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A Losing Game - Are the Olympics worth the price?

A Losing Game - Are the Olympics worth the price?

A Losing Game - Are the Olympics worth the price?

14 August 2016

The 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. Photo courtesy of www.rio2016.com. Photo: Gabriel Nascimento

 

Captain Mark Braye, Corps Officer at Sarnia Community Church, Ontario, Canada, looks at the darker side of the Olympic Games being held in Rio de Janeiro and asks if the international sporting fiesta is worth the price?

The Summer Olympics are here. Millions of people are watching as athletes from around the world gather in Rio de Janeiro to compete in a record number of events, seeking gold and glory. But underneath the waving flags and cheering crowds is something the organisers don’t want you to see – the men, women and children who suffered so the Games could take place. The Olympics Games have a dark side.

Some problems happen wherever the Games are held. Human trafficking increases at every major sporting event. It will be no different in Brazil, which doesn’t have strong laws against the sex industry.

Some problems happen wherever the Games are held. Human trafficking increases at every major sporting event. It will be no different in Brazil, which doesn’t have strong laws against the sex industry. Other problems are specific to the host country. Rio 2016 will take place against the backdrop of political instability and economic crisis. Last year, a series of protests against government corruption tied to the Olympics resulted in the impeachment of the president.

In June, USA Today reported that the government had declared a state of “public calamity” over the financial stress of acquiring and hosting the Games, which cost an estimated $10 billion. Protestors argued that the money used to build or renovate facilities would have been better used for hospitals, schools and emergency services. Even more disturbing was the treatment of workers. Building and Wood Workers International monitored the construction and found numerous violations, including unsafe working conditions and little or no health care.

Not everyone is happily anticipating the Games. Last December, The Guardian reported that thousands of people were evicted and displaced – sometimes violently – to accommodate building projects, losing access to social services.

There are also concerns for athletes and spectators. In April, just hours after the Olympic torch was lit in Greece, a 50-metre section of a new seaside bike path built for the Games collapsed after being hit by a strong wave. Two people were killed. In May, three members of Spain’s Olympic sailing team were robbed at gunpoint in a popular tourist area – and it wasn’t the only assault on visiting athletes.

Environmental concerns are also a huge issue. Guanabara Bay is heavily polluted – garbage, sewage and even dog carcasses have been found in the water, where sailing and windsurfing events are to be held. The Zika virus is plaguing Brazil, and the government has insisted women avoid pregnancy due to the negative effects Zika can have on the unborn. Athletes and spectators are worried about the risk of contracting this horrible virus.

Should we still celebrate the Olympic Games when so many people have suffered for them? When we know the human rights violations surrounding them? Is the honour and glory of sport worth more than human life? There are no easy answers to these questions.

I’m not suggesting boycotting the Olympics, but we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend these problems don’t exist. Let’s be aware of the concerns and controversies and support organisations that work to alleviate the problems. Let’s pray for the people of Brazil

The Olympic Games have a dark side. Let’s shine some light.

Article first published in the Canadian Salvationist.

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