The Olympics in their modern form embody the greed, invisibility and social indifference of the international sports movement.
Tokyo the arrangements for the olympics are progressing rapidly. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its successor Organizing Committee assure that the Olympics will take place, despite opposition from a clear majority of Japanese citizens and appeals from health organizations.
Half a year later, the Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place. Granting them to China has its own chapter in the IOC’s almost shameful decision-making.
Mixed Tokyo Summer Olympics that the Beijing Winter Games should be canceled.
The coronavirus pandemic has first stopped the world and has since changed the way big events are organized. The risks of a pandemic are heavy but not the only reason for the cancellation of the Olympics. It would also be desirable for the future of sport not to host any more Olympics in their current form – especially not led by an organization like the IOC, which was completely alienated from the originally beautiful Olympic idea.
The Olympics in their modern form embody the greed, invisibility and social indifference of the international sports movement. Sport should give people the opportunity to pursue their own dreams, but at the same time we should fight local and global grievances. Problems should not be masked by the glow of Olympic rings and the fog of images created by advertising agencies. The cornerstone of sport is in ideological civic action, not business.
The IOC and international sports federations still define themselves as non-profit NGOs, although many of them have spun from one corruption scandal to another. The most important thing is to secure the future of sport, not to preserve existing institutions.
In Finland, too, no sports organization should stand up simply because of its history, at least not in the event that the organization has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of its members or stakeholders. The domino effect of the necessary change will only materialize if the roof, which has already lost its credibility and governs sport globally, completely collapses or at least loses its monopoly as the “owner” of sport.
Eight a one-year break from the Summer Games would make athletes, the sports audience, and any future applicants for the hosting of the Games realize that the Olympics are not an absolute value. Reconciling the concept of the Olympics in their current form with, for example, sustainable consumption, human rights and ecology seems impossible. The IOC management will certainly have an excellent understanding of this risk, and that is why it is putting pressure on the Japanese Government to organize the Games by any means.
The IOC has expressed concern about the moral burden of crushing the Olympic dream of thousands of athletes, belittling its own billion-dollar financial interests. Personally, I have been worried about the shattering of the dreams of our wonderful athletes – among whom are my friends.
However, our athletes are morally above the global sports movement that benefits them. It is confusing how little established sports organizations take athletes into account in their decision making.
The mutual organization of athletes should be supported by all means. That would give them ownership of their work, opening up freer and more diverse opportunities to offer stories and events that would not alienate the general public from the sport. We are already seeing signs of demand for alternatives as the rapid growth of formally unorganized sporting activities.
There is room in the world for traditional sports organizations as well – but only for those that, unlike the IOC, are able to transform into diverse and credible social actors.
Why sports, and in this context specifically top sports, is important? The answer has nothing to do with public health or economic benefits, country branding, or the safe channeling of nationalism — let alone that sport is popular entertainment.
The power of sport can be used to combat the division and polarization of society. Sport offers both participants and spectators a unique opportunity to gain acceptance and connect with other people, regardless of socio-economic background, party affiliation, age, ethnicity, language skills, education, appearance or, for example, disability. People now perhaps more than ever need the emotional connection made possible by sport, in Finland and globally.
The real value of sport would be understood at the latest if we lost sport altogether. The Olympics in their current form will lead us down this path.
The author is the chairman of the Finnish Sports Federation.
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