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Olympic Spirit for sale (sold!)

Editorial #4: On the Death of the Olympic Spirit. Apparently, the currently ongoing Sydney Olympics have been phenomenal. Records are being set left and right, heroes are created, villains are vanquished, gods are walking amongst men and, perhaps most importantly, Americans are making off like bandits with the gold medals.

Too bad no one is watching. Ratings are at the lowest they’ve been in years. Part of this is because of the inconvenience of the time difference between Australia and America. The results of events are on the Internet and on the news nearly a day before NBC broadcasts the event itself. Most of the drama is leached out of the Games when you know how they’re going to end. It’s much like knowing that the woman in "The Crying Game" is actually a man before you see the film, or that Keyser Soze is actually...

NBC’s response to viewer apathy has been to run more advertisements, not to increase viewers, but to get more money from their sponsors. Perhaps the biggest excitement of the entire Olympics has been the minor controversy surrounding the recent Nike “Why Sport” ads, one of which has an Olympic runner being chased by a chainsaw-wielding psychopath. “Why sport? Because you’ll live longer.” NBC pulled the commercial after a number of complaints.

Like Christmas, the true “spirit” of the games has been overshadowed by crass commercialism. Competitors are prohibited from wearing anything other than specified brandnames on camera. “Athlete diaries” have been banned, which is the common act of athletes writing about their experiences for their hometown papers. Athletes are banned from holding online chats with fans. The International Olympic Committee has declared they have “property rights” to everything involved in the Olympics. “Everything” includes the ubiquitous Olympic rings symbol, the results of events, even the athlete’s experiences. The irony is that the I.O.C. is exploiting the greatest strength of the Olympics; their international nature; athletes can’t argue their First Amendment rights have been violated, because the I.O.C. doesn’t operate on American soil.

Franklin Servan-Schreiber, the director of communications for the I.O.C., has claimed that the aggressive enforcement of their property rights has simply been so that “the association between the athlete, the sport, the values and the symbol that represents all this is clear.” However, the officially non-profit organization has defended their property rights with such a viciousness that their motives appear rather suspect.

Two months ago, the I.O.C. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. to dislodge 1,800 “cybersquatters” for registering domain names that used terms belonging to the I.O.C. The names of the defendants took up over 40 pages. This is not the actions of a non-profit organization. This is the action a major corporation uses to intimidate their enemies. This is not an action befitting a committee who is supposed to represent the greatest ideals of sports and promote a sense of universal brotherhood.

It seems the Olympics have devolved from a celebration of “peace, friendship and solidarity throughout the world” into a corporate stronghold concerned with its profits and property. Oh well. At least it’s entertaining.

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