It is possibly my favorite season … and I’m not talking about summer. It’s the Olympics! It’s a time when countries all over the globe come together in one location and represent their countries in athletic competition. In theory, the best athletes of each country battle it out in the pool, on the mat, in the rink, in the ocean, on the beach, on the track, on the range, basically on every surface they can find. These athletes dedicate most of their lives to compete for an Olympic medal on a global stage in a competition that goes back centuries. They deserve your attention for a couple of weeks. So, turn on your TV or fire up your device and tune in to the best athletic competition there is!
But the Olympics do not come without controversy. Ready, here we go – All the way back in 1912, Jim Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon after it was discovered that he had played professional sports. The following summer games did not happen due to WW1. Countries of the losing side, the Central Powers, were not invited to compete in the 1920 and 1924 games. The 1936 Olympics in Berlin was full of controversies due to Hitler’s rise in power. He used the games as a platform for Nazi propaganda and even refused to shake hands with American long jump gold medal winner, Jesse Owens, and even went so far as to not allow ‘undesirables’ to represent Germany at the games. WW2 canceled the summer games in 1940 and 1944, with the countries of the Axis Powers not invited to the 1948 games. Several countries chose not to participate in the 1958 games for a variety of reasons, but the violence of a men’s water polo match is most notorious. Tensions between Soviet Union and Hungary came out during a semi-final match, forcing the police to arrive to keep the fans from rioting; it became known as the Blood in the Water match. South Africa was banned from competing in the 1964 Olympics due to apartheid; that ban was lifted in 1992. Fans saw two American sprinters deploy the Black Power salute after they medaled in the 200-meter dash in 1968. The tragic Munich Massacre took place during the 1972 summer games where eleven athletes, coaches, and fans were killed by a Palestinian terrorist group. 1976 games saw the lowest number of countries participating and the Russian pentathlon team was caught cheating and subsequently disqualified. Jimmy Carter withdrew the American athletes from the 1980 games in Moscow, which was dubbed the “Chemists’ Games” due to all the Soviet doping. The Soviets refused to come to the 1984 games in Los Angeles in response. In 1992, a Russian weightlifter refused to accept the bronze medal he earned and was then banned for life. 1996 games in Atlanta were marred by the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing, killing one and injuring over one hundred. In 2000, female track star Marion Jones was disqualified for using steroids and a female Chinese gymnast was disqualified for being too young to compete. The games returned to Athens, Greece in 2004 where a Brazilian marathon runner was attacked and dragged into the crowd by an Irish priest; that runner somehow managed to come back and win the bronze medal. The 2008 games in Beijing brought the Chinese cruel treatment of young athletes to light. Many are forced from their families and put through grueling training programs, forsaking academic education completely. Additionally, 2008 saw the most medals striped from athletes for doping (50), lead of course by Russia. Eight players were ejected from the badminton tournament (yup, badminton) in 2012 for losing intentionally in order to throw off the knockout round as well as several other athletes for making racist posts on Twitter. In 2016, Russia is restricted in participating due to its overwhelming amount of doping violations during Olympic and World Championship competitions. Four American swimmers claimed that they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio, but actually vandalized a gas station. And the 2020 games in Tokyo were delayed one year due to Covid-19, the first time ever in the history of the modern Olympics.
Let’s hope that the current summer games in Tokyo do not have as many controversies as some in the past. However, there are already several occurring. The US women’s soccer team did not go to the opening ceremonies, reportedly for practice. Who has practice during the opening ceremony? Most of its players wore Black Live Matter shirts and knelt during the national anthem before their loss to Sweden, truly disrespectful to the country they claim to represent. I found myself routing for the Swedish team of blonde beauties to dethrone the American women. I would never normally cheer against US athletes, but they don’t cheer on our country, they only work to divide it. Also, those pesky Russians will not take the hint and stay out of the Olympics. The Russian, I mean Russian Olympic Committee, women’s and men’s gymnastics teams both took the team gold, claiming that they had nothing to do with the previous doping scandals. They compete under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee, but we know who they are. It’s like a wolf in a sheep costume trying to get into the flock. We see you Russians, but the shepherds don’t seem to care. Hey IOC! A ban from competing is a ban from competing. How about you firm up that backbone, grow a set, and enforce your own restrictions?! Hopefully, appeals and reviews will sort this out properly. You know I’ll be watching to see what happens next!