The Common Good

Olympic Injustice

090715-olympic-injusticeI've been following the news story of New Zealand Olympic hopeful Logan Campbell. If you haven't heard, he's the taekwondo athlete who said he was forced to open a brothel to cover his training expenses for the 2012 London Olympics. Prostitution is legal in New Zealand, but this has caused some to question if he should be barred from the sport. On one hand, I see how it would be difficult to uphold the taekwondo mandate that one always display high moral standards and respect others at all times if one is a pimp. But I also think this incident hints at some of the deeper injustices prevalent in the Olympic games.

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When a follower of a discipline that stresses the respect of others finds the need to oppress other in order to pay to continue in that discipline, there are issues with the system. The exorbitant costs of training athletes these days effectively leads to injustice of some sort. Either only the wealthy are able to use their talents and compete in what is far from being an equal opportunity world competition, or athletes must sell their soul to their government to be trained, or they must oppress others to acquire the money they need. This isn't about sports or good sportsmanship -- it's about letting the privileged few succeed.

To make the economic disparity worse, just the occasion of hosting the Olympics itself results in the oppression of the poor. As cities create huge stadiums and hotels to accommodate the event, they generally raze lower-income housing developments in the process. The poor get displaced in the name of the event. In 1988, some 720,000 people were forcibly displaced in Seoul, South Korea, in preparation for the Summer Olympic Games. And some 1.5 million Chinese were forced from their homes during preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. And even though Mayor Daley has said no one will be displaced if Chicago wins its 2016 Olympic bid, it is obvious that the property value increase will effectively force lower-income renters out of areas surrounding the Olympic village. But that still might be better than having Rio de Janeiro win the bid (one of the other four finalist cities). It is common knowledge that local businesses in Rio fund "death squads" to clean up their streets. They want the poor street kids to disappear and pay the squads to make it happen -- especially before big events like the World Cup. A recent congressional study revealed that in Rio de Janeiro alone at least 180 different death squads operate. Fifteen of these groups target children exclusively and work "under the protection of the police and justice system," according to Congresswoman Rita Camata. The investigation named 103 people

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