By JULES BOYKOFF and ALAN TOMLINSON
Published: July 4, 2012
WHILE Europe roils in economic turmoil, London is preparing for a lavish jamboree of international good will: in a few weeks, the city will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
But behind the spectacle of athletic prowess and global harmony, brass-knuckle politics and brute economics reign. At this nexus sits the International Olympic Committee, which promotes the games and decides where they will be held. Though the I.O.C. has been periodically tarnished by scandal — usually involving the bribing and illegitimate wooing of delegates — those embarrassments divert us from a deeper problem: the organization is elitist, domineering and crassly commercial at its core.
The I.O.C., which champions itself as a democratic “catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family,” is nonetheless run by a privileged sliver of the global 1 percent. This has always been the case: when Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympics in the 1890s, he assembled a hodgepodge of princes, barons, counts and lords to coordinate the games. Eventually the I.O.C. opened its hallowed halls to wealthy business leaders and former Olympians. Not until 1981 were women allowed in.
Even today, royalty make up a disproportionate share of the body; among the 105 I.O.C. members are the likes of Princess Nora of Liechtenstein, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Prince Nawaf Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The United States has only three representatives, two of them former Olympic athletes.
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Published July 2012