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The Olympics have always been Controversial

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

The next Olympics will be in China—everyone who’s anyone knows that by now. Some objected to the selection of China a long time ago, citing human rights violations; some objected to the selection of Russia for the next winter Olympics for similar reasons. None of the objecters seem to understand that the marketing—which emphasizes a wholesome gathering of nations striving for peace through competition—is wholly separate from the business of the Olympics, which emphasizes making money for all the important entities involved. This includes private industry, government agencies and, of course, the IOC. The IOC likes to select places that guarantee it fun times for its members (remember the bribery debacle surrounding the Salt Lake City Olympics?) and lots and lots of profits and kickbacks. China and Russia are simply overflowing with such guarantees.

And, in case, anyone finding themselves harking back to simpler times, when the Olympics were still pure, should read A Lesson on Protest From the 1980 Olympics by Michael A. Kroll (Common Dreams). It tells of the 1980 Winter Olympics (Wikipedia), which had the noble goal of turning its Olympic village into a prison afterwards, in order to turn a profit. Couple that with the fact that, according to Olympics Then & Now, the village of Lake Placid had only 2,731 people in 1980, and Americans have lost the right to say anything about the Olympics being awarded to backwards countries that aren’t ready for them and that run roughshod over the Olympic spirit.

Despite protests[1], the 1200-person structure was converted to a prison after the games—and that was just fine for everyone concerned. Except, of course, for the “young, mostly black and Latino men from the urban centers of New York City and Philadelphia” populating it. Those surprised that the IOC would allow something like this to sully the reputation of the Olympics haven’t been paying attention.


The protests involved other great American traditions, like arresting people for no legal reason to make them stop protesting, then letting them go the same day, after the event they were protesting is over. This clear infringement of first amendment rights was going on over 25 years ago as well—it didn’t just start with the Bush years. The author gives the following piece of advice about laws of ad-hoc protesting in the US:

“In a word, what my case determined is that where there is “no obstruction of pedestrian or vehicular traffic” by a single demonstrator (who does) “not threaten or provoke violence,” there is no right to impose the kinds of restrictions allowed on larger, organized gatherings.”

Though you are within your legal rights to protest where your protest will be seen and heard by those that you are protesting, most police officers have different marching orders and will cart you off to jail, if illegally and only for a little while. Your only recourse will be to sue, but your chance for protest will be past. Such is freedom.