When thinking of the Olympics, most people think of the idea of coming together. The majority of the world views the Olympics as one of the greatest showings of sportsmanship, humanitarianism and global interactivity on the planet. What other sporting event brings every single country in the world together over one common, simple idea? The idea that sports can unite the globe and overcome any global conflict. In essence, the Olympics is even greater than the World Cup in the fact that it truly can incorporate every single in the country over a plethora of different sports. Now, all that would be fine and dandy if the Olympics didn’t’ also lead to some of the greatest humanitarian atrocities in modern history.
In 1988, South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. An Olympics that featured many highlights including Ben Johnson’s 100M dash and the Soviet gymnastics team’s near perfect performance. Unfortunately, what goes understated is the mini-genocide that South Korea committed to host those Olympics. The South Korean government, in an effort to “purify” their streets, rounded up the homeless, poor and disabled and sent them to modern day concentration camps to make their city look better. These citizens of South Korea were sent to the Brothers Home, a slave labor camp where they were routinely beaten, tortured, raped and murdered due to their sheer mental, economic or cosmetic appearance. Officially, between 1975 and 1986, 513 people were killed at the Brothers Compound, but the true number is estimated to be in the thousands, and possibly tens of thousands. In order to receive the Olympic bid and beat out other countries, South Korea felt the need to manually gentrify their streets. In turn, they traded human rights for profit, and that just feels wrong in the spirit of the Olympic games.
Now, if those events only occurred once, a little under 30 years ago, it wouldn’t be excused, but seen as an isolated event. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. We can look back to multiple examples of the past and modern day to see the injustices that the money involved in the Olympic games have brought. In 1936, when Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic games, the Olympics were held not as much to bring the world together over sports, but for Hitler to be able to show that his white, Aryan athletes were the best in the world, and that no one else could compete. Hitler excluded non-Aryans, Jews, Gypsies and many more from his German teams. Luckily, athletes like Jesse Owens, an African-American track star, proved just how wrong Hitler was.
While we’ve discussed the Olympics in great depth, it’s not just the Olympics that breeds this kind of behavior. In a sense, it’s multinational sporting events. We can look at the preparation for the 2022 Qatar World Cup and see what kinds of human atrocities are taking place. If you include the 2008 Summer Olympics, 2010 World Cup, 2010 Winter Olympics, 2012 Summer Olympics, 2014 World Cup and 2014 Winter Olympics, there was a total of only 80 worker deaths. While any death toll is devastating, those numbers aren’t that high for dangerous, high-level construction jobs. For the 2022 World Cup alone, 1,200 workers, mostly migrants have already died from on the job related incidents. Not only are migrant workers being paid slave labor wages, working restless hours, but their passports are being held by Qatar officials so they cannot even leave the country. Qatar is employing modern day slavery, and that’s unacceptable for an event that apparently brings countries together over a sport.
The motto for the Olympic games is Citius, Altius, Fortius. That phrase is Latin and translates in English to “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” To become faster, higher and stronger we must foster an environment where every global citizen is treated equally no matter how they look, what their intelligence level is or what they believe in. We as a planet cannot achieve the Olympic motto if we don’t work together to become a better society. In a time like 1896, when the modern Olympics were first hosted, it gave countries an opportunity, many for the first time, to interact with each other in an environment outside of business or government. It allowed the citizens of each country to work with citizens of other countries to make the world faster, higher and stronger. In an environment where we inherently discriminate to make our appearance better we don’t become faster, higher or stronger. What we become is close-minded, weaker and open to less and less ideas that help us progress from decade to decade.
At the end of the day, there will be corruption in any major organization. That’s the way big business works and will work until the end of time. But at a certain point, we have to evaluate whether these multi-national events are good for the globe, or if they foster an environment inhumane and unjust to many global citizens. For now, the answer is hard to determine, but steps in the right direction must be taken. Whether it’s a boycott or a worker’s strike, it doesn’t matter. Something must be done to protect the rights of humans, as no single person’s life is greater than another.