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Olympics

Let’s Fix The Olympics By Getting Rid Of The Countries

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 16: A sculpture depicts Olympic figure skaters for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at Shougang Park on December 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. The organizing committee introduced the latest progress of the Olympic venues, all competition venues will be completed this year. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Evidently Russia has been bad again, and is being brand-shamed out of the Olympics and all the world championships the nation wishes to enter. It seems they tampered with results from a testing laboratory in Moscow so that their irradiated athletes could frolic freely throughout international competitions without let or hindrance. And this is not the first time for our Slavic brethren and sistren, either, which is why the World Anti-Doping Agency actually sought a sterner punishment than what the Court for Arbitration and Sport issued. Which itself looks at first a lot more discomfiting than it is: no name, flag, and anthem for Russian athletes for the next two years.

A similar punishment was imposed on the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” team at the 2018 games, but did not appear to deter recidivism. This ruling is essentially the old lather in oil and broken glass/rinse with industrial solvent and jagged bits of tin/repeat scam. But the idea of eradicating the Russian labels for a while brings up an idea: What if international sport eliminated everyone’s name, flag and anthem? What if they did away with the opening and closing ceremonies and spared the biennial disinterested recitation of out-of-date facts about a country whose Wikipedia entry is only a stub? What if we were given international events in which the rooting interest had nothing to do with someone’s passport and everything to do with their skill and artistry?

Well, it wouldn’t happen. NBC wouldn’t permit it, for one. It isn’t making all that money on the backs of Ted Lasso, Steve Kornacki, and Hoda Kotb alone, and it didn’t lay off all those people because of the pandemic’s elimination of the singing, dancing, game-showing, and Dateline repeats. The Olympics and their many offshoots keep the peacock from molting into nothingness. And NBC sells flags and nations more than anything else, one flag and one nation almost exclusively. Hint: It’s not North Macedonia.

We’re not suggesting the Olympics should die, or that international sporting events should be rendered XFL because of the armies of humanoid swine running the show and profiting off the athletes. We’re not even suggesting that NBC not be allowed to televise all the events it is paying to televise. But all the flags and anthems and parade nonsense should go, because they are the gateway drug to all the many layers of corruption, chemical abuse, and self-important suits that have made international sport a graft machine with athletes hanging off the end. It’s the general sleaze of college football, only for everyone in the world.

Nationalism is the evil here, and the Russians can be a test case. If in fact the punishments are actually carried out, let’s see how that absence affects all the subjects of Putinville. I’m guessing there will still be athletes and games and competitions. They just won’t have that white/blue/red flag and that droning anthem and all those inflatable Olympic committee bureaucrats whose principal job is getting paid to stand around until someone comes to by to check and see if they’re still alive. No national credit, no national interest, no unconscionable profit to be seized, no national motivation to bastardize the process. Couldn’t be simpler. Couldn’t be nobler. Couldn’t be less likely to happen. Even in 2018, the sentence was commuted to a stern tut-tut, and the labs went on operating with unlocked doors. 

As an adjunct to this clearly moronic idea, we could put all the events in one place forever, an all-sports land—say Corsica, or Mauritius—with all the track and field stadiums and ice rinks and gymnasiums and velodromes  and bobsled tracks and housing you could ever want. All the governments that wanted to build their own one-of-everything with taxpayer money could kick in for one big thing. The Japanese could ship their entire as-yet-unused Olympic village over in a few weeks. Hell, NBC could rehire all of the people it laid off and still have enough left to kick in for a dressage center. This would eliminate the dying-but-not-yet-dead venue bid system that is nearly at the apex of human corruption and thievery. More countries are dropping out of the business of hosting an Olympics because it tends far more often to inspire bankruptcy filings instead of warming memories of spirited but honest competition, but there are still those nations who don’t mind a bit of conscripted labor to make sure the lines on the playing fields are straight and the toilets work.

Eliminating multiple venues would also logically eliminate the need for civic bureaucrats, who like international sport bureaucrats should also be weighted down with tractors and dropped into lakes of acid. None of their “this will revitalize our communities and invigorate our pride and self-esteem and yes, just leave the satchel full of money by my briefcase there” arglebargle. They’ll have nothing to posture for because there won’t be a need, and let’s be honest, any time a mayor stands up to speak for some new pet building project to “secure their legacy,” a kennel of puppies bursts into flames. So let’s silence politicians and save dogs. Nobody would think that isn’t a trade worth making.

The cost? Loud blazers and the hyenas who wear them. The International Olympic Committee itself, whose position on nearly everything has been ankles in the air and hands outstretched, would be reduced to a glorified call center, and it wouldn’t need to have its office in an expensive place like Lausanne but a giant internet-rich shed outside Red Deer, or Amman, or Cape Town, or Guayaquil. We could do it at your house if you have the bandwidth and the garage space.

Ahh, but what of the athletes, whom this is all supposed to benefit? Who will pay for all their hard work? Who will help them achieve their greatest dreams? Who will fetch the HGH the government used to provide? Probably the same yobs that started them on their paths to perdition, but we would leave those details to the athletes and their hyperkinetic parents and coaches themselves. We don’t wish to undermine the basic irrational-ambition-drenched family unit, after all.

But now we’re entering the black hole of the sports-industrial complex, and the slow but measurable spaghettification of our cerebral cortices is becoming irksome. Let’s remind ourselves, instead, that the Russians are providing us a potential road out of our addiction to politicizing and corrupting games. When we find out that Russia did not collapse under all the weight of those abandoned drug-testing sites, the United States can do the same, since our national self-importance and ability to take someone else’s twenty-dollar bill and turn it into a non-refundable hundred runs neck and neck with theirs, and might even be superior.

This can all be done, and today’s developments give us a template. But expect nothing. The first job of any system is to defend itself, and the system of international sport has adapted its organism to live entirely on theft, drugs, and corruption. In other words, I see a big comeback from the Russians in the second half, and in the end everyone will pretend to be happy with another desultory nil-nil draw and declare victory in the face of humiliating defeat.

But in this mostly desolate festive season, a kid can still dream about what is possible. Or at least get liquored up and fantasize about longshots.