ATHENS – Alexandros Nikolaidis is a real Greek, an imposing 6-7 Evzone of a man and a two-time Silver Medalist in Tae Kwan Do in the Olympics – in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 – and the man who will have the honor of carrying the Greek flag into the stadium at the London Games on July 27. Greece, of course, will enter the stadium first, an honor accorded as founder of the ancient games, but not the modern version, the idea of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator who recognized the value of the ancient Greek ideals that the modern Greeks had forgotten.
The first Modern Games in Athens in 1896 paved the way for the world’s biggest and most important sporting event every four years, but has evolved from pure amateurism to pure commercialism, with the International Olympic Committee, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, where no Olympics have ever been held, raking in some $5.4 billion in TV and sponsorship money from 2005-2008.
The IOC has kept half of it, so you know what the Olympics are today and its members are interested only in seeing what they can get out of the bidding for each new Games as cities around the world vie for the honor to go broke hosting games for two weeks in brand-new venues that will be abandoned the day after the closing ceremony. It took Montreal 30 years to repay the cost of hosting the Games there in 1976 and Athens still isn’t close to recovering from the 2004 Games, with most of the sites overrun by weeds, neglect and already forgotten.
First, the Olympics should ALWAYS be held in Athens because they are the invention of Greece. You think Americans would sit still for the World Series to be played in Rio De Janeiro, where the 2016 Games will be held in the shade of some of the world’s worst slums? If Athens hosted the Olympics every four years, the sites could be permanent, the country would gain billions of critical dollars and Greece would get the honor it deserves to keep, even if today’s leaders have pretty much bankrupted the country economically and morally.
Second, why is the IOC in Switzerland? The headquarters of the Olympics should be in Athens, unless you agree that the offices of Major League Baseball should be in Tokyo. It’s bad enough the Japanese have won the last two World Baseball Congress games because American baseball players don’t care much to play unless they are paid and could care less about their country.
Third, why does the IOC use a Latin phrase, Citius, Altius, Fortius, for Faster, Higher Stronger, as its motto? It should be νους υγιής εν σώματι υγιεί, the original Greek meaning of Sound Mind, Solid Body, which is what the Olympics should exemplify. Of course, the real motto is never spoken because it’s Show Me The Money.
The IOC has proven itself a morally corrupt-money grubbing outfit, a sanctioned Mafia that allows wrongdoing if the committee can benefit financially. Knowing that the Chinese used under-aged girls in gymnastics at the 2008 Beijing Games, the IOC did nothing because China will soon be the world’s banker and no one in Lausanne had the guts to do anything about it. The tip off should have been when one of the 12-year-olds Chinese girls was holding onto her Barbie Doll while doing her gymnastic routine.
Even after discovering that the East German half-female swimmers, who needed speedboats to catch American women in the water, had secretly been injected with steroids and won a boatful of gold medals at the 1976 Games, the IOC did nothing. East German athletes needed the drugs because they were inferior athletes without them and everyone knows that marathoner Waldemar Cierpinski was running on something other than talent when he won the Olympic Marathon in Montreal, depriving the 1972 champion in Munich, American Frank Shorter, of repeating.
Cierpinski was an unknown before he won and his victory was so surprising, even to his other teammates, that the country’s soccer team goalie rallied his club by saying that if this “living example of mediocrity” could win, so could the soccer team, and they did. Shorter and fourth-place finisher, American Don Kardong, who was cheated out of a Bronze Medal, publicly accused Cierpinski of cheating and they were right. Why weren’t the East German cheaters stripped of their medals? Here’s a clue. Cierpinski is now a member of the German Olympic Committee, and the German pharmaceutical company implicated in the scandal, Jenapharm, now owned by Schering, blamed the East German Communist government for providing the drugs, although Jenapharm didn’t mind selling them.
The IOC exists only to aggrandize itself, not the Olympics, and deserves no respect. It wouldn’t even allow a moment of silence at this year’s London Games for the 1972 victims of the Munich massacre, the 11 slaughtered Israeli athletes. The IOC’s tolerance for letting its members take money knows few bounds. John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee, admitted he paid $70,000 to two African members of the IOC so that Sydney would get the Games in 2000 and it did. Why wasn’t he or the African recipients of the bribes kicked out? The payments were in line with the IOC’s policy, he said, because it was allegedly laundered through alleged sports programs in Kenya and Uganda.
Marc Hodler, a member of the IOC Executive Board, years ago said there had been abuses in voting for the 1996 Atlanta Games, the choice of Sydney, as well as Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, a competition so tainted that Mitt Romney, now the Republican presumptive candidate for U.S. President was called in to clean them up. Hodler, who had been an IOC member since 1963, said a group of four people, including one IOC member, had been involved in promising votes for payment, although he would not identify them. “The four try to make a living out of this,” he said. “I missed a chance to be a rich man.”
SHOW THE GREEK COLORS
That’s what the Olympics is all about and Nikolaidis has a chance to make a big statement for his country undergoing its worst economic crisis since the starvation days of World War II and the Civil War then. Greece is sending only 105 athletes to London, less than half the team that represented the country in Athens, because a corruption-ridden government said it didn’t have the money to send more or the 30 million euros, some $34.46 million over four years, to help them train. They could have just emptied a few bank accounts of political tax evaders, or some fake patriot in the wealthy shipping industry could have sponsored the Greek Olympic Team instead of putting tax-free Panamanian flags on his vessels.
The Greek Parliament squanders more than that on office allowances and lawmaker alleged expenses that go right into their pockets, so let’s not hear any howls of mock outrage about why Greece couldn’t pony up the money to help a team that represents the country, once you weed out the cheats like Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, the disgraced sprinters charged with faking a motorcycle accident on the eve of the 2004 Games so they would not have to take a drug test. Only the judges who acquitted them believed that story.
Except for two-time Gold Medalist in the 1500-meters, Sebastian Coe, who is Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the London Games, the reviewing stand will mostly be packed with fake VIP’s and big shots who couldn’t walk once around the track without fainting and deserve no honors, certainly not that of the flag being lowered as many countries still do. It was the United States which first refused to do that in 1908 when Irish-American Ralph Rose wouldn’t dip Old Glory to the King of England at another London Games, and one of his teammates and fellow Irish-American Martin Sheridan was said to have proclaimed: “This flag dips to no earthly king.” So all Nikolaidis needs to do to show the world that Greece is still here and always will be is to raise high the Greek flag and swirl it around. It’s the IOC that should be on its knees, not Greece.