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Olympics

10 Years after the Olympic Games

There are ruins everywhere in Athens all left over from a rather unsuccessful 2004 Olympic Games.

Olympic Games in Athens

World Cup financial gains rarely materialize for host

Which is why no one of note is bidding for the 2022 Winter Games

Although some countries and cities have managed to profit from well-run major sports events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, they’re far from the norm, a prominent professor of economics says.

Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Newton, Mass., says prospective hosts need to think twice about whether the massive outlays of cash are worth it in the long run.

“The economic benefit is typically zero,” Matheson says in an interview set to air on CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange on Tuesday. And even when there is a modest gain, “it’s not enough to justify the price tag,” he says.

I think we know who to blame

Because the IOC and FIFA make their money from selling TV and merchandising rights, they have no incentive to keep costs from ballooning, Matheson says.

“On paper, the IOC and FIFA don’t care whether it costs $51 billion to host the Olympics in Sochi or $14 billion to host the World Cup in Brazil, because ‘I’m not paying those costs,'” Matheson says.

Note to Olympic Sailors: Don’t Fall in Rio’s Water

This is disgusting

Officials vowed to tackle the problem after the United Nations Earth Summit here in 1992 drew scrutiny of Rio’s foul waters. The Rio state government secured more than $1 billion in loans from Japan’s government and the Inter-American Development Bank for cleanup projects, but they have not been even remotely successful, according to environmental experts. The State Environmental Institute in Rio de Janeiro estimates that more than 10 percent of the trash here is not collected, much of it flowing into the bay through canals and degraded rivers.

Vast amounts of raw sewage leak into the waters. Officials set a goal of treating as much as 80 percent of it by the 2016 Olympics, but less than 40 percent is currently treated.

State environmental officials have acknowledged they would fall short of that goal, The Associated Press reported over the weekend, citing a letter sent to federal authorities requesting more funding to battle pollution.

Calling the bay “dark, brown and stinking,” Lars Grael, 50, a Brazilian sailing legend who won two Olympic medals, said he had encountered human corpses on four occasions while sailing in the bay. He told reporters that officials should move the sailing events to a resort area hours away by car.

The authorities here insist that nothing of the sort will happen. Carlos Portinho, Rio’s top environmental official, said the criticism of Guanabara Bay was exaggerated, contending that recent tests had shown that fecal contamination in the Olympic regatta area was within “satisfactory” standards in Brazil.

Acknowledging that reversing pollution in the bay was a “long-term project,” Mr. Portinho said that officials had deployed three small “ecoboats” to collect garbage; by the Olympics, he said, 20 or 30 might be operating. He said that new sewage treatment plants were being built, while floating “ecobarriers” would facilitate the collection of trash in the bay.

Brazilian environmental experts say the efforts are a fraction of what needs to be done.

“The government could deploy aircraft carriers to collect the bay’s garbage and the problem would not be solved,” said Mario Moscatelli, a biologist. “The bay is still a latrine. It’s an insult to Rio’s people to say it will be clean for the Olympics.”

The struggle of people in Russia’s ‘Rust Belt’

Tension rises as the Kremlin tries to force thousands to leave their homes

A tide of discontent is sweeping across Russia’s “rust belt” as the Kremlin tries to convince tens of thousands to relocate from their homes.

Authorities are offering up to $25,000 in state support for people willing to leave 142 struggling so-called “monotowns,” communities depending on a single industry.

Many Russians are unhappy about being asked to leave places that several generations of their families have called home. Critics also allege the level of compensation isn’t enough and say it will create dozens of “ghost towns.”

“I honestly earned pennies, but still income,” he said. “I am struggling to sell my house for $2,000 — nobody wants it. If I move to a big town, I will have to spend at least $60,000 to buy myself a place.”

By Dec. 28, the final 800 mill workers will lose their jobs — another significant blow to the Siberian town of 14,000 people.

The fate of 700 other people still employed at a different part of the mill which provides heat to all of Baikalsk will be decided by the spring.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last year pledged $1 billion to transform the town on the edge of Lake Baikal into a tourist hotspot. Lake Baikal is a natural treasure that contains more water than all of the Great Lakes combined.

But there has been little sign of investment in the wake of Medvedev’s visit. The town’s central square remains unpaved, hotels and cafes struggle and local newspapers publish pages of advertisements placed by residents looking to sell their apartments in Baikalsk and move closer to Moscow or St. Petersburg.

The lack of action has resulted in angry protests by fired workers in the regional center of Irkutsk.

“The Kremlin simply lied to us; they promised to first create jobs and then close the mill in 2015,” said Yuri Nabokov, the leader of the mill’s professional union. “The mill is closed and hundreds of workers have no chance to live their normal lives in their hometown with their families; authorities tell us to go to far north and work on shifts at oil fields – that makes us even angrier.”

The article also points out the Sochi are costing $50 billion.  How messed up is that?  Vancouver by comparison cost around $1.84 billion and generated about $2.5 billion in GDP.  What is Russia doing?

Is Usain Bolt (and everyone else) on Steroids?

From Muscle Week.  Apparently passing those IOC drug tests isn’t that hard.

What's up with Usain Bolt?

A typical PED cycle would begin 12 weeks out from competition with the target date being the day prior to or of the competition. Along with the use of undetectable steroids and daily growth hormone injections, the athlete would also have his blood drawn on a daily basis to monitor his testosterone and rhGH ratios in an effort to keep them within Olympic World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) testing limits. Close monitoring of these ratios allow an Olympic sprinter such as Bolt to both use PEDs up to the day of competition while still comfortably submitting to multiple drug tests.

This isn’t evidence particular to Usain Bolt, as it could just as easily describe the protocol that every Olympic sprinter is using to pass the drug tests. However, it is mentioned simply to point out how easily Olympic athletes are able to pass an Olympic-level drug test, even with the highest levels of scrutiny. The bottom line is that if an athlete is within the permissible testosterone and rhGH ratios, he is deemed clean. The reality is that any athlete who doesn’t maximize his testosterone and rhGH levels to the maximum permissible level has no chance of breaking a world record.

For example, let’s assume that a talented NCAA sprinter has a testosterone ratio (testosterone: epitestosterone) of 1:1 which is considered normal, or average. The current WADA guidelines permit a ratio of up to 4:1. Given the fact that the only way for an NCAA sprinter to make any money sprinting is to win international competitions and garner endorsements, what reason could that NCAA sprinter possibly have for NOT quadrupling his testosterone ratio up to the maximum of 4:1? Using a number of undetectable steroid compounds, that same athlete would presumably see a major improvement in his sprint times without ever ‘testing positive’.

And this is the folly of drug testing: It gives ‘dirty’ athletes all the ammunition they need to proclaim themselves ‘clean’ — replete with Olympic level testing results.

United States Olympic Gold Medalist Marion Jones proudly proclaimed that she passed more than 160 drug tests in her career. The fact remains that she won three gold medals at the 2000 Olympics while passing the supposedly stringent requirements of Olympic WADA testing.

And yet, despite breaking world records in the 100m and 200m sprints; despite being romantically involved with and coached by Olympic shot-putter CJ Hunter who tested positive for steroids four times leading up to the 2000 Olympics and was subsequently banned by the ITAF; despite being romantically involved with and coached by Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery who tested positive for steroids and was subsequently banned; despite training under track coach Trevor Graham who has been banned for life from track and field; and despite her affiliation with BALCO Labs and the insistence of BALCO president Victor Conte who admitted to injecting Marion Jones with steroids, the general public and sports ‘journalists’ were still gullible enough to believe that Marion Jones was in fact, a ‘clean athlete.’

As Marion Jones proved, testing ‘clean’ means absolutely nothing.

So does that mean that Bolt is doing it?  Well his coach refers to himself as a “chemist” and used to work for BALCO.

According to the New York Times, Usain Bolt’s track coach Angel Hernandez has referred to himself as a chemist, scientist and nutritionist.

Pop Quiz #2: Why would the world’s top ‘natural’ sprinter need the services of a chemist affiliated with BALCO and multiple dirty sprinters?

Answer: A logical response would be that Usain Bolt isn’t any more ‘clean’ than Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin, Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery, or even Jamaican-born U.S. sprinter Debbie Dunn — who bowed out of the 2012 Olympics just days prior to the opening ceremonies when she tested positive for a testosterone derivative.

Logic would seem to dictate that sprinters need sprint coaches, not chemists. But no, Usain Bolt needs a chemist.

As an interview with De Spielgel

SPIEGEL: So you became a therapist for the athletes in matters of drugs?

Heredia: More like a coach. Together we found out what was good for which body and what the decomposition times were. I designed schedules for cocktails and regimens that depended on the money the athletes offered me. Street drugs for little money, designer drugs for tens of thousands. Usually I sent the drugs by mail, but sometimes the athletes came to me.

Read the entire post by yourself but something isn’t right whether it is with Bolt or the entire IOC testing protocols.

The Dream Team 20 Years Later

This history of the 1992 US Olympic basketball team might only be interesting to those who watched all those games.

Chuck started Michael and Magic every game and then rotated the other three. Pippen would start one game, Mullin would start the next. Robinson and Ewing would alternate; Malone and Barkley would alternate. He was a master at managing. But in the second game against Croatia, there was never any doubt: He was putting Pippen on Toni Kukoc [who had just been drafted by the Bulls and had been offered a contract for more money than his future teammate]. Pippen and Jordan were tired of hearing about how great Kukoc was, because they were winning NBA championships.

You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey? We had to get Michael and Scottie out of the locker room, because they was damn near pulling straws to see who guarded him. Kukoc had no idea.

I watched everyone of those games and they were incredible.  Hearing the story behind those games is a lot of fun.

The Olympics and I

Everyone is asking me if I am watching the Olympics and the answer is no.  I haven’t seen any of it yet and I doubt I will.  I had been telling people once Canada started the Olympic hockey tournament I would be there but they are playing Norway tonight and I am missing the game completely.  For me to miss the Olympics is a big deal as growing up, I never dreamed so much for playing for a NHL team but rather the Canadian National Team.  Growing up in Calgary, we got to see the Canadian National Team play and practice a lot (it’s where I was beaten up by the A&W Root Bear) so my affinity runs deep with them but still I am not watching any Olympics.  Partly because I can’t stand Bob Costas and Brian Williams and secondly because I can’t handle watching Bob Costas and Brian Williams.

Here is my list on how we can improve the Olympic games.  For all of you readers out there that are IOC members, feel free to debate them individually or just adopt them all as a complete package.  It’s up to you.

  1. It isn’t amateur sport any longer.  Professional NHL players, Own the Podium, Canada now pays for a gold medal.  It seems a lot less about amateur sport and a lot more about television rating and nationalistic pride.  Actually the nationalism bugs me quite a bit.  Especially when the COC’s talking heads are talking about how much Australia spent in 2004 in Sydney to win medals and the expectation is that Canada should win medals.  I had no idea that Canadian quality of life was dependent on winning more medals than other countries in short track speed skating.
  2. I hate the human interest stories.  I know Olympic coverage is supposed to appeal to those who do not check Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com 38 times a day like I do but c’mon, I really, really don’t care about somebody’s inspirational great aunt.  The IOC needs to sell two Olympic rights for each country (think of the money), one for people who like Bob Costas/Brian Williams and the other for those of us who are real sports fans.  The people who like the inspirational story lines with their Olympic cable package will also get a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Fallen Short Track Speedskater’s Soul”.
  3. The new “no human interest stories” network will not show equestrian in the Summer Games or pairs figure skating/ice dancing in the Olympic Games. 
  4. We will get rid of the special suits.  If pro sports can agree on the importance of standardized equipment, so can the speed skating world.  It’s about the athletes, not about their high speed racing/swimming suits.  If one person gets it, so do all of them.   Unless it’s the pants that the Norwegian curlers wore.  They can keep those to themselves.
  5. There should be a spending cap on the opening ceremonies.  China spent $100,000,000.00 on their opening ceremonies.  At what point does it become offensive, even to the IOC. 
  6. There needs to be a spending cap on member countries as a whole.  One of the reasons the Norwegians are always favored to win the cross country events is the amount of money they spend researching snow conditions at the games.  I think there is actually a Norwegian research station down the street just in case Saskatoon ever wins the games.  Did the Norwegian racers win the medals because of their training of because of the money spent on researching snow and waxes.  Again, this comes back to uniform gear.  One shouldn’t be able to buy a championship (except for America’s Cup racing)
  7. Curling facilities will have to have beer cup holders and ashtrays installed as they are in every small town curling rink in Saskatchewan.  Curling is a great sport for many reasons but one of them is that I still have a shot at Olympic glory and if all goes well, my rink won’t even have to stop drinking and smoking to join me.

What could have happened if Vancouver hadn’t won the 2010 Olympic Games

Matthew Good talks about the “what ifs” if Vancouver had not won the games.  I know whenever I talk about Olympic games some of you are shocked as you can’t figure out someone who loves sports as much as I do, dislikes the Olympic games so much.  It isn’t that I dislike the Olympics that much, it is just that I can’t stand the cost of hosting them and the debt that comes with it.  No one is heading to Nagano today because of their Olympic games, no one is headed to Salt Lake City any longer because of them hosting the Olympic games.  Already China is trying to figure out what to do with the Bird’s Nest.   So while Vancouver got an infrastructure upgrade and Whistler is sitting pretty (well, maybe not), there is a lot of debt for the same infrastructure that exists in Calgary.  Great investment.

The other thing that bothers me is that for all of the money being put into Own the Podium, that is money that I really think should be spent on youth sports.  Really, what does it say about Canada that we win the most medals in Vancouver?  Seriously, what does it say about us?  When I was a kid, most of my elementary school class played hockey.  Only two kids last year in Mark’s entire school played competitive hockey.

I love sports but for the same reason I question the Saskatchewan government building a domed stadium in Regina, I don’t think professional sports infrastructure is that great of a use for government money.  The good news is that after the Vancouver Olympics out the way, I can’t see Canada having to go through this for at least a couple of decades.  That being said, I keep hearing news out of Toronto about them trying to get a summer games again so maybe we will never learn.

The absurdity of the Olympic Games

This quote says it all,

Australia, primarily a summer-sport country, has a budget of about $250 million for sport, said Baumann. The Aussies – with 20 medals after seven days – are worried about their count here, however, and are saying they’ll need another $200 million to keep them among the world’s elite, he added.

 $450 million a year gets you what exactly.  The warm fuzzies every two years when your athletes play theirathletes.  Is being a leader in the medal count so important that it is worth $450 million?

Of course you know that I am long time fan of sports.  I played soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, rugby, and football competitively and that in spite of the fact that I am a pretty poor athlete in almost all of those areas.  Everyone in my family and extended family played organized sports. I think sports is really important to communities and those hockey arenas, curling rinks, soccer pitches cost money and I think it is a good investment.  It is good for the kids and it is a good for the neighborhood ties it creates.  I think from areas like crime reduction to increased health of a population, it is important. 

What I can’t see as being important is every two years hearing the COC saying that the government needs to spend more on funding for amateur sport and then point to Australia as the reason.  If the Australians want to be the New York Yankees of the IOC, that is their prerogative.  There is a reason why the COC can’t attract more sponsorship money from the private sector, Canadian don’t really care that much outside of the two weeks every two years and in reality, it is only two weeks every four years that we really care about and that is hockey and the sport which we are mocked around the world for, curling.  Could it be that maybe the reason we don’t excel at a lot of Olympic sports is that outside of a tiny isolated community of athletes, no one really cares about them.

The more I follow the IOC and the COC, the more I realize that it is a pretty big echo chamber and this is the time of the year where those echos escape out of the boardroom unchallenged.

Live coverage from your living room

CBC’s live coverage and play by play of the Olympics will be done from Toronto.

CBC-sports-logo It’s this: A good number of the on-air people covering the Games for the CBC, TSN, NBC, BBC and other international broadcasters will not be in Beijing or anywhere near the Olympic city. They will call events off a monitor from their home studios.

The CBC’s play by play for women’s soccer is being handled by Nigel Reed and Jason De Vos. But they’re not in Beijing. They’re announcing the games from Toronto by watching the games off a TV monitor.

The other events that the CBC will announce from Toronto are sailing, equestrian, weight lifting and Taekwondo.

In some cases, there are logistical reasons for calling these sports from a studio, but mainly it’s a money saver.   Joel Darling, the head of production for CBC Sports, said the fact the women’s soccer team will play games in four venues would have made travel difficult and expensive for a play by play team.

“There was the cost involved of moving (Reed and De Vos) around inside the country,” he said. “And there’s no point in sending them there and calling it off tube.”

Darling said the BBC announcers are calling the men’s soccer tournament off a monitor from London.

The CBC will use the BBC and TVNZ (New Zealand) feeds for men’s soccer — another money saver. NBC’s play by play teams for weightlifting, equestrian, softball, soccer, tennis, baseball, handball, table tennis, badminton, fencing, archery, shooting and field hockey will work out of New York.

This seems like a bad commercial for HD.  I can understand why they are doing this but having your game announcers at home rather than around the team they are covering (in the case of women’s soccer), you do lose a lot in terms of coverage, conversations, and the athlete’s perspective.  For me personally, it is just another way that this version of the games seems to be the worst in a long time. 

We talk about how China’s human rights record, links to the genocide in Darfur, and Tibet hurt the reputation of the IOC.  Doesn’t CBC being apart of the whole spectacle that is the Olympics hurt it’s reputation when covering Darfur or human rights issues?   Same with all of the media outlets and Olympic sponsors actually.  Doesn’t it say that we care about human rights unless there is a lot of money to be made.  Back when the announcement was made it was said that the games would change China but in the end, it seems as if the IOC itself made the concessions.

Upset of the Century!

Team USA beats demoralized Canada is basketball exhibition game.  Sadly it will probably mean the end of the road of team Canada head coach Leo Rautins.

Basketball Canada Rautins was a controversial choice for the national job from the start, primarily because he’d never been a coach. One of Canada Basketball’s motivations was the hope his profile as a broadcaster with the Toronto Raptors would lift the profile of the team and the sport. He worked hard at that aspect of it, recruited new talent to bolster the team and hired respected assistant coaches to fill in the gaps.

But the increased profile has come back to haunt him, with the glare hottest just about the time Dalembert was kicked off the team, and Slovenia and Croatia cut off the Canadians’ oxygen.

Controversy and a lack of results make the decision easy: Let him go.

After all, blaming the coach is a tradition at Canada Basketball. It’s simpler than holding a faulty, underfunded and poorly organized infrastructure accountable.

Tony Ronzone, an executive with the Detroit Pistons and an expert on international basketball, just shook his head when asked about Canada’s prospects in Athens. "It’s going to be tough, man," he said, a euphemism for "Are you kidding?"

Another NBA executive with close ties to the European game was equally incredulous: "Maybe if you had Nash and maybe if Dalembert was playing the way he can play, [Canada could have qualified]. But only maybe. Without them, never. There is too much talent in Europe."