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Letter from Athens: Time to Update the Olympic Games Past 2020/21 2.0

June 6, 2021

Among the events scheduled for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which became the 2021 Tokyo Olympics no one cared about because they were trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, are BMX cycling freestyle, Rhythmic Gymnastics, ping pong, badminton, surfing, and skateboard.

Those are obviously an homage to the Ancient Greek Olympics where athletes could take a little diversion from the discus, javelin, wrestling, and actual sports to jump on trick bicycles, twirl ribbons around in the air, and ride a skateboard away from Olympia to the Peloponnesian coast to catch some waves.

The Olympics long ago ceased to be about sports and only about the money it could bring in from sponsors.

Other events that want to be in the Olympics, and are being seriously considered are billiards, bowling, the arduous task of bridge (playing cards), chess, dancesport, squash, and parkour, which is diving through windows and off walls, so get your tickets early for the 2024 games.

The International Olympic Committee – which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the alleged founder of the modern games, Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin is buried – lives not for sport, but profit.

The Olympics should be based, of course, in Athens, where the first modern games were revived in 1896 and hosted again in 2004, most of the facilities built for two weeks of fun and games abandoned or disused, just like those in all the other cities that have held the summer games.

Having the games permanently in their home would be more than just symbolic, but bring revenues to Greece, allow for constant use of facilities otherwise wasted, and let Greeks have their share of putting their hands in the money pot.

Since corruption and graft in sports is inevitable, let's keep it local and in between watch real sports, like women's beach volleyball.

Greece has world class corruption so let's make that a sport too.

After all, de Coubertin won a gold medal for literature at the 1912 Olympics for his poem, Ode to Sport, so let's bring back poetry since apparently ballroom dancing could be added at some point. How about speed chess? Tiddlywinks? Checkers? Marbles? Pole dancing?

The IOC wants to cater the Olympics to a modern world, after all, events that people will watch, and the camera angles for women's beach volleyball are just about right for those who love that active sport that wasn't on the agenda at Ancient Olympia.

What did the Ancient Greeks know about sports, anyway, having such staid events as running, jumping, the discus, wrestling, boxing, and pankration, a martial arts event that preceded karate by 2,000 years and was perhaps the most brutal sport.

Plus, the athletes competed naked, which makes it surprising the IOC hasn't thought of that one given what it would do for ratings.

Because all eyes would be glued on the competitors, although the javelin might be confusing as well as the 100 meters where someone could win by more than a nose. Let's not even talk about pole vaulting.

BMX Cycling? That's for teens and nerds. Let's add Falling Off a Motorcycle so that we can bring medal-winning-and-losing sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou out of retirement. They didn't even get hurt falling off. Who can beat that? Just no doping tests later, please.

Greece knows how to hold crooked games as well as anyone. The New York Times even crowned the 2004 Olympics The Tarnished Games because there was more doping going on than on the set of Caddyshack or Easy Rider.

The Athens Olympics cost the country $11 billion, almost enough for defense ministers to steal from submarine contracts, then get out of prison by saying they don't feel well and would next be seen eating lobster spaghetti.

Many of the sites for the games could be sets for dystopian movies of a grim future showing an abandoned past, weeds and broken seats, crumbling walls, empty rusting fountains, algae filled toxic waste swimming pools, the centerpiece stadiums for the opening and closing ceremonies forgotten.

The Olympics no longer are the world's must-see spectacle because they've been overwhelmed by social media and the age of technology and streaming services and cell phones where you can watch other forms of entertainment.

Then there's the X-Games, what the young watch, and the competitors don't have to worry about taking those annoying doping tests that Russians and East Germans in the old days of low-tech cheating got around anyway.

If some sponsor can find a way to add Cheating to the Olympics there's money to be made there too, especially if Major League Baseball changes its mind and lets active players from the Houston Astros on the U.S. team, if it can qualify.

In consensus-minded Japan, 83 percent of people either don't want the games to go on or want them to be delayed. Foreign spectators will not be allowed, and more than 100 municipalities have cancelled plans to host overseas teams. Some buzz.

So let's either bring the Olympics home to Athens where they belong or end them because no one's heart is in this anymore, not even de Coubertin's, which is buried in Olympia. Because he wanted the first games to be in Paris.

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Before plunging into a controversial and polarizing rant about the pandemic, I’d like to begin with a couple of disclaimers: first and foremost, I am profoundly saddened by all the suffering the virus’ victims and their loved ones have endured.

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