I hope your February break has been going well. It’s been a few weeks since I saw you driving through the Commons. I waved at you, but you pretended not to notice. I’m going to act like that never happened, because I have bigger issues that I want to address today. Since the last time we’ve met, I’ve been watching a lot of this Winter Olympics — dozens of sports that I never knew existed two weeks ago have now consumed my entire life.
As we speak, college students worldwide pull out their shotskis and ice luge molds in celebration of the most riveting quadrennial exercise in patriotism, team spirit, and demolition of self-worth—the Winter Olympics. This year’s games are being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a city of 40,000, of which only 35.6% were interested in the Winter Olympics, according to a survey taken last April by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. While the Games have proceeded swimmingly and the drone light show/technical precision/flagbearers (I’m looking at you, Tongan flag man) of the opening ceremony were spectacular, the potential $13 billion price tag for this year’s Olympics has raised some questions, particularly as Rio, host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, still faces $40 million in debt. Between Rio and Montreal, which took 30 years to pay off debt from its 1976 Olympic Games, a valid question can be raised: why do countries even want to host the Olympics? And when they do, how does it work out for them economically?
Now that this year’s Academy Awards have been doled out, we are feverishly weaseling out potential contenders for next year’s race. In general, the biopic genre rarely has difficulty gaining critical attention any time of the year. However, the biopic Race does not look like a promising contender for next year. Race sheds light on sprinter Jesse Owens (Stephan James), who began his formidable running career as a track and field runner for Ohio State University before running in the 1936 Olympics, held in a chaotic Nazi Germany on the brink of war. Owens owes part of his success to his college coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), who is portrayed as the stereotypical mentor leading his mentee down the path of hardships to the awards podium.
The Olympics open in twelve days. You could say that Beijing is putting the final touches on what it hopes will be a masterpiece, a sign of China’s rising power and ascension to an important global position. Yet these preparations have cut widely and deeply into the daily lives of those who live in and around Beijing.
We dropped the ball big time on this one. When the International Olympic Committee gave Beijing the 2008 Olympics, China was well-known for its abysmal human rights record. While the decision was being made, advocates for Beijing said that China would improve itself for the Olympics. They cited the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which was closely tied to South Korea’s process of democratization. Unfortunately, they failed to cite the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where several months before the Games started, Mexico’s authoritarian government brutally repressed student protestors. Democracy has a complicated and often uncorrelated relationship with the Olympics.