I like the Olympics as much as the next person, if the next person watches occasionally while doing something else and only if it's a final involving a Canadian athlete or someone well-known or possibly women's beach volleyball, but I'd really like it if people could put to rest the idea that it's about doing your best and competing honourably and living up to some sort of Olympic ideal, because it's not. It's all about winning.
It's easy to pontificate and tut-tut athletes like those involved in the badminton tournament who were disqualified after they were found to have deliberately lost matches in order to improve their chances of making it to the medal round and, you know, achieve the goal they've single-mindedly worked toward for years. Much easier, apparently, than designing a tournament format in which the only advantage can be gained by winning. Is it good sportsmanship to put forth an effort that is less than your best? Of course not. Can it be a good strategy? Ask the coach of an Olympic basketball team who sees that winning his next game might mean he meets the American team in a knockout match. When it comes to high-level sports, the idea is to win or go home. Last I heard, there weren't any countries paying bonuses for noble efforts or moral victories. Win a gold in wrestling for the United States team? You're looking at a $250,000 payday. If I was on that team and saw any way to increase my chances of getting that medal, well, let's just say I 'd have to give it some serious thought, since I probably wouldn't make that much in endorsements for being a good sport and nothing off wrestling unless I jumped to the WWE.
It would also be nice if we'd stop pretending that athletes should be held to some higher standard of behaviour than the rest of us. Was Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella's Twitter comment, following a loss to South Korea, to the effect that he would like either beat them up or burn them and that they were either mentally handicapped or mongoloids, depending on the translation, a smart thing or him to say? Of course not. Did he deserve to get sent home from the games for it? Not in my opinion. Mind you, I don't actually agree with the characterization of his tweet as "racist" either. He was venting after South Koreans did something (beat his team) that he didn't like. Personally, I can recall a few times when I said or thought "Old people are a bunch of ^*%@#$!" after getting cut off in traffic. Why? Because I was angry. Do I hate old people? No. Not all of them at any rate.
Another tweet that got an Olympian sent home, by Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou, who responded to news of a West Nile virus outbreak in Greece by tweeting that “With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!" was, admittedly, pretty xenophobic, if not downright racist. Last time I checked, however, she was competing in track, not in promoting racial harmony. In case you aren't aware, some athletes are rather unsavoury characters. At least professional sports are honest with themselves. Wilt Chamberlain never got set home from a championship series for, um, extracurricular activities because it was equally difficult to outscore him on the court.
When I think of Olympians, I think of Simon Whitfield, Clara Hughes, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Donovan Bailey and even Ben Johnson. Why? Because they finished first, legally or otherwise. The ones who lost? Well, there's Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican bobsled team. I think their names were Bob, Ziggy, Peter and Bunny.