The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896, 116 years ago. Meant to showcase athletic prowess and build a sense of international community through competition, the games were largely a success.
The largest international presence to ever participate in a sporting event convened, with the largest sports audience yet showing up to watch. While the flames of nationalism were stoked by such competition, forcing nations and athletes alike into communication with one another fostered recognition of other people and cultures. Bringing the world together in such a peaceful manner was unprecedented, and besides a few debacles along the way, the Games have continued their mission of peace.
Today’s Olympic Games have a bit of a different flavor. While friendly competition is still sponsored, it often seems that large corporations vie to take center stage. With competing bids to win exclusive rights to advertise and cater to the Olympic-viewing public, transnational corporations like McDonald’s, Coca Cola, and Heineken have won powerful privilege in and around the Olympic Park.
Even though commercial sponsors of the Olympics is only a 28-year-old tradition, corporate power is being flexed in full with grotesque consequences. From being the sole sponsors allowed to advertise in Olympic venues to being the only provider of french fries within the International Olympic Committee’s jurisdiction, the power they wield through cold, hard, cash is disgusting on a global scale.
The Olympics are supposed to be an example to us all of humanity’s true capabilities. We should not be exemplified by the greed displayed by our representatives in the IOC. While it is obvious that hosting the Olympics is a substantial financial burden, bowing down to corporate power mutates the Games and defiles the true spirit of competition they seek to create. There are more important things in life than money, and I’d hope that the culmination of the world’s best athletes would relay such a message.
Reach opinion writer Joshua Waugh at email@example.com. Twitter: @JoshaWaugh
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