With the world’s attention now firmly on Rio De Janeiro, things are getting more interesting by the day. Massive anti-government protests shut down sections of the city and country over the weekend, and experts say the numbers are only increasing, with some protestors planning on marching every day until the end of the games. In other news, Brazil’s government fired the security firm charged with keeping the Games safe, citing ‘incompetence and irresponsibility’ due to the fact that only a few hundred security guards had been hired of the 3400 promised.
That means now the Rio Police will be in charge of all of it, including running x-ray and screening services. That’s the same police force which met incoming visitors at the airport with a huge sign that read “WELCOME TO HELL…POLICE IN RIO DON’T GET PAID…WHOEVER COMES TO RIO DE JANEIRO WILL NOT BE SAFE.” It’s also the same force that’s been in almost non-stop corruption scandals for as long as anyone can remember. Most recently, a top MMA fighter said he was kidnapped and handcuffed last week by a group of police and forced to withdraw thousands of dollars from ATM machines before he was released.
More fun with theft as well; when 100 Australian athletes were evacuated from their Olympic Village apartments because of a fire in the sketchy buildings, they were robbed of a laptop and their team logo’d anti-mosquito/Zika protective shirts – possibly by fire marshals. But of course the IOC says everything’s awesome!
The hits keep on coming, but keep in mind that even if things continue to snowball, Brazil still probably won’t even make the list for the ‘worst Olympics ever’. Read this for one author’s picks of the 5 worst Olympics, or this smart National Geographic piece enumerating the sordid history of the Olympic Movement and the racism, sexism, corruption, and rampant displacement of the poor that it’s built on. Hey – at least Tokyo’s ready for 2020 thanks to their imminent election of a new Mayor following the departure of the last two…over Olympic scandals!
While the IOC is facing plenty of pain these days and struggling to address weak interest from venues for future games, there’s a much bigger wave coming, and it will no doubt change the games forever. Paralleling hugely contentious recent controversy over the the billions in broadcast and licensing dollars received by the NCAA thanks to thousands of unpaid American college student athletes, the Washington Post yesterday took on the other elephant in the room of the Olympic ‘Movement’ – the abject poverty most Olympic athletes endure for a chance at glory all while hundreds of staffers, Federation employees, and IOC “volunteers” make small fortunes while living a life of luxury, protected from any kind of transparency laws by Lausanne, Switzerland’s nearly nonexistent disclosure requirements for non-profit companies. Here are a few excerpts from the Washington Post piece that rekindles this important discussion:
At the very top of “the Movement” sits the International Olympic Committee, a nonprofit run by a “volunteer” president who gets an annual “allowance” of $251,000 and lives rent-free in a five-star hotel and spa in Switzerland.
At the very bottom of “the Movement” — beneath the IOC members who travel first-class and get paid thousands of dollars just to attend the Olympics, beneath the executives who make hundreds of thousands to organize the Games, beneath the international sports federations, the national sport federations and the national Olympic committees and all of their employees — are the actual athletes whose moments of triumph and pain will flicker on television screens around the globe starting Friday….
…The picture that emerges is a multibillion-dollar entertainment industry whose entertainers are, in this country, often expected to raise their own income or live in poverty. There is no comprehensive data on U.S. Olympic athlete pay, but information collected by a nonprofit last year from 150 track and field athletes ranked in the top 10 in the country in their events found an average income of $16,553. Even USOC officials concede that, with the exceptions of the handful of megastars such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte who rake in big endorsement money and those who play sports with lucrative professional leagues, most U.S. Olympic athletes cannot earn enough from their sports to make a living…
…USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus makes $854,000, and national swim team director Frank Busch makes $346,000; their swimmers competing in Rio next month can make monthly stipends that cap at $42,000 per year. USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach makes $362,000 while Team USA triathletes compete for stipends that range from about $20,000 to $40,000 a year. The coach of the USA Rowing women’s team makes $237,000 while his rowers vie for stipends that max out at about $20,000 per year. (U.S. Olympic athletes are given an additional stipend if they win a gold, silver or bronze medal.)…
…In major American sports leagues — such as the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA — management typically shares about 50 percent of the revenue with the athletes. In promotional materials, the USOC advertises that more than 90 percent of its spending goes to “areas that support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes.” That same 2012 study by former athletes found that just 6 percent of USOC spending actually goes to athletes as cash payments.
“I was pretty shocked and disappointed, but I knew how the system worked,” said Ben Barger, an Olympic sailor who led the study. “The money goes to executives first, then administrators, then coaches, and then athletes.”
The reason there’s a large disparity between what the USOC says it spends on “areas that support athletes” and what the USOC actually pays athletes, Blackmun explained, is because the USOC includes the salaries of many of its employees who work with athletes or raise money for the organization in the larger figure… You get the picture. If you want more, head to the Post.