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“Faster, Higher, Stronger, No Longer” By: Buzz Bussinger

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“Faster, Higher, Stronger, No Longer” By: Buzz Bussinger

In 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, having refused the military and political careers typical of a French aristocrat, settled upon the revival of the Olympic Games as his life’s work. He saw sport as a higher calling, a religion. And he saw the Olympics as an event that would enhance and heighten moral virtue: “May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.”

He is considered by many the father of the modern Games, first held in 1896 in Athens. But if he were alive today and witness to the Olympics over the past 40 years, he would almost surely come to the conclusion that his grand idea had failed, that idealism is no match for the troika of politics, money and sports.

The Summer Games in Beijing are four months away and already a predictable mess. The running of the Olympic torch resulted in arrests and nasty confrontations with the police last week in London and Paris amid protests against China’s recent crackdown in Tibet and other human rights abuses. In San Francisco, the only North American stop, the torch-bearers played literal hide-and-seek with protesters when the route was suddenly changed for security reasons. There have been repeated calls for heads of state to boycott the opening ceremonies. But protests and boycotts are no longer effective remedies.

There is only one way left to improve the Olympics: to permanently end them.

True, in the world of sports, any plan that puts morality over money is unlikely to happen. Commissions are formed only once the problem is over (see Major League Baseball) and the cheaters will always find another angle — you can bet that some lab somewhere is working on the design of a new steroid undetectable to testing (see every professional sport and many “amateur” ones). The loftier the rose-colored rhetoric, which in the Olympics has become an Olympian growth industry, the worse the underlying stink. And this is an institution that is rotted in so many different ways.

A short history: In 1968, in what became known as the Tlatelolco massacre, government troops fired on thousands of student protesters in Mexico City 10 days before the Summer Games. Nobody knows exactly how many were killed, but the best estimate is 200 to 300.

Four years later in 1972, members of the pro-Palestinian group Black September took members of the Israeli team hostage from its quarters in the Olympic village in Munich; 11 died.

In 1976, the East German women’s swim team won 11 of 13 gold medals, a performance that was stunning — too stunning, since it was later revealed that hundreds of East German athletes had been using steroids for years to enhance performance.

In 1980, the United States and roughly 60 other nations boycotted the Games in Moscow because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1984, although nation-by-nation medal counts are supposed to be against the very spirit of the Games, the performance of the United States in Los Angeles was ballyhooed. Such chest-beating only reinforced the inherent jingoism of the Games, since the Soviet Union and East Germany boycotted of course in retaliation for the American snub of Moscow. More important, 1984 became the first Olympics in which corporate sponsors got their hooks in deep, making the Games too often seem like one running advertisement.

As for the 1988 Games, in arguably the premier track event of the Olympics, the men’s 100 meters, the Canadian Ben Johnson was ultimately stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, the host nation, South Korea, displaced 720,000 residents to build facilities. (According to an advocacy group, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, China has now more than doubled that figure to an estimated 1.5 million for its Games.)

In 1996, the Olympics in Atlanta were marred by a bombing that resulted in two deaths.

In 2000, the American track star Marion Jones won five medals, three gold, while taking performance-enhancing drugs, lied about it for seven years and is now in prison for perjury. In addition, 40 of China’s 300 athletes withdrew after seven rowers failed blood tests.

Before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, it was revealed that backers, in trying to get the Games, had bribed officials of the International Olympic Committee with college scholarships, plastic surgery and free guns and skis. At those Games, one of the judges in the pairs skating competition admitted that she voted to ensure victory for the Russian team.

In 2004, the Greek government spent as much as $12 billion on the Summer Games in Athens, 5 percent of the country’s economy. Yes, part of that money went to the building of a new rail system and airport, but the Greek government also admitted it had no plan for what do afterward with many of the lavish facilities it was required to build for the Games.

At the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, policemen raided the Olympic residences of the Austrian ski federation for possible illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs; two members fled the country.

With the Summer Games approaching in August, one event has already started, the who-is-in-who-is-out opening ceremonies boycott over China’s record on human rights (as of the last tally, President Bush was in, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain were out and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was on the fence).

But lest we as Americans feel too righteous, we should consider this: If the host country this summer were the United States, every visiting nation would have to consider either boycotting the opening ceremonies or withdrawing given a disturbing record of our own, which includes the occupation of Iraq and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay.

IT is, of course, unfair to make a sweeping condemnation of all the athletes who participate. “This is their chance to march into the Olympic stadium,” says Bob Costas, who will have his seventh turn as the prime-time Olympics host for NBC in Beijing. “It is the culmination of all their time and effort. Many of them come out of impoverished circumstances and they are exposed to more in two weeks than they might be in two years.”

It is the single best argument for the Olympics. But still not enough to overcome the sordid history.

A permanent end to the Olympics might actually not be that difficult. All it would really take is a single act of courage and morality by the United States to pull out of the Games forever on the basis that the mission is not coming close to being served. An American departure would severely dilute the Games since it would no longer be a world competition of anything.

But a far stronger factor in the exit of the American team would be the likelihood that American corporations would stop backing the Olympics with their megamillions. It would also severely diminish the willingness of American networks to continue to pay mind-boggling sums for the broadcast rights to the Olympics, which in the case of NBC was about $2.2 billion for the Games in 2010 and 2012. If Americans aren’t playing, Americans won’t watch.

In place of the Olympics, world championships would still be held in individual sports as they are now, but perhaps at permanent venues designed for optimum performance. This would be a good thing for athletes. For all the hype, the Games often don’t provide the greatest performances. In Athens, for example, there was not enough time to build a roof for the pool because of the huge construction project that the Olympics had become, exposing swimmers to hideous summer heat and the backstrokers to blinding sunlight.

Would some athletes become innocent victims with the loss of the Olympics? Yes. But it would be nothing close to the number of innocent victims killed in Darfur with Chinese-supplied weapons, or in Iraq during the American occupation.

The world would carry on without the Games. The ideals set forth by Coubertin when he revived them, instead of being routinely mocked as they are now, would be honored by the admission that the Olympics have simply failed.

Rhetorical Analysis Form

What the Author Does

Why the Author Does It

Author’s Thesis/Main Idea:

Why did the author choose this thesis, or idea to study?

What is the author’s purpose? To persuade, inform, criticize? Something else?

Why does the author choose this purpose? What effect does it create?

Who is the author’s intended audience?

What are possible reasons the author chose to write for this particular audience?

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Did the arrangement of ideas, or way the author developed them create some sort of an effect?

What purpose does it serve? Why did the author arrange his/her ideas this way?

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Why does the author use this type of diction?

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What sentence structure does the author employ? Are there fragments or run-ons? Are the sentences imperative, declarative, or exclamatory?

What effect does using this type of sentence structure have?

Does the writer use dialogue or quotations?

Why does the author include dialogue/quotations?

Any other important rhetorical features or strategies you noticed?

Why were these used?

One-paragraph rhetorical analysis of the article in your words:


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