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This house believes the Olympic dream is dead, and has been since Atlanta in 1996
This house believes the Olympic dream is dead, and has been since Atlanta in 1996
Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Movement, developed in the early 20th century a set of universal principles – or values – that, he intended, encompassed all Olympic Games: respect, excellence and friendship (London 2012). His principles were born out of the International Olympic Committees motto of ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ – faster, higher, stronger (Allen, 2011). The values were intended to apply to all competing athletes but eventually permeate into society and education.
Fast forward to 1996 in Atlanta, an Olympics marred by the growth of corporate sponsorship, a bombing that gave the event a political edge and a widespread belief that, even if they were not caught, doping was rife among athletes. Each of the following Olympics has followed a similar path, away from the ideals of de Coubertin and the values that have ensured the longevity of the event. Proponents argue drugs now overshadow remarkable performances, the voting process is accused of bribery and pandering to the interests of its most senior officials whilst studies indicate the youth are more uninspired by the event than ever before. Opponents of the motion maintain however that ultimately sport wins out, that the Olympic Dream is forever maintained by the application and dedication of its athletes; countries and athletes continue to flock to the event because of what it represents and that history will not be overshadowed by political posturing or drug scandals. Though the Olympic Games will continue to be the world’s premier sporting event, the debate concerns whether the modern Olympics still carries the dream and ideals of its antecedents?
|Points For||Points Against|
|Commercialization of the Games erodes the idea of taking part for its own sake.||The Olympics is about the limits of human sporting achievement, if drugs can aid athletes, they should be permitted in the name of going 'faster, stronger, higher'|
|The widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs undermines the Olympics' pretensions to fairness.||Doping is only an issue with a minority of athletes, the vast majority wish to compete and win in a fair manner|
|The Olympic Committee grants the Olympics to the highest bidder, making a mockery of the Olympic ideal of fair play||The Olympics have a legacy beyond that of the games themselves, they support sport in local communities and encourage Olympic values in society|
|The Olympics is no longer about competition and fair play, but which athletes and coaches can go to the furthest extremes simply to win.||The Olympic Dream is carried by the athletes, and the events themselves transcend everything else.|
|The Olympic Games is hijacked for political purposes, smothering their purported purpose as 'for the glory of sport'||The Olympic Dream cannot be dead if states are still lining up to host, athletes are striving to compete and viewers continue to watch|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Commercialization of the Games erodes the idea of taking part for its own sake.
The massive commercialisation of the Games erodes the idea of taking part for its own sake: with so much sponsorship money at stake, winning at all costs is the inevitable aim. The rule of the sponsors seems more important than the sport: interrupting television coverage of the events to advertise is symptomatic of this, permitting McDonalds to sponsor a sports event is another. As is the auctioning off of 'virtually every aspect of the Games to the highest bidder.'1 Whilst a recent report indicates that sport is still at the centre of the Olympics, 'the volume of commercial messages drowns out any competing narratives apart from sports' (Multinational Monitor, 2008, p.8). The Olympic Dream is that competing narrative attempting to weave the values of friendship, respect and excellence into the home viewer.
Furthermore, corporate sponsorship concentrates on the richest countries' athletes. The United States, for example, benefits from huge funding from over 100 corporations for its team and can thus train them to far higher levels than developing countries can (Multinational Monitor, 2008). As one of these 100-plus companies, Citi paid $30 million purely to be the 'official bank of the 2012 United States Olympic Team' (Belson, 2011). This prevents competition on an equal footing, one feature of the Olympic Dream.
1 Multinational Monitor. (2008, August). The Commercial Games. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from Multinational Monitor
2 Belson, K. (2011, March 10). Citi Signs Deal as U.S. Olympic Team Sponsor. Retrieved July 8, 2011, from New York Times
Commercialization ensures that the Olympic Games are still "the" Games in which to compete. It is an amateur event, so by definition they are taking part for its own sake. Furthermore, a few breaks in coverage is a small price to pay for 3.5bn people to be able to see the Games, and thus be inspired to play sports: that was the number of viewers estimated for the Atlanta Games. The sponsors do not really have significant control over the running of the Games: Coca Cola's calls for IOC Chief Samaranch to be replaced were not met; IBM had to end its sponsorship of the Games because the IOC was asking for more than they could pay. The IOC has the stronger hand, and a wide choice of sponsors. Without any sponsorship, many of the poorer countries that are able at present to send a team to the Olympics would be unable to do so. Sponsorship, even a little, is the key to starting to put all countries on an equal footing.Improve this
The widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs undermines the Olympics' pretensions to fairness.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs is sufficiently common in the Olympics to be a cause of concern. Not only do they reduce the victories of those who take them to meaninglessness but they cast aspersions over the efforts of all other athletes. As Simon Barnes noted in Beijing in 2008, “the world is full of people declaring that they don’t care who wins what at the Olympics, because ‘they’re all on something’” (Barnes, 2008). New drugs such as the growth hormone EPO are very difficult to detect, and the Olympic authorities are not doing enough to overcome the problem – stirring the negative public opinion. Though the IOC claims to be clamping down on the drug problem, there were still 26 cases of doping at Athens in 2004, and 20 cases in Beijing (Allen, 2011), such cases only indicate the athletes taking known substances, or substances that can be tested for. The Olympic motto of ‘faster, higher, stronger’ is fatally undermined if athletes’ achievements are the result not of physical and mental strain, but chemical concoction.
Despite some well-publicized cases of doping in previous Olympic games, the drug-testing technology is now sufficiently advanced to deter most athletes. The evidence bears witness to this change as the proposition's statistics indicate. The IOC is coming down hard on those who take drugs: a two year ban for the first offence has been introduced. It also plans to make London 2012 the 'most tested games ever', with over 5,000 individual tests, or roughly one for every two athletes (Allen, 2011). As such, there is very little chance of a doping athlete going undetected.
Furthermore, as record-breaking athletes come under the most amount of scrutiny for doping, it is a reasonable assumption that they are least likely to risk doping. Successful athletes deserve the benefit of the doubt; their records should be celebrated for the triumph of hard work and perseverance that they invariably are.
Allen, R. (2011, June 16). London 2012 to be the most tested Games, says WADA expert. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/16/olympics-london-doping-idUSLDE...Improve this
The Olympic Committee grants the Olympics to the highest bidder, making a mockery of the Olympic ideal of fair play
The IOC and many national Olympic committees lack integrity, and this kills the Games' spirit and pretensions to fair play. Officials working for the Salt Lake City 2002 bid are believed to have spent more than $1 million on 'gifts and favors' for IOC members in an effort to bribe their way to the victory.1 Furthermore, in response to a BBC programme in 2010 which highlighted the corruption of members of FIFA, football's governing body, the IOC was forced to open an investigation into three of its own members who held posts at both organizations.2 The inability of the IOC to stamp out the corruption of its own members, or otherwise alter its voting system, reflects poorly on its commitment to excellence and fairness. If the IOC is charged with ensuring the propagation of the Olympic Dream, it is setting a poor example.Improve this
The IOC has worked long and hard to ensure that the corruption that marred the 2002 voting process will not happen again. The six members at the centre of the scandal were recommended for expulsion, three resigned of their own accord, whilst others were warned (Mackay & Chaudhary, 1999). As IOC President Dick Pound stated at the time, 'the conduct of certain IOC members was contrary to everything the Olympic movement has grown to represent. It dishonours all those who believe in the Olympic Dream.'1 As such, The IOC made clear that the behaviour of those members was at odds with the Olympic Dream, and reformed itself accordingly. This does not demonstrate that the Olympic Dream is dead, merely that work needs to be done to ensure it is always maintained. That work is being done.Improve this
The Olympics is no longer about competition and fair play, but which athletes and coaches can go to the furthest extremes simply to win.
The modern Olympic athlete is no longer driven 'for the glory of sport', but by an appetite for excellence that can, and often does, override any notion of fair-play or respect. The sense of fraternity that Olympic athletes once had is becoming lost in the antagonistic rivalries between nations and individual athletes and the pressure not merely to compete, but to win. We should have some sympathy with athletes sometimes: very often, they are compelled to take drugs by their team's coach. The Chinese swimming team, for example, was beset at Atlanta by claims that they had adopted a systematic and untraceable doping regime to improve their athletes, with remarkable results.1 To overcome this, the IOC Conference in February 1999 recommended that coaches should take the Olympic Oath as well as athletes, however the document itself is so tarnished by the regularity with which it is ignored that it is fast becoming a farce. The Olympics therefore may still be a great event, with many great athletes but it no longer carries the associations with respect and fair-play that made its Dream so appealing to so many.Improve this
The Olympics was always about the ability of athletes, with the support of their coaches, to go to extreme lengths to win. It is a competition. Nonetheless, modern athletes have not lost the fraternity that has marked previous Olympic Games, nor have the millions of tourists that flock to all corners of the world to view their countrymen compete. Events are rarely troubled by disputes between competitors, winners and runners-up are congratulated by all, regardless of their national allegiances, and there are few troubles reported by tourists.Improve this
The Olympic Games is hijacked for political purposes, smothering their purported purpose as 'for the glory of sport'
The Olympics have been hijacked so many times for political purposes that competition "for the glory of sport" cannot help but have been smothered. The Munich disaster in 1972 is the most shocking: nine Israeli athletes were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists and eventually killed. Yet the Games were only suspended for 34 hours; it is as if those who play the Games were less important than the spectacle of the Games. When the USA boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games, they devalued still further the supremacy of sport for its own sake. In 2008, a number of state leaders decided to boycott the Beijing Opening Ceremony in protest of the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.1 In so doing, they essentially pull the focus of the event away from the athletes and sport and use it instead as a political tool. That is not the purpose of an event founded specifically to grant athletes the platform to shine.Improve this
The Olympics can be overshadowed by external political issues, but it can never interfere with the sport that is it's hallmark. Chapter Five of the Olympic Charter states explicitly 'no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in the Olympic areas. Nevertheless, even when politics has been brought into the arena itself, notably in 1968 in Mexico City when two black American athletes gave the Black Power salute on the podium, it has been at the behest of the athletes themselves. This has ensured that the Olympics has maintained about the sport and the athletes, not the states they represent.Improve this
The Olympics is about the limits of human sporting achievement, if drugs can aid athletes, they should be permitted in the name of going 'faster, stronger, higher'
The Olympic dream is fundamentally about the limits of human sporting achievement, who can work the hardest and prepare the most efficiently to, in effect, be the best. In the name of excellence, and the motto of ‘faster, stronger, higher’, athletes should be encouraged to do anything they possibly can to improve their performance. As Matthew Herper notes, ‘the absolute limits of non-enhanced human athletic performance may well be set in stone…what remains constant is the public clamor for new world records.'1 As such, if the chemicals exist to take an exceptional athlete that little bit further, to permit them to do something extraordinary, they should be allowed. If an athlete is willing to give the best part of his life training for an Olympic event, and we readily congratulate such dedication, why should they be prevented from experimenting with drugs that will similarly display their dedication to being ‘faster, higher and stronger’? The only reason drugs are considered unfair currently are that they are banned and therefore not everyone is entitled to use them. If drugs were legal and accessible to all, the competition would be fair. Juan Antonio Samaranch, former head of the IOC, has advocated just this point, arguing that the rules could be changed to allow non-harmful performance-enhancing drugs (The Economist, 2004).2Improve this
The Olympics is about what is naturally possible; it is a contest between athletes, not chemical laboratories. The will and desire to push yourself to victory should come from within, not from the drugs that are increasingly permeating Olympic Games' (The Economist, 2004). The arguments against permitting performance-enhancing drugs are twofold; the first is that it harms athletes unnecessarily, permitting drugs would effectively encourage athletes to harm themselves through repeat use, and secondly that it is against the spirit of sport, namely the principles of fairness that the IOC so values. The dangers of performance-enhancing drugs are increasingly coming to light, EPO, popular among cyclists, is believed to thicken the blood to the extent that it can cause heart attacks (The Economist, 2004).
The Economist. (2004, August 4). Drugs and the Olympics. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/3062111Improve this
Doping is only an issue with a minority of athletes, the vast majority wish to compete and win in a fair manner
Fairness as an Olympic value should go both ways; athletes are expected to train and compete in a fair manner, but the public at large must also be fair in their adjudication of the athlete's success. To suspect all Olympic medallists of the doping crimes of a few is not fair, successful athletes deserve immediate recognition and congratulations for their efforts. If they declare they are drug-free and their effort was the result of hard work and determination, their words should be respected. Pierre de Coubertin intended his set of universal principles to apply to education and society as a whole, not merely the athletes; such hopes should be recognized (London 2012).
London 2012. (n.d.). The Olympic and Paralympic Values. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from London 2012: http://getset.london2012.com/en/educators/the-olympic-and-paralympic-valuesImprove this
This is an idealistic suggestion, but unfortunately one that does not marry with the reality. Though only a tiny minority of athletes have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, only a minority are ever tested and of those, only a minority of drugs can be tested for. As such, it is no surprise that the likes of Charles Yesalis, an epidemiology professor and expert on performance-enhancing drugs, believes that "a 'large percentage' of record-holders doped their way to the finish line" (Herper, 2002). Yesalis has also admitted his personal belief that drug testing, as championed by the IOC, has been a 'farce' (Herper, 2002). In such a climate, it is difficult to ask the public to view an extraordinary achievement as anything less than the result of the advantages granted by performance-enhancing drugs.
Herper, M. (2002, February 15). Performance Drugs Outrun The Olympics. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2002/02/15/0215ped.htmlImprove this
The Olympics have a legacy beyond that of the games themselves, they support sport in local communities and encourage Olympic values in society
The Olympic movement gives considerable funding to community sports programmes, precisely in order to teach fair play. Furthermore, the participation of the world's best athletes acts as an inspiration to young children, encourages physical activity, healthy eating and hard work. The Olympic Dream is present in this connection between the competing athletes and the young children watching them, believing they one day can get to the same spot. Surely watching the Games therefore can only be a good thing, since it gives young people something to aspire to, and is thereafter complimented by the Olympic legacy and support for local sports programmes. In that sense, the Olympics provides both the inspiration and the means for children to chart their own Olympic Dream.Improve this
The man who revived the Olympics at the end of the 19th century, Baron de Coubertin, insisted that education of the public in the spirit of fair play, and in the importance of taking part rather than winning, were just as important as the Games themselves. Today, the Games are played by a "Dream Team" of finely-trained athletes, the exclusivity of which can be conducive only to watching in awe, rather than copying. Furthermore, the treatment by professional tennis players and footballers of the Olympics as a second-tier tournament only encourages the youth to regard professionalism, and its money, as the ultimate goal, not sport for sport's sake.Improve this
The Olympic Dream is carried by the athletes, and the events themselves transcend everything else.
Whatever goes on in the political sphere that envelops the Olympic Games cannot affect the Dream itself: that is carried on the shoulders of the athletes. It is possible to be faster, higher and stronger wherever and whenever the Games are held, so economic and political matters are forever detached from the Olympics in that way. Sport, when it is so extraordinary, can transcend the most depressing economic recession or political scandal. The Olympics in Beijing in 2008 was ostensibly meant to be overshadowed by the crackdown in Tibet and subsequent boycotting of the opening ceremony however politics were forgotten as soon as Usain Bolt had run his world-record 100m and 200m legs. There is little that an extraordinary sporting achievement like Bolt's sprints cannot surpass in terms of interest, this is manifestly the Olympic Dream. So long as the Olympics can create the conditions for such events that captivate the world in a manner little else can, the Olympic Dream lives on.Improve this
The Olympic Dream is not carried by the athletes, and even when it is, it is quickly and often undermined by external realities. If we take the assertion that the Olympic dream is carried by the athletes, then the widespread and systematic drug use that has permeated recent Olympic Games' is proof that they care little for values like fairness and respect for other competitors. The insatiable desire for success that drives such users is a far cry from the mutual respect and friendly competition that the Olympics once stood for. Nevertheless, the Olympic Dream is more often carried on the shoulders of the host nation, which uses the competition both to present an image of itself to the outside world and reap the rewards of worldwide exposure. China in 2008 portrayed its opening ceremony 'as a coming-out party for a modern, prosperous and increasingly influential nation' (Leibenluft, 2008). Subsequent decisions to boycott the event propelled the issue into the limelight, and permitted China to use the 'Olympics should be about sport' excuse to their advantage. As such, even if the Olympic Dream is not yet lost, it is being readily exploited.
Leibenluft, J. (2008, April 11). Passing on the Torch. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2188754/Improve this
The Olympic Dream cannot be dead if states are still lining up to host, athletes are striving to compete and viewers continue to watch
The Olympics are still the marquee sporting event, both for countries wishing to host and athletes wishing to compete against the very best. The commercial interest is driven by consumer interest which, still high, is proof that the Olympic Dream and it's ideals still attract viewers. They are drawn because they know the athletes competing in the Olympic Games are the peak of the world's athletes and whether they are doping or not, they will complete extraordinary acts of sporting prowess. Bob Beamon's long jump in Mexico City in 1968 and Usain Bolt's 100m in Beijing in 2008 are just two examples of sporting moments that encapsulate the Olympic Games and ensure that it will remain forever about the athletes and the events, not politics.Improve this
States are lining up to host the Olympics because of its advantages to them, not to their athletes and certainly not to the interest of sport at large. The economic benefits are obvious; China is believed to have netted between $4-6 billion dollars as a direct result of sponsorship for its Olympics (Multinational Monitor, 2008, p.7). There is tourism and merchandise on top of that also to consider.
Viewers continue to watch because it is undoubtedly a fascinating series of sporting events, however they do so brutally aware that the playing field is not even and that competitors are almost obsessive about winning. Translate such attitudes into community sport and both parents and children would be outraged; children should not be encouraged to have a 'win at all costs' mentality but to appreciate both winning and losing. The modern Olympic athlete is no role model in that regard.
Multinational Monitor. (2008, August). The Commercial Games. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from Multinational Monitor: http://multinationalmonitor.org/editorsblog/index.php?/archives/93-The-C...Improve this
Allen, R. (2011, June 16). London 2012 to be the most tested Games, says WADA expert. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from ReutersAlmond, E. (1996, February 16). Doping Issue Resurfaces in China, Coaches Allege East German Link. Retrieved July 8, 2011, from Los Angeles TimesBarnes, S. (2008, August 8). What's wrongs with drugs at the Olympics? Retrieved July 1, 2011, from Times OnlineBelson, K. (2011, March 10). Citi Signs Deal as U.S. Olympic Team Sponsor. Retrieved July 8, 2011, from New York TimesCNN. (2010, December 1). IOC to pursure FIFA corruption claims. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from CNNGuardian. (n.d.). Politics and the Olympics. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from GuardianHarding, L. (2005, November 1). Forgotten victims of East German doping take their battle to court. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from GuardianHerper, M. (2002, February 15). Performance Drugs Outrun The Olympics. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from ForbesLeibenluft, J. (2008, April 11). Passing on the Torch. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from SlateLondon 2012. (n.d.). The Olympic and Paralympic Values. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from London 2012Mackay, D., & Chaudhary, V. (1999, January 25). Bribes scandal forces Olympics shake-up. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from GuardianMcCuen, B. (2001, January 9). Olympics in the 21st Century: Is Corruption the Name of the Game? Retrieved July 1, 2011, from SpeakOut
IOC (International Olympic CommitteeWorld Conference on Doping in SportAustralian Institute of SportWorld Anti-Doping AgencyLondon Olympics 2012 Article: 10 Reasons to oppose all Olympic Games Sports business.com coverage of the race to host the 2016 OlympicsArticle: IOC Chief Hits Back at Commercialization Criticism
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