The Olympics Are Here To Stay--And To Pay
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: The Winter Olympics are off and running, and the media focus is about the threat of terrorism, Putin's motives in holding it, and why a backward town in the old Soviet Union that has been a center of human rights abuse for years is somehow, surprise, surprise, not up to the luxury standards in Los Angeles or Park City Utah (especially for reporters who b*tch the most!)
As the Guardian noted, "every Olympics experienced pre-Games jitters: in London there was the last-minute panic over security guards that resulted in the army being called in; in Vancouver there were street protests and a fatality on the luge course; and the runup to Beijing was clouded by human-rights protests during the torch relay."
The politics of it is always conspicuous by its presence; the economic agenda behind it conspicuous by its absence.
Every day, the stories are more and more absurd: The Russians are blocking a delivery of Greek yogurt for our figure skaters or rounding up stray dogs--features like that.
In most media, the critique is all about Putin's motives. He is portrayed as the Darth Vader of Russia, a non-rational player who is a hosting the games only to feed his personal megalomania.
Walter Brasch writes on OpEd News: "It's a carefully orchestrated propaganda opportunity to try to showcase the nation's athletes and show the world a Russia that, even with its great culture and arts, may exist only in the imaginations of those who believe in restoring the country's previous grandeur," he writes, adding how much it cost.
"Under Putin's personal direction, Russia spent more than 1.8 trillion rubles (the equivalent of about $51 billion U.S.) to build the Olympic village, with its buildings, stadiums, and infrastructure. This is a greater cost than all previous winter Olympics combined. It also includes cost over-runs and various forms of corruption.
Lest the Russians be blamed for all sports corruption, most of our media does not remind us of the scandal that erupted under Mitt Romney's watch when the US hosted the Winter Olympics. (Mitt was back to the scene of the crime at the Sundance Film Festival this year to watch a film at the Sundance Film Festival about his failed presidential campaign.)
An article on the International Olympic Committee that owns the games reminded us, "a scandal broke on 10 December 1998, when Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler, head of the coordination committee overseeing the organization of the 2002 games, announced that several members of the IOC had taken bribes. Soon four independent investigations were underway: by the IOC, the USOC, the SLOC, and the United States Department of Justice".
As a result of the investigation ten members of the IOC were expelled and another ten were sanctioned. This was the first expulsion or sanction for corruption in the more than a century the IOC had existed. Although nothing strictly illegal had been done, it was felt that the acceptance of the gifts was morally dubious."
That's a word we don't hear much any more: "morality!"
Much of the money spent there is, of course, a stimulus for a reeling Russian economy offering money for construction and jobs. (It is scandalous when the big bad Russian wolf does it, but not when Obama recommends financing infrastructure investments here, a measure most economists say is desperately needed to spike the economy. (Anyone notice that the new jobs report did not reach expectations.)
Yes, there's a lot of money involved, but it is only one piece of a relatively under-covered aspect of this circus: the economic stakes.
Here the commissars of Comcast are playing footsy with Putin, shelling out a small fortune to snag the rights to broadcast the event in order to sell advertising to multi-national companies.