5 Reasons The 2021 Olympics Are Shaping Up To Be Trash
Ah, the Olympics. A time of worldwide togetherness, a celebration of that which truly unites us as a species: bigotry, corporate greed, and an irrational belief in our own immortality. Wait, that can’t be right. Isn’t this supposed to be a puff piece about Jesse Owens embarrassing Hitler? Maybe Tommie Smith and John Carlos ending racism? Are we even going to make any Ryan Lochte jokes? *checks with editors* Ryan Lochte MISSED THE TEAM THIS YEAR? Christ, of all the bad things that happened in 2020, that might be the worst.
Okay, fine. I’m skeptical, but let’s see what could possibly be worse for the Olympics than no Ryan Lochte.
Sha'Carri Richardson Gets Forced Out Thanks To Arcane Drug Rules
We live in a shitty time where most news stories can be met with a “you gotta be kidding me” response at best, but Sha’Carri Richardson’s story is layers upon layers of head-shaking WTFery. Remember when the ref in
A little introduction to Sha’Carri Richardson: she’s 21 years old and already the sixth-fastest woman of all time and fourth-fastest in American history. She broke the NCAA record for fastest 100 meters when she was 19. That’s Section I, Paragraphs 1 and 2, Line Shut TF Up on her Wikipedia page. She’s a singular talent in the 100 and 200 meters, and she does it in style: long, decorated nails and a glorious trail of fire-colored hair. She’s openly and unapologetically queer -- in her girlfriend’s words, “loud and vibrant.”
If I can editorialize: she’s rad as hell. She’s the exact mix of insanely talented and super charismatic that should lead to her having a Big Moment at the Olympics. Think Michael Johnson in 1996 breaking the 200 meters world record in gold shoes, or Kerri Strug’s vault on a bum ankle in 1996, or Derice Bannock and his team shouldering their bobsled over the finish line in 1988. Okay, okay, maybe I was eight years old in 1996 and have some formative memories of the Olympics being a four-hour drive from my house, but the point is: Sha’Carri Richardson is super cool, and she should be on her way to a capstone achievement.
Instead, tragedy struck: her mother passed away. Imagine what it takes to be the best in any field—long hours of endless training, the pressure of being a worldwide standard-bearer, all while being barely old enough to buy lotto tickets and porn. Then add -- as a nice little mental health-wrecking garnish -- your mom dying right before your big moment. That’ll make anyone reach for something that offers a brief respite from reality, which Richardson found in the form of weed.
If you know anything about weed, you know it makes you want to do the exact opposite of run really fast, but it also won’t give you the kind of bloated, dehydrated nausea that downing a bottle of bourbon induces, meaning you can run really fast tomorrow. Some shadowy organization called the World Anti-Doping Agency, however, is super not chill about athletes “partaking of the herb,” as the most annoying guy you went to college with would describe it. Richardson was suspended from individual competition and deliberately left off of the relay team, eliminating her from the Olympics entirely. This is after she did the quote-unquote honorable thing and admitted what drugs she used and why.
Couple the obvious, observational fact that weed is not performance-enhancing with the recent trend of recreational marijuana use being legalized across the U.S., and it becomes more and more indefensible that Richardson faced any kind of penalty at all. Any reasonable person can look at this case and simply say “Let that shit slide, Jesus Christ, what are we, goblin monsters?” Unfortunately, the people who run the Olympics always respond to that question with “Yes, we are the goblin monsters, why do you ask?”
The Olympics Banned A Swim Cap Designed To Accommodate Black Hair
Y'know, I keep hoping there’s going to be some 21st-century “Jesse Owens owns racists” story, but it’s starting to feel like
Enter the Soul Cap, a brand developed specifically to fit Black hair, particularly Black women’s hair. Developed by Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed Salawudeen, the goal of the company is to promote racial diversity in competitive swimming. Soul Cap is a UK-based brand that recently partnered with Alice Dearing, who is about to become the first Black woman swimmer to represent the UK in the Olympics. Finally something inspiring! I knew we’d get our Jesse Owens moment in this article!
Oh wait, The International Swimming Foundation (FINA) banned the Soul Cap from competition, saying it doesn’t “follow the natural form of the head.”
Now, I’m not sure if FINA actually got out their calipers and phrenology textbooks to determine the “natural form of the head,” but this really seems like a white person seeing something new and different and immediately reacting “AHHH NO KILL IT WITH FIRE WHAT IS IT.” I’m no swimming expert, but I have swam before whilst sporting both short and long hair, so I know a thing or two (ed. Note: he knows literally no more than two things, and neither are about swimming). There’s a reason Ryan Lochte won all those medals while looking like he gave himself a Caesar cut in a funhouse mirror—his hair fits snugly under the swimcap.
It sure seems like the Soul Cap wouldn’t offer any competitive advantage, like it wouldn’t make you more aerodynamic or anything. It would just give you a more comfortable time with your hair before, during, and after a race. And I’m pretty sure Soul Cap didn’t put NOS tanks in the caps.
Judges Don’t Know How To Grade The Greatest Gymnast In History
Simone Biles is only 24 years old, and she already has more medals than any other American gymnast in history. Anything else she accomplishes in her career is icing on top of a cake on top of a cherry on top of a sundae on top of delicate garnish of chives on top of a perfectly cooked French omelette. So what do you do when you’ve won so much gold you could back a new type of currency and the United Nations would have to recognize it? Personally, I’d buy a yacht, claim it as an independent, seafaring nation with me as god-king, and call the world’s bluff on recognizing my gold-backed currency.
But Simone Biles is a better person than me, so she’s spending her time pushing the boundaries of her sport to their absolute limit and doing things that have never been seen or even attempted in women’s gymnastics. As one example, here’s her landing a Yurchenko double pike in vault, a maneuver that is not only difficult to spell, it’s difficult to pull off. So difficult, in fact, that no one has ever even tried it, and now it’s her signature move.
It’s mind-bending. Remember the climax of the good Space Jam, when Michael Jordan realized he was in a cartoon world and could bend the laws of physics, so he stretched his arm out and dunked from halfcourt? Imagine if he did that in real life. Then he decided to do it on every single play. That’s what Simone Biles is doing in gymnastics right now.
Here’s the thing: gymnastics is a subjective sport. Scoring isn’t decided by putting a ball through a net, it’s decided by a panel of judges. And lately, judges seem to be giving Biles lower scores than she deserves. That Yurchenko double pike? Judges gave that a 6.6 out of 10. For a move that’s never even been tried before. To be fair, grading might be different because the move is so difficult that judges want to discourage others from attempting it (which sounds like horseshit) or because judges are worried Biles will absolutely destroy the competition (which sounds like discouraging an athlete from being their best). Either way, the judges don’t come out looking good. As Biles accuses, it’s “too low and they know it ... they don’t want the field to be too far apart. And that’s just something that’s on them. That’s not on me.” She’s right, too! She is the competitor with the athletic prowess to pull off these moves. If none of the others can, well, here’s what second place looks like.
It really highlights the absurdity of sports with grading systems rather than objective points. In a basketball/soccer/hockey game, the winner is the team with the most points at the end. In, say, gymnastics/diving/skateboarding, the winner is the person who made the judges say “OOOOOOH!” the most. This means judges’ personal biases and/or interests can come into play. Judges are basically film critics—they know enough about The Difficult Thing without having to do The Difficult Thing that they can reasonably grade someone else’s effort, but personal opinions are bound to interfere. Given the pattern established by the last two entries, it’s hard not to wonder if some stuffy old establishment types see a young Black woman pushing the boundaries of the sport, doing things they’ve never seen before, and getting all in a tizzy. That’s speculation, sure, but come on.
Even if racism isn’t playing into this, the judges are still actively discouraging an athlete from doing cool shit. And if we’re not seeing athletes doing cool shit, why are we even having the Olympics? The fact that I am burdened with the knowledge of Ryan Lotche’s existence means the Olympics owes me seeing athletes doing cool shit.
Women Continuing To Be Banned For Natural Testosterone Levels
Shit! It’s not inspiring at all! We just have a different type of bigotry! Damnit. Okay. Trigger Warning for transphobes, I guess, you creeps.
Sports are divided by gender, which makes some sense, given women and men’s naturally different body types and predilection for certain abilities. Where it stops making sense is when you realize gender is a fluid concept, and where it really stops making sense is when governing committees get super weird about how they define gender.
One way the governing bodies of the Games govern bodies, particularly women’s bodies, is by measuring testosterone levels. This totally normal, not-at-all-vampiric blood testing is ostensibly in place to ensure fairness. What the hell is a “fair” testosterone level and who the hell is deciding it? Some organization called World Athletics. If you’re starting to wonder how many different committees and organizations with vague purposes I’m going to bring up in this article, rest assured: the answer is “way more.” This shit is either confusing because organizing a global athletic event is complicated and multi-faceted, or because it’s confusing on purpose thanks to corruption and byzantine rules greedy people want to take advantage of, or a little bit of both! It’s genuinely hard to tell!
Anyway, as thinking about gender evolves, testing complications arise. One study suggests trans women, even with testosterone-repressing medication, might have a lasting advantage in women’s sports due to previously high testosterone levels. But even the abstract of that study has about a million caveats on how more research is needed, says studies need to be peer-reviewed, and policymakers need way more information from multiple scientific communities. Even just the abstract suggests the current binary system is outdated. You might be asking why I’m entirely using women’s sports and trans women as examples, and reader? That’s because men don’t get tested for testosterone. Sexism and transphobia, one helluva cocktail!
Even if you’re going to take the apparent need for analyzing women’s blood to ensure fair competition at face value, the arbitrary standards of acceptable testosterone levels (that men are not subjected to) still affect cis women. This time around, it’s affecting Namibian sprinters Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two runners who have flamed through competition by recording four of the top five 400m times this year. They were poised for Olympic glory until being flat-out banned for high testosterone. Mboma and Masilingi appealed, obviously. The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the ban, but then declared that neither the sprinters, their coaches, their families, nor the Namibia National Olympic Committee knew about their condition. Okay, no one knew. It’s not a doping scandal (as far as evidence so far is concerned). The two women just happen to naturally have high testosterone levels. High by Olympic standards, I mean, which are subjective. It’s something they were born with, like how Black swimmers need different swim caps, or how Ryan Lochte needs some clean piss, please, bro, just a little weed-free piss.
So much like Simone Biles simply being better than everyone else, Mboma and Masilingi blew away the competition. But they got it worse. They don’t get to compete because of some weird rules laid down in 2018 that happen to define what “being a woman” means. It’s really starting to feel like the Olympics aren’t designed for the people, they’re designed for a bunch of rich dickheads to get even richer while being massive dickheads. There’s no way that’s correct, though. I’m being paranoid again, surely. Let’s zoom out from specific instances of bigotry and look at the big picture, the greater good, the Olympics’ entire raison d’etre, and see what we get.
“We’re All Gonna Die Anyway, Just Do The Olympics” Is The Attitude
Terrible. Total dreck. Why do I even try jokes? We’re all slowly dying anyway ... which is basically the attitude of the IOC. You might have noticed the “2020” Olympics are taking place in 2021, which makes sense, given that 2020 was the year that fresh new deadly pandemic dropped. Sure, the Olympics are supposed to be an event where people across the globe can come together and bond over our shared humanity, the spirit of healthy competition, and inspiring feats of athletic achievement, but it’s not worth dying over. Right? Right?!
Wrong, you credulous rube. You absolute moron. The Olympics is very much about people dying, displacing people from their homes, and financially ruining cities. Even pre-pandemic, anti-Olympics protests were rampant, most notably with activist group NOlympics LA fighting tooth and nail to prevent the Games from returning to the City of Angels. In fact, Google “anti-Olympics protest ” and you’ll find more results than I have time to list. Again, that’s pre-COVID.
Post-COVID? It’s so, so much harder to justify the Olympics happening. Hell, it’s hard to justify the Olympics existing. It’s a multibillion dollar party where wealthy elites bathe in caviar and take shots of young people’s blood at cocktail parties while watching 16-30-year-olds perform for their entertainment, and cities are left footing the bill for decades to come. Every Olympics since 1960 has gone over budget, and any money made usually goes to the IOC or corporate sponsors. And that’s nothing compared to the human cost of displacing millions from their homes, the social cost of increased policing, and the fact that many athletes wind up broke in the name of amateurism despite dedicating their entire lives to the Games.
This brings us to Japan. Tokyo is now in its fourth state of COVID emergency, which will last until August 22, 2021. The Games open today, July 23. Japan has had a disastrous response to COVID and has only about 10% of its population fully vaccinated, so the organizing committee recently announced a ban on all spectators from the events. This leaves athletes to “represent their country” to empty arenas. And all that money-wasting I talked about in the last paragraph? The spectator ban means the newly rebuilt National Stadium, which cost 157 billion yen ($1.4 billion) and took years to finish, will be empty for the entirety of the Games.
Corporate sponsors are losing millions, and The Washington Post went so far as to describe “ ... a glum mood and bad vibes surrounding the Games.” Not exactly what you want when referring to something that’s supposed to be a triumph of the human spirit. Then there’s this fact: 83% of Japan’s residents oppose having the games at all, but the will of the people doesn’t matter. The IOC’s already told an entire nation to go screw themselves.
Hey, speaking of screwing! I knew we could shoehorn dicks into this article, I just knew it. The Tokyo organizers have told the fittest and horniest people in the world that they can’t hook up in the Olympic Village, which is typically such a riotous sexfest that Caligua himself would blush at (ancient Romans invented the Olympics, right? I’ll look it up later). Anyway, the Tokyo Games had the opportunity to do the right thing and say “no more Olympics, starting now.” Instead, they made a very public display of replacing the legendary orgyfest that is the Olympic Village with the looming specter of death. And honestly, what’s the point of all that training, sculpting your body to peak athletic perfection, if you just get COVID and die a virgin? Talk about a glum mood and bad vibes.
Chris Corlew is a writer and musician who has a poetry podcast, which is sort of like being a triathlete, but for dorks. Even worse than all that, he’s on Twitter.
Top image: UK Government