olympic failure?

The summer version of the Olympic Games, that centuries-old quadrennial gathering of athletes and, in the modern era, globally from scores of nations, has begun – Rio 2016, officially, the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.

For as long as I can recall I’ve loved sports.

My father and I were fans (fanatics!) of the St. Louis baseball Cardinals. Ken Boyer, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Julian Javier, Tim Carver, and Bill White, among others, were my heroes. I was a St. Louis basketball Hawks enthusiast (until the team moved to Atlanta in 1968!). I also followed the St. Louis football Cardinals, though they were a mid-level team in accomplishment. (They also left town, in the late 1980s moving to Phoenix.)

A chubby child, encouraged by my parents to develop “the life of the mind,” I was not a good athlete. Somewhere during my senior high school year, I discovered I had better than modest speed. I could keep up with most and outrun many. During my college years, I realized my affection for basketball as a player. During the summers, I honed my initially mediocre, then moderate skills on my old elementary schoolyard until I could more than hold my own in my college’s intramural league.

Long retired as an active participant, I’ve retained my love of sports as a spectator. And I’ve always watched the Olympics. This time, no, I won’t. Yes, I will await each day’s news reports of outcomes, yet I won’t watch.

Perhaps it’s this year’s presidential election cycle, which has riveted my attention and, with its thrills and spills, exhausted my energies and patience. More, doubtless, it is my sense of a decay of Olympic proportions. The difficulties are many and varied. The widespread and unchecked, perhaps, in truth, not wholly detectable, thus, ungovernable use of performance enhancing drugs. The bribery, both alleged and demonstrated, of international officials in the process of the rewarding of the Games. In this immediate case, Rio de Janeiro faces nearly innumerable troubles, among them, the outbreak of the Zika virus, the polluted Guanabara Bay, the site of some of the water sports, Brazil’s political and economic uncertainties, and organized crime and, especially concerning narcotics trafficking, the ongoing threat of violence. The term “a perfect storm” of disaster and images of the biblical plagues of Egypt come to mind.

Three Latin words comprise the Olympics motto – citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger) – expressing, I think, not only athletic ambitions, but also ethical aspirations. If I was of a cynical disposition, I might make ironic light of these virtues, attributing them to chemically-enhanced performance. But I’m less scornful and more sad. So, again, this time ‘round, I won’t, can’t watch.

4 thoughts on “olympic failure?

  1. Paul,

    Your post captures my own sense of disillusionment/ disenchantment this day. (My mood could have something to do with tomorrow being the anniversary of my brother’s death on that Kansas City street last year.) I have never been an avid sports fan, but I could always muster a little interest in the Olympics. Not this year. For me, I think it has most to do with the setting being a place of abject misery for so many, while the world watches, entertained and insulated from so many forgotten people.

    I’ll be thinking of you as you don’t watch with me, and I’ll be saying another little prayer of thanks that somehow I met you and Pontheolla in Spartanburg this summer. Even through my dark mood, such a sweet, unexpected, astonishing thing gives me hope.

    Much love to both of you.


    • My dear sister Karen, I especially will hold you and the memory and soul of your brother in my prayers for peace for each and both of you.

      Regarding Rio, yes, abject misery for many. One of the thoughts that occurred, but I didn’t write in this post is the now sadly typical run/ramp up to the Olympics, wherever the venue, that involves rapid, rampant building and the displacement of the poor with little in the way of provisions for their future and secure dwelling.

      Pontheolla and I offer continued thanks to God for meeting and coming to know you, Ted, and Emilia.

      Much love


  2. Paul,

    I’m so frustrated by the current political scene, It’s hard to focus on anything else. I hadn’t thought about the Olympics once until I learned my cousin was coming to visit this weekend and mentioned the Opening Ceremonies. As a security person, your term “the perfect storm” got my attention, because it’s very accurate. I’m hoping nothing will happen, but the fact that the security company had to be replaced earlier this week for failure to perform, is as scary as all the other things you mentioned in your post. I’m praying it won’t be as bad as we think.

    love always


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