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Russell Wangersky: Corruption, of Olympic proportions

The Rio Summer Games begin shortly. Ask yourself, then, how the most special of Olympic guests, International Olympic Committee (IOC) members themselves, will be treated there.- Russell Wangersky
The Rio Summer Games begin shortly. Ask yourself, then, how the most special of Olympic guests, International Olympic Committee (IOC) members themselves, will be treated there.- Russell Wangersky

It might have been the news story about Tour de France officials using remote sensing systems to detected hidden electric engines built inside the shafts of bicycle frames to help cheating cyclists win the Tour.

Russell Wangersky
Russell Wangersky

It might have been the wholesale cheating and institutionalized drug abuse by Russian track and field athletes, a situation that currently has many banned from the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Most likely, though, it was Norway’s withdrawal from an Oslo bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics that brought home to me that corruption is now, if not always, close to endemic in major sports. Once, you could argue that there will always be individual cheaters, those for whom the risk of being caught is worth the chance to “win.”

Now, not only are whole teams and countries implicated in the abuse, but those who oversee the games are part of the gravy train.

It might have been the wholesale cheating and institutionalized drug abuse by Russian track and field athletes, a situation that currently has many banned from the upcoming Summer Olympics.

Most likely, though, it was Norway’s withdrawal from an Oslo bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics that brought home to me that corruption is now, if not always, close to endemic in major sports. Once, you could argue that there will always be individual cheaters, those for whom the risk of being caught is worth the chance to “win.”

Now, not only are whole teams and countries implicated in the abuse, but those who oversee the games are part of the gravy train.

he Olympic flag flying in Victoria, Canada, in recognition of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

The Rio Summer Games begin shortly. Ask yourself, then, how the most special of Olympic guests, International Olympic Committee (IOC) members themselves, will be treated there.

Here’s a few of the demands made for the benefit of IOC members obtained by Norwegian newspaper VG.

Traffic lights and traffic rules are to be adapted to allow IOC traffic priority. The IOC also suggesting closing schools and encouraging residents to take vacations to limit traffic. The hotel where the IOC members would stay must have “24-hour room service, butler service and wash and press service” and “all rooms must be kept at exactly 20 degrees at all times.”

Online magazine Slate translated more of the IOC demands: “They demand to meet the king prior to the opening ceremony. Afterwards, there shall be a cocktail reception. Drinks shall be paid for by the Royal Palace or the local organizing committee. Separate lanes should be created on all roads where IOC members will travel, which are not to be used by regular people or public transportation. A welcome greeting from the local Olympic boss and the hotel manager should be presented in IOC members’ rooms, along with fruit and cakes of the season. The IOC members should have separate entrances and exits to and from the airport. During the opening and closing ceremonies, a fully stocked bar shall be available. During competition days, wine and beer will do at the stadium lounge.”

And, of course, “IOC members shall be greeted with a smile when arriving at their hotel.”

This, on top of the fact that we’re just past a major IOC scandal where committee members were accepting gifts and even bribes for voting for cities to host the games, and the top brass of World Cup soccer’s FIFA has been banned from soccer for years and the organization is undergoing investigation for corruption, racketeering and money laundering.

Here’s what the IOC had to say about the pullout by Norway: “This is a missed opportunity for the city of Oslo and for all the people of Norway who are known world-wide for being huge fans of winter sports. And it is mostly a missed opportunity for the outstanding Norwegian athletes who will not be able to reach new Olympic heights in their home country.”

Well, it’s also a missed opportunity for IOC officials to fill their glasses — and, perhaps, their pockets — for free.

Because we’re beyond any semblance of honest and fair competition. The competition now is for those who cheat best.

Norway’s only doing what we all should do, until things are demonstrably better in the wide world of sleaze — I mean, sports. Turn it all off.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 39 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.

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