February 22, 2002

The Spirit Is Dying

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In recent years, the Olympics have taken a lot of hits which have ultimately tarnished one of the greatest ideas of the modern era. The decision to bring together the countries of the world in the spirit of competition has truly blessed us all, even if we don’t realize it. To see Americans stand next to Russians on a podium, to give us reasons to find heroes in otherwise normal people is a great blessing.

Yet the tarnish is beginning to become more and more evident. There were hiccups in the early years to be sure, but recent attempts to undermine the spirit of the games has been disturbing.

Drugs will always be prevalent, of course. Gaining an edge in competition sometimes causes people to resort to ugly measures to win.

What I’m talking about this time though is much worse. These have become the complain games, the worst example of petty in-fighting the Olympics has seen since the Russians boycotted the event in Los Angeles in 1984.

First, there was the Sale/Pelletier controversy. As we all know by now, that was simply a disgusting display. Again, I’m no figure skating judge, and I recognize that the Russians tried a more difficult program, but I think we’re all aware of the fact that the Canadians won that program.

However, the IOC didn’t take away the Russians gold medal — they simply made them share it with the Canadians. In the spirit of the games, the spirit of compromise shown through. It seemed to make sense.

The Russians started grumbling though. Then, one of their top cross-country skiers was removed for alleged drug use, though it was just minutes before the race. Then they didn’t get the results they wanted in freestyle aerials. Now, last night, Irina Slutskaya lost to Sarah Hughes in women’s figure skating.

Now the Russians are threatening to pull out, claiming they’re being unfairly targeted. The removal of a medal from South Korean Kim Dong-Sung means the Koreans may leave. Just when you think the Cold War is over, it comes up and bites you in the ass.

Is it American favoritism? Well, probably. That, along with an economic boost, is why countries fight so hard to get the Olympics in their own backyards. Is it likely a little bit of an overreaction to the situation? Well, probably.

I only hope that the Russians come to their senses. If they don’t, we may see the end of an era — an era when the Olympics were a time to come together, not a time to bicker.

Archived article by Charles Persons