- - Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Let us change the subject. August is upon us, and it is time to change the subject from the hype of presidential politics to the hype of international sports. No, not the hype of international soccer — the scam of that racket is well known. Let us turn to the hype of international Olympic competition.

As I wrote in this column some 30 years ago, I am against the Olympics. I have maintained a boycott against them for years. The boycott is not going as well as I had anticipated, but this year we shall try again. Rio de Janeiro may be different. I am told it is an unhealthy habitat and very poorly governed.

Thirty years ago, I was actually sitting by the oceanside tapping out my column with a former Olympian looking over me. His name was Alan Somers, and he had been a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic swim team, which competed in the Rome Olympics. I swam with Al at Indiana University along with many Olympians and world record holders. It was an amazing environment for sport.

I was not numbered among the Olympians and world record holders at Indiana, but over the next 15 years or so, the Indiana team had a lot of superstars. As I pounded out my vitriol against the Olympic movement and the sham of Olympic competition, Al offered his subtle judgment: “You hate the Olympic movement for only one reason. You failed to make the team.”

Well, as I said then, I will say today: Balderdash! I never had a chance of making the team. If I had made the team, I am not sure how it would affect my animus against the Olympics. Probably it would have shut me down, as Al implied, but that would be a shame. The Olympic movement today is different from what it was in Al’s day, as different as a Little Sister of the Poor is from a bedazzled hooker.

The extravagance of the games is stupefying. Every event is boomed. Every champion has every superlative hurled at him or her and every smarmy story dredged up. Most stories are pure fiction. Money and politics have spoiled everything.

I am waiting for a champion to mount the victory platform. Take the gold medal, and heave it. Nor do I want him or her to then launch into a sonorous diatribe on behalf of his or her pet cause, say, the fate of the black-footed ferret or the future of the Brazilian rainforest. Just take the gold and fling it. Then head off to a cafe and uncork a bottle of wine.

The doping scandal with the Russians is just the tip of the iceberg. Doubtless there are more diabolical schemes aimed at copping a gold medal: surgery, eugenics, juggling one’s DNA. I kid thee not. Sport long ago fell into the hands of corporate moguls and political schemers with the full power of the state behind them. It is time for others to adopt my boycott. Turn off your television sets this August. Go on long hikes in the woods. Even a short hike in the woods is preferable to time spent watching these fantastical sports extravaganzas.

Actually, boycotting the Olympics is probably much healthier than patronizing this hideous spectacle. Five-hundred thousand people are expected to arrive in Rio this week to watch the games. They will be arriving to contaminated beaches and the water sports in which the athletes compete are a hazard. “Foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human crap, and they risk getting sick from all those microorganisms,” a Brazilian physician told The New York Times. “It’s sad but also worrisome,” Dr. Daniel Becker continued. Well, it is sad, but also it is only to be expected.

The modern Olympics, based on the original Greek games, have almost nothing in common with the original model. The athletes are all professionals and agents of the state. When Al and his IU teammates competed, at least the Olympians from the West were amateurs with all the virtues of amateurism. They did it for the joy of winning, or at least of competing. Now there is a grimness to it. Winning is another way to earn a buck, usually millions of bucks. I say relax this year and enjoy a game of rugby or amateur soccer, or go out and compete yourself. Try golf, the sport of presidents. Money, politics and sport do not mix well. I will take Indiana’s Mark Spitz to Michael Phelps, Inc. any day.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is author of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.

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