The goal of the Olympic Movement is clearly defined in the Olympic Charter: “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced in accordance with Olympism and its values.” (Olympic Charter, 2013, Rule 1). Modern Olympic organizers want to show the world that it can rise above its differences, at least for a few weeks. So, the Olympics are like a little utopia, complete with an Olympic village for the athletes. The whole event takes place under an imaginary bubble, where time stops and people get along. The bubble goes up during the opening ceremony and the bubble bursts at the closing ceremony.

Enter Bob Costas and Lesson from the Olympics # 5:  Bob Costas is a party pooper.

I feel bad that Costas had pink eye for the entire Olympics. However, that is not enough to forgive him for his political speech the other night. If you missed it, Costas took it upon himself to remind us that we should not be having too much fun watching the Olympics because Russia is a bad place. Costas reminded us of their human rights violations etc., etc.  Yahoo News summarized Costa’s words this way:

Costas said the Sochi Olympics had gone off better than many people feared going in, “all of which is truly wonderful, but should not serve to obscure a harsher or more lasting truth. This is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria — and that’s just a partial list. “No amount of Olympic glory can mask these realities,” he said.

Uh—can’t we just have two weeks under the bubble, please? Besides, we host the Olympics on occasion and we are not perfect. Many people here are still hostile to gay rights, not to mention rampant racism and our past support of vicious regimes. Arizona is close to passing legislation that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay people…or anyone else they don’t like (do they not know about the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Bob Costas personified the cliché, “the pot calls the kettle black.”

This is not Costa’s first foray into political controversy. Most recently he took part in the debate over the Washington Redskins, devoting a commentary to the topic at halftime of the nationally televised game between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. Then, he said,

“Think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins’ and how it truly differs from [other team nicknames based on Native American images],” Costas said. “Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed at African-Americans. Hispanics. Asians. Or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage, or a noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. “It is an insult, a slur, no matter now benign the present-day intent,” Costas continued.

No problem there: Costas is on his home turf. We need more celebrities to stand up for social and other pressing issues. We need to take care of some serious stuff right here at home. We don’t need to violate the spirit of the Olympics on the international stage by bullying other kids in the Olympic sandbox.

I have never been a huge Costas fan, but I never disliked him either. Now, I cannot get the smirky little smile that he flashed after his Sochi speech out of my mind. Fortunately, I was left with a positive image of news anchors:  the friendly and professional team of Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth as they hosted the closing ceremony last night. Would love to see them take over in Rio!


4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Olympics – 5

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