The Olympics’ Worst Enemy: Itself

(No copyright infringement intended. Just an Olympic enthusiast showing support.)

I am an Olympic geek. I get sucked into the spirit, the thrill of the win, the indomitable human spirit that is always present regardless of where it’s hosted.

As the London 2012 Games get underway, I look back at our personal experience hosting the 2010 Games and how living in a host city demonstrated how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is its own worst reputational enemy.

The Desired Reputation of the Games is one of bringing people together, the insuppressibly human spirit and the unifying force of the Games.

In actuality, at a host city level, the IOC is draconian, oppressive, overbearing and controlling.

In 2010, the athletes flowed into Vancouver’s Olympic Village and immediately draped their country’s flags from the balconies. The Australians flew their unofficial team flag of a boxing kangaroo. The International Olympic Committee’s response: a court order to remove the flag, as it was not an official country flag and was a registered trademark of the team, contravening sponsorship rights.

Before the 2010 Games started, so many people I met wanted to fly the flag. Local business wanted to get involved: they were excited to host the Games. We were all excited to host the Games. But the IOC squashed any attempt for ground level support. Only those with “rights” could openly support the Games.

The IOC is the Olympic Movement’s own worst enemy, with their relentless focus on sponsorship and money.

However, the spirit lives on in all of us. I will still get up at 1 a.m. to watch an athlete go for gold and national glory. I can’t help myself.

(**Note – as I wrote this, I was tearing up remembering all those great Olympic moments: Joannie Rochette’s short program, Simon Whitfield’s gold medal win, watching the 2008 men’s eights final at 2am, Clara Hughes winning medals at both summer and winter Games, the list goes on)