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The IOC Graciously Takes Credit For Improved Relationship On Korean Peninsula

Photo: Matthew Runnacles (Getty)

The international sports cartel better known as the IOC released its annual statement about the year that was and what’s to come in 2019 and it’s very much like the IOC itself: bloated, self-congratulatory, and devoid of substance.

The 2,400-word letter from IOC president Thomas Bach is a delusional catalogue of the IOC’s achievements over the last calendar year, with no mention of any shortcomings and/or scandals, so I guess that nothing went wrong in the Olympic movement this year.

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First, there’s world peace. Bach starts his address like he’s a beauty pageant contestant being asked what she hopes to achieve during her one year reign. Bach and the IOC are claiming that the fact that the North and South Korean delegations marched together in the opening ceremonies under one banner will somehow lead to better relations between the two Koreas.

“With these powerful symbols and gestures in PyeongChang, we have seen how the Olympic Games can open the way to dialogue, how the Olympic values can open the way to a more peaceful future,” Bach wrote.

While it’s better that the Koreas marched together than to not have marched together, it’s hard to think that the symbolic gestures we witnessed during the Olympics will lead to any sort of substantive change.

“I think it might just go back after the Olympics to what it was before, after all the photo-ops and the temporary affection that’s been shown by some quarters of South Korea toward North Korea based on the dictator’s sister or the cheerleading squad or whatever,” Kyung Moon Hwang, Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California, and author of A History of Korea: An Episodic Narrative, told Time back in February. “South Koreans, I think, are looking at this for the most part as a sideshow.”

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And by the time the Games were over, the North and South Korean teams were no longer marching under a unified banner. But sure, IOC. The Nobel committee will be calling you guys up any minute now.

The IOC also claimed victory over Russian doping, and praised itself for how well it handled the crisis in the lead-up to the 2018 Winter Games. There, you’ll remember, Russian athletes were allowed to competed if they were “clean,” though not under their country’s flag, and were described as “Olympic athletes from Russia.” It was a semantic victory against doping.

In PyeongChang, we sanctioned the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. The IOC sanctioned those entities involved, proportional to their levels of responsibility. At the same time, we upheld the principle of individual justice to which every human being is entitled. This is why we created a pathway for clean, individual Russian athletes to compete in PyeongChang, but only under the strictest conditions. In this way, we did justice to all athletes, regardless of their passport. With its suspension from the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, the Russian Olympic Committee has served its sanction, while in other organisations procedures are still ongoing.

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That last line is significant. While claiming success, they leave out that one of the largest, most influential sports federations in the world has just missed another World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) deadline to hand over data to the agency in order to restore the country’s compliance. Basically, the gist of the IOC’s statement in regards to Russia is “we figured out what to do for one competition and the rest is up to these other agencies.” The IOC really handled this.

The letter also looked to the future because the IOC is nothing if not a forward-looking group of royals and rich folks. You need to know what’s coming next if you are to consolidate your power further and enrich yourself at the expense of others.

The preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are in full swing and progressing in an excellent way. With 18 months before the opening of the Games, I have never seen an Olympic city that is as prepared as Tokyo, and we have every confidence that the preparations will continue as smoothly in the final stretch.

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This makes the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo look like a well-oiled machine. But that machine takes a lot of money to run smoothy, nearly four times more than was originally projected when the city won the bid for the Games in 2013. When Tokyo was chosen to be the host, the price tag was $7.3 billion; now it stands at $25 billion and rising.

It’s easy to be prepared when you’re able to force taxpayers to pay for cost overruns, even while having a lot of work done by volunteers, including highly skilled work like language interpreters. The volunteers also have to pay for their travel and board costs. Meanwhile IOC executive board members receive a $900 per diem. (It’s only $450 for those peasants with IOC membership but are not on the executive board.)

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The IOC also addressed the existential crisis it’s currently facing—namely that no city in its right mind wants the Games coming to town, like a plague of locusts who eat all of the crops before touching down in another city two years later.

In 2019, we will have an important decision to select the host of the Olympic Winter Games 2026. The strong candidatures are embracing the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms, as demonstrated by the fact that they plan to use 80 per cent of existing or temporary venues and facilities. We have made it clear that, in 2026, we want to return to a traditional winter sports country, and I am sure that we will have an excellent host city for the Olympic Winter Games 2026.

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I’m sure they’ll have their veritable pick of dictatorships with terrible human rights records to choose from in the future.

Also, beyond the Olympics themselves in PyeongChang, easily the biggest story in Olympic sports has been the ongoing sex abuse scandals in gymnastics, swimming, taekwondo and other sports. A month before the 2018 Winter Olympics, the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse spoke, en masse, about their experiences. Among those who spoke at the sentencing were 2012 Olympic champion Jordyn Wieber, 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion Aly Raisman, and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher.

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The word “abuse” doesn’t appear at all in this longwinded letter. Sure, Bach talks about the Adoption of the Athletes Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, which will help “strengthen the role of the athletes in our Olympic Movement” and gives lip service to the idea of athletes having their voices heard. Except that he and the IOC ignore what athletes and their advocates have been talking about the most in 2018.

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About the author

Dvora Meyers

Dvora Meyers is a staff writer at Deadspin.