate. One of the most powerful men in sports turned the world away from his complicity. Instead, he has flexed his muscles by unloading on a powerless sprinter from a small island nation. Rogge’s ripping of Usain Bolt’s supposed showboating in two of the most electrifying gold-medal performances of these Games has to be one of the most ill-timed and gutless acts in the modern history of the Olympics."

Wetzel is right on the money. Neate's already pointed out how ridiculous the criticisms of Bolt are [Out of Left Field], so I won't spend too much time on that. Globe and Mail reporter Matt Sekeres added a great point on Vancouver's Team 1040 radio station this morning, mentioning how Rogge used to be involved in sailing, a sport not exactly known for its excessive celebrations. Bolt's celebration was about the joy of winning and also about promoting himself, two concepts that have no place under Rogge's watch, where everything must be for the commercial expansion of the Games themselves instead of the welfare of the athletes who compete in them.

What really boggles my mind is that Rogge sees Bolt's celebrations as the most pressing and problematic issue around these Olympics and decides to take a firm stance against them, but completely ignores and sloughs off the more relevant and important issues listed above. It's the modern-day equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Yes, there have been many great moments in these Olympics, but they have also revealed the true flaws of the Olympic movement to a wider audience, including the overzealous nationalism the Games have promoted in China, the lengths a totalitarian state will go to to win and the political gambits and manueverings the IOC heads have used to legitimize a state of repression in favour of expanding their moment's commercial appeal to a massive untapped market. Now is the time for Dr. Rogge, an orthopedic surgeon by profession, to investigate the internal cancers that plague his organization, rather than attempting to trim one of its toenails that probably isn't even too long. Physician, heal thy organization!


  1. Great post, Andrew. You somehow managed to succinctly spell out most of Rogge's small feat. I'm sure you'd also enjoy Stephen Brunt referring to Rogge as "someone's out-of-touch granny." Classic.

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