Monday, July 13, 2009

Olympics pimp athletes but object to competition


Logan Campbell, a young Kiwi Olympian has opened a brothel. He says that its purpose is to raise funds for his bid to attend the next Olympic Games in London. In a flurry of media interest - its a perfect storm in a teacup for media and has been reported as far off as the Times and BBC websites. Sport and sex in the same story - perfect.

Here in New Zealand both the NZ Olympic committee and Taekwon-Do, the sport in question, have expressed indignation at the morals of Mr Campbell. It should be noted that brothels are legal in New Zealand, as is prostitution. So, as a nation, we have no moral problem with the enterprise. It is legislated for and so, you could reasonably assume it is encouraged as an enterprise and source of tax revenue (which then goes in part to SPARC a government agency that funds the NZOC).

The Olympic Games is a monumental money making machine that generates cash from television rights, sponsorships, advertising, ticket sales, merchandising and licensing. It generates this money from blood sweat and tears of amateur athletes around the world who are willing to mortgage themselves to the hilt to participate in the event - mostly with nil hope of winning a gold medal. Middle aged has-beens administer the national Olympic Committees around the world. Many of these people are former athletes. The privileges and perks of being on the committee are often viewed as a fair consideration for sacrifices they made in their youth. Exemplary 'morality' (whatever that might mean) is assumed by the IOC and NZOC, as is apparent in the matter of the brothel keeping martial arts practitioner. But the unintended consequence of expressing moral indignation is that one's own morals will come under scrutiny.

In 1999 scandal rocked the Olympic movement when graft and corruption was revealed at the very highest levels for the assignment of host city status. Cities bidding for the games see vast pots of riches from influxes of development, tourism and international prestige. Whenever there are riches on this scale there will be greed and floating morality. The Guardian covered the scandal extensively at the time.

The choice of a totalitarian regime for the 2008 Olympic host country was a simple disgrace in itself. China stepped up its repression of its people to accommodate the IOC and present a fake face to the world. They even faked the opening ceremony. I wrote about this at the time. Of course China weren't the first dictatorship to host the games, Nazi Germany made its mark on the Games in 1936 - including turning it into a fascist spectacle and introducing the fantasy of the torch relay.

It can't go without mention that the Olympics have received hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorship and advertising from those paragons of healthy living McDonalds and the CocaCola Company. Amateur athletes are being used to vicariously pimp potentially lethal foods to the young who consider the athletes to be heroes.

For Taekwon-Do New Zealand to publicly declare doubt over Campbell's morals and cast doubt on his future suitability is in itself, morally dubious. What is the criteria for selection? Surely to be the best athlete available in one's sport. Publicly questioning Campbell's morality when he is engaged in a perfectly legal enterprise defames the athlete. Implying that he may not be selected because of it indicates a petulant, corrupt point of view - that an athlete must conform to the social mores of the selectors (what if you vote for a different party or attend a different church than the selectors?).

'Let them who are without guilt cast the first stone.'

Taekwon-Do gets a TKO

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