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The Olympics' Biggest Problem Is Its Unwavering Belief That It Has The Duty To Exist

"Have you ever asked yourself why you really love the Olympic and Paralympic Games?"
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

There's an unspoken agreement between Olympic bid cities that they don't talk shit about one another. But, because the race for the 2024 Summer Olympics host is down to just Los Angeles and Paris, they've each had to ramp up their marketing efforts in less subtle ways, especially since there's talk that the IOC is considering awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Games to the two cities, something LA supports but Paris does not.


This is putting everyone in a somewhat awkward situation. Hypothetically, the chairman of the LA 2024 bid committee, Casey Wasserman, can't directly come out and say our bid is better than Paris's and we're being team players by wanting the 2024 or 2028 Games. But, he can write a Medium post titled "An Opportunity, Not An Ultimatum," a clear reference to Paris 2024's "2024 or nothing" stance. Wasserman began his Medium post with:

"Have you ever asked yourself why you really love the Olympic and Paralympic Games?"

This is not the best time to be asking that question. 2016 was, all the way around, a pretty shit year for the "Olympic Movement" and everything it stands for, what with the massive doping scandal, one of the most disastrous Olympics of the modern era, several potential host cities dropping their bids for future games due to popular disapproval, and the Paralympics getting shafted on funding and event issues by the IOC and Rio host committee.

But, yes, Mr. Wasserman, why do you love the Olympic Games?

"I think we love the Games for their universal values, expressed so simply to all humanity through sport. That's their secret; yet, it's a precious secret that, as we are seeing in these challenging times, needs protecting and care to endure."

Who will protect and endure the Games? Why, the LA 2024 bid, of course! That's the whole point of Wasserman's post. Only LA 2024 can protect the Olympic movement and help it "thrive in the future" because "our technology and our storytellers speak to this generation [millennials] every day."

I don't question Wasserman's genuineness here. I think he really believes that LA is good for the Olympics and the Olympics being good for humanity, because all of those things are good for him. This is smarm of the highest order, which Tom Scocca in Gawker defined as "an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance." This is as apt a definition of the Olympic Movement as I've encountered, and of the bland, cliche-ridden generalities of Agenda 2020, the IOC's promise of a brighter future that will handwave away all of the evils, ills, and harms created by the Olympic Movement's irreconcilable difference between how it views itself and how it really is.

Wasserman's smarm is not just his. It is the entire "movement" to which he belongs, demonstrated by the fact that they call themselves a movement. They traffic on this stuff, this self-congratulatory posturing where the world is better off because sportspeople sport sports, a get-out-of-jail-free card for nearly any wrong they could possibly commit because they're bringing the world precious sports. But sports are not an ideology or even a cause. They are events. This faux-principled position is the seed from which every other Olympic flaw stems. Paradoxically, until the Olympic organizers grasp the notion that they are just as inconsequential as everyone and everything else, they will continue to undermine their own relevance.

To answer Wasserman's question, I have never asked myself why I really love the Olympic Games, because before I reported on them for a living, I completely forgot they existed. For the vast majority of the world, the Olympics are two months every four years. 98 percent of the time, the Olympics are invisible, until they force you to notice them, sometimes for all the wrong reasons.