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The history of the Olympics can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks but the modern Olympic games were established by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1896. After visiting Athens, Greece, Coubertin was inspired to bring back and modernize the Olympic games. His dedication to the promotion physical education, created what is now known as the International Olympic Committee (). Originally there were only 14 countries that were represented in the first modern games. The Olympics had major overhauls in the 20th and 21st centuries to keep up with certain technological, economic, and medical standards of the times. The original intent of the Olympics was to showcase amateur athletes while showcasing the host country. Now it has become an event to showcase not only the host country but also its famous athletes and display the host’s impact on the world. For more than a century, the Olympics have become the focal point for unity, education, and pride.
Although fun and exciting, the Olympic games can be an extreme waste of time, money, and energy. The Olympics were created with pure and good intentions; however, people can enter the games with poor or evil intentions. The Olympic games have been tainted by the amount of illegal activities that occur before, during, and after each event in a variety of different sports. Corruption, advancements in technology and modern medicine; and political antics have been some of the issues that the Olympics have faced in modern times. The lack of human rights and unethical treatment of the people from the host country has recently become an issue especially in the two-most recent Olympics. The budget of the host country’s event spaces has also, become a recent controversy as more and more Olympic sites are being built but not restored. Regardless of the negative and positive claims, the question remains the same. Are the Olympics truly a symbol of unity or is it a corporate giant with no regard for anything or anyone but money? Even before performance enhancing drugs came into the picture, doping was a somewhat accepted practice at the Olympics. In 1904, mixtures of strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and caffeine were used widely by athletes and each coach or team developed its own unique secret formulae. This was common practice until heroin and cocaine became available only by prescription in the 1920s. (1992, Performance-Enhancing Medications and Drugs of Abuse).
During World War II, drugs were being tested by both the Allied and Axis forces as a way to enhance soldiers’ strength and endurance. The first ever anabolic steroid was created in 1958 and it quickly became popular for athletes. From that moment on, it became apparent that the athletes were abusing the new creation. Even though the Olympic committee had been cracking down on doping since the 1920’s, the rulings were not strict enough for newer drugs. The first reported doping scandal to happen in the modern Olympics was in 1960. Danish cyclist, Knut Jensen, died on Aug. 26, 1960 at the Summer Olympics in Rome during the 100km team time trial race (2009, Historical Timeline: History of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports). After that unfortunate incident, it took over 8 years for a full-blown investigation to happen and stricter rules be enforced.
The first official drug testing for Olympic athletes did not begin until the 1970’s. From then on, the International Olympic Committee have and continue to struggle with its control on performance enhancing drugs. The widespread usage of performance enhancing drugs excluded no sport, so random drug testing had to be put in place while the Olympic week occurred. In recent times, doping has become a regular occurrence at the Olympics that it is now expected to happen. It raises the question to many people around the world on why do we praise those athletes who use drugs to compete in the Olympics. Thousands of athletes who train healthfully and honestly, yet they don’t make it to the Olympics. In this year’s Summer Olympics, three-fourths of the Russian Olympic Team were barred from competition because of a nationwide doping scandal that affected Russia’s credibility. While efforts have been made to reduce the amount of doping, it has not been enough for many critics to see the necessity of the Olympics. At the end of the day, we expect professional athletes and coaches to train in the right way as well as be positive role models to younger athletes and their fellow countrymen. How can one be a positive role model when they ingest in drugs that can do potential harm?In the summer of 1998, the world was shocked when an increasing number of athletes in the cycling world were tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. In the following months, the IOC as well as other national committees and international sports federations came together in a conference to fight off the growing problem. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established on November 10, 1999, in Lausanne to promote and coordinate the fight against doping in sport internationally. WADA was set up as a foundation under the initiative of the IOC with the support and participation of intergovernmental organizations, governments, public authorities, and other public and private bodies fighting doping in sport. () With the advancements of medicine, WADA have been able to compact a full list of drugs and medications that have been deemed prohibited to any athlete that competes on the professional level. Many of the medications on the list actually help with existing ailments and some maybe ingredients in ordinary things that we ingest. The blame cannot be fully put on the athletes. For example, in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the East Germany women’s swim team were unaware that they were using banned substances.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was discovered that East Germany was part of a state-wide doping scandal that had drugged countless of athletes. ()As described in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, to cheat is to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something (). Cheating is not a new concept by any means, but when put into a larger and more professional scale, it can destroy any career in a matter of seconds. Many athletes, coaches, and even officials have tried to justify why they cheated but it doesn’t stop their fate when it comes to an international setting. Certain teams and athletes have gotten sneakier about methods of cheating in the modern Olympics. One of the largest cheating scandals of the Winter Olympics is the bribery case of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The USA Olympic Committee bought their way to into the spot by buying themselves into the spotlight. The investigation revealed that the USA bribed the IOC with tickets to Super Bowl games, pre-arranged ski trips, and copious amounts of cash (). The USA was only given a mere slap on the wrist by the IOC but a lifetime of shame for Americans watching. Another example is when the Chinese women’s gymnastics team brought in a fourteen-year-old on their team unbeknownst to anyone else. It wasn’t until a full investigation on the Chinese Olympic team was conducted that the secret about the gymnast was discovered. Herself and the rest of her teammates were stripped of their bronze medals. Nonetheless, cheating has been proved to happen every Olympic game with little or no change on how they screen possible cheating. Why would anyone continue to support an event if even professional athletes result to cheating to win? The IOC has made it a top priority to investigate to all that decide to cheat and abuse substances. All teams and athletes have the opportunity to appeal and challenge any calls that the judges make. The Olympics do not to take lightly to accusations of cheating and doping. They have been known to give swift and severe punishments to those individuals.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, American track and field star Marion Jones won 5 events in one Olympics. Seven years later, after lying to federal investigators and the IOC, admitted to using banned substances during that race. Her medals, titles, and records were stripped from her and she was required to serve six months in jail for her involvement in the illegal steroid distribution and lying to the FBI about it. () In contrast, 4 women’s badminton teams were disqualified because they did not put enough effort into the game. It was considered cheating because they were strategizing their wins and losses in an unfair way. The Olympics prides itself on being a place where countries can leave politicaldifferences and personal struggles behind and just compete. This message gets mistaken for using the international setting that the Olympics holds as a way to make a political and often inappropriate statement. The most notorious political statement at the games was the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Adolf Hitler had been in power for 3 years already but the outside world still had no idea of how his power and influence would take over German society. In addition to that, this Olympic game would be the first televised sport event of its time. () False promises and increased propaganda encouraged countries to not boycott the games.
The most iconic footage ever capture was Hitler’s refusal to award Jesse Owens the gold medals that he won. His actions spoke louder than any words he could ever mutter. That one act lead many to confirm the rumors about Nazi Germany. It would only be three years later when Germany would declare war on Poland, starting the bloodiest war known to man. “When Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood atop the medal podium at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists during the playing of the national anthem, millions of their fellow Americans were outraged. But countless millions more around the globe thrilled to the sight of two men standing before the world, unafraid, expressing disillusionment with a nation that so often fell, and still falls, so short of its promise.” () This subtle reminder of political indifference was uncalled for in the eyes of Americans, who were just now getting used to desegregation and biracial unions. How can the IOC possibly promote peace when political stunts are allowed without punishment? Politics will always be a part of the Olympics whether anyone accepts that or not. In Rio, the IOC made history when two special teams were able to walk during the open ceremony. One was a team made up of refugees and the other was made of athletes whose countries were not able to compete for political reasons. This symbolized that even in times of hardships and displacement, the Olympics is a place where athletes can compete for their own personal pride and raise awareness of certain problems in our world todayAs defined by the United Nations, “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.” () With that being said, regardless of the time, human rights have always been violated, especially at the Olympics. Women were not allowed to participate until 1900 and the only games they were included that were labelled “women’s events.” ()
In many Muslim countries, many women still cannot compete because of the lack of equality. The recent development of openly gay and transgendered athletes competing has caused unwanted hatred and bigotry in many countries. Apart from the unethical treatment of athletes, the residents of the host country have the most to worry about. Like any other major international that a country hosts, comes the rise of crime against tourists as well as the rise of human trafficking from the local people. The risk of children being sold for sex and labor increases ten-fold when the Olympics and other sporting events take place. Why should anyone support an organization if it does not crack down on human rights violations? The Olympics have been known for breaking grounds when it comes to equality and human rights. In 2013, Vladimir Putin had put in place anti-gay propaganda a year before the Olympics in Sochi were to take place. The IOC asked Putin to reconsider such a law since it would exclude and incite fear in many athletes. It would also cause many countries to boycott because of the intolerant laws. ()
At the London Olympics of 2012, female boxing was included closing the division between men and women’s sports. () The IOC has also enforced countries to send a certain number of female delegates or they will not be able to attend the Olympics. With the realization that crime and human trafficking will be prevalent and growing with the arrival of tourists and athletes, the IOC have established firm relationships with local and international agencies to combat the crime and rescue young victims from the horrors of human trafficking. . In the recent Olympics in Rio, “Rio de Janeiro police rescued three girls as young as 15 among eight people forced to work in a prostitution ring near the beaches where Olympic events will be held.” ()When one thinks of the Olympics, one thinks of the money that is spent on advertising, building, and entertainment. What one doesn’t think about is what happens behind the scenes. For those who live in the host country, most believe that they will be working for pay especially in the case for the Rio and Sochi Olympic games. According to a Rio volunteer, ““Many volunteers had to quit because they had to work two weeks in a row, schedules were messed up, lots of people quit because of the food: they were told to work eight, nine hours and were only provided with a little snack.” ()
The lack of such care for their volunteers only measures up to the fact that living areas and sports arena were not suitable for neither residents nor competitors. In Sochi, many of the buildings in the Olympic village were incomplete and totally unlivable. Most of the work was not done by the time that the games had started so the results were mediocre and atrocious. The main concern for every Olympic host country is the fact that the event is being held for two weeks but the budget is way more than it should. Many of the arenas and Olympic Villages cost tens of billions of dollars but end up being abandoned not that long after the games end. They fall victim to being vandalized and become a part of nature as well. Is it wise to invest so much money for an event that only lasts for 2 weeks?The Olympic budgets are not set by IOC itself but by the countries that are trying to host the game. The budgets may seem lavish to outsiders but most of the money is used to generate business to the local people as well as create jobs. The host’s are granted a certain amount of time to plan, advertise, and build important buildings before the games are even set to begin. All of staff that belong to the IOC are volunteers. Even with the few hiccups that some host’s have, more than 70% of Rio’s volunteers arrived and worked the entire two weeks.() While many of the old Olympic locations have been abandoned, some lay that way for a very good reason.
The 1984 Sarajevo Olympics was one of the last games where the Soviets participated in. 10 years after the war, the Bosnian War took control of the city and the Olympic arena areas became a battleground. () After So in retrospect, these sites were laid ruin for a purpose not just out of neglect. The Olympics in 1936 are now in ruins after the Soviets left in 1992, but they remain in ruins for others to remember the country’s history. It holds the past to two of the most notorious dictatorships in humankind. Pierre de Coubertin once said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” ()
After completing this essay and researching this very thoroughly, I have come to the personal belief that the Olympics have continued to set the bar high for competition sports. The IOC has done a fantastic job with many of its problems throughout the years. In the 120 years that the modern games have established, many changes have been made to include everyone but maintain a high standard on its athletes. The IOC are composed of only mere men and some men are easily corruptible. It is the responsibility of all committees to remain transparent in their proceedings and be honest with their intentions on hosting the games. I personally believe that budgets needed to be restricted to a certain amount and we need to restore former Olympic venues as historical sites. The crackdown on human trafficking gets better every Olympic game. So, while people may complain about it not being done, it needs to be understood that the Olympic games only holds a small percentage to a big picture.
As technology, medical science, and criminal investigations continue to evolve, hopefully one day we can eradicate so many issues that surrounding the Olympics. As for human rights, the IOC has done a wonderful job in paving the way for acceptance for all. In the past two Summer Olympics, they have made it perfectly clear that this is a place for friendly competition and a place for unity. The Olympics may not be a perfect sporting event, but they have continued to do what their founder set out to do 120 years ago.
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