If you're like me, you're not watching the Olympics, currently taking place in that winter wonderland of Beijing, China, where the snow is totally fake but the silencing of American athletes is depressingly real.
The TV audience for the opening ceremony was down 43 percent compared to the last winter games, and it's not just because of yet another hideously ugly mascot, time zone differences, and the "cultural genocide" of Uyghurs killing the buzz. Interest in the Olympics has been dropping for decades now, which is a welcome development if you care about human dignity and wasteful government spending.
The games are a global grift run by one of the most corrupt, scandal-ridden bodies in sports history. The International Olympic Committee is happy to massively rip off whatever sucker cities and countries are dumb enough to beg for the right to host them. (I'm looking at you, Los Angeles!). Like vampires, they suck their hosts dry while providing legitimacy to tyrants and monsters such as Adolf Hitler, Leonid Brezhnev, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping.
More important, they are the embodiment of a worn-out, collectivist 20th-century attitude toward competition among nations that makes no sense in our increasingly globalized, individualistic world. The modern games got started in 1896 by French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin as a way of reviving Gallic national pride after his country got its ass kicked by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. That's why athletes represent countries rather than themselves. And it's also why the Olympics were politically charged to the hilt throughout the 20th century, such as in the 1936 Berlin games, which Hitler overtly staged as a showcase for rising German military might and aggression.
During the Cold War, the Olympics functioned as one more proxy battle in the twilight struggle between the free world and communism. When the U.S. and Soviet teams faced off in basketball and hockey, it was every bit as much a geopolitical showdown between superpowers as anything happening in Southeast Asia or Central America.
That made the Olympics more exciting to watch—Bruce Jenner kicking commie ass in his world record–setting 1976 decathlon victory wasn't just about surpassing the limits of the human body, it was somehow about realpolitik and nuclear war. But there was a ton of collateral damage from such a framing, with ongoing national boycotts over political disputes meaning that athletes who had trained for years were figuratively sacrificed on the altar of nationalism. Or, as in the case of murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich games, literally killed in the name of international politics.
Coubertin famously said, "the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part." But when the games are taking place in an authoritarian country, and we're still tallying medals by country, and the athletes are treated like geopolitical pawns rather than superlative individuals, it makes more sense than ever to tune out the Olympics.
Let the competitors represent themselves on a neutral playing field far from the distraction of politics and you'll see the audience return, ready to cheer athletes who inspire us by embodying the Olympic ideal of going "Faster, Higher, Stronger."
Edited by Regan Taylor. Written by Nick Gillespie.
Photo Credits: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Newscom; Sergei Bobylev/TASS/Newscom; Angelika Warmuth/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom; Anton Novoderezhkin/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Video by jol acen from Pexels; Thomas Krych/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Video by Ron Lach from Pexels; Mark Edward Harris/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Steven Williams, via Wikimedia Commons; Uri R, via Wikimedia Commons; Holocaust Encyclopedia; Derzsi Elekes Andor, via Wikimedia Commons; World History Archive/Newscom; Kremlin.ru, via Wikimedia Commons; Harald Steiner/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Rauantiques, via Wikimedia Commons; Edited by A.W.Ward, G.W.Prothero, and Stanley Leathes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Richard Ellis/UPI/Newscom; Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Newscom; SVEN SIMON/picture alliance / SvenSimon/Newscom; RIA Novosti archive, via Wikimedia Commons; British official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Malayan Department of Information official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; DIRECCION DE DIVULGACION Y PRENSA EJERCITO DE NICARAGUA, via Wikimedia Commons; Linda Hess Miller, via Wikimedia Commons; U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; John Blackfoot/Polaris/Newscom; Everett Collection/Newscom; Benjamin E. "Gene" Forte - CNP / MEGA / Newscom; KURT STRUMPF/AP Feature Photo Service/Newscom; Monte Fresco Mirrorpix/Newscom; Mickael Chavet/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Sergei Bobylev/TASS/Sipa USA/Newscom; Valery Sharifulin/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom;; Yonhap News/YNA/Newscom; Kyodonews/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Maxim Thore/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; THUMB Dai Tianfang Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Newscom; Seung Jin Yeo/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Atushi Tomura/AFLO SPORT/Newscom; PhotoXpress/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Daniel A. Anderson/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Lan Hongguang Xinhua News Agency/Newscom; Mickael Chavet/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Newscom; YUTAKA/AFLO/Newscom; EyePress/Newscom; ANP Sport / ANP/Sipa USA/Newscom; Mickael Chavet/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Newscom; Aleksandr Kazakov/Kommersant Photo / Polaris/Newscom; YUTAKA/AFLO/Newscom; Li He Xinhua News Agency/Newscom
Music Credits: "Pushing On," by Ikoliks via Artlist, and "Black From The Edge," by Ikolis via Artlist.