#1429 The Grit, Glory and Gaslighting of the Olympic Games (Transcript)

Air Date 7/13/2021

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a new podcast I think you should be checking out. It's called Un-F*ing the Republic, but they don't censor their words or their politics. So hear me out mid show when I tell you all about it. 

And now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the costs of the Olympic games, including financial, ethical, moral and social. Private profits come at the hands of public investment, disruption of communities, curtailing of rights, and this year, extensive health risks. Clips today are from CNBC; Today, Explained; Citations Needed; The Majority Report; Time Magazine; All In with Chris Hayes; TYT Sports; Burn It All Down; By Any Means Necessary; and Business Insider.

How The Olympics Became So Expensive For Host Cities - CNBC - Air Date 6-21-21

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:00:49] In 1896, the Olympic games became a truly international competition, as a modernized becoming what it looks like today: a biannual event with summer and winter games. In its infancy, the games were relatively small. Host cities would use public funds for the games, with ticket sales generating revenue to offset costs.

NICOLE FORRESTER: [00:01:07] The very first Olympic games were in 1896. No women were able to compete in those games. And certainly over time now, as we look as recent as 2018, the games look a lot different, feel a lot different. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:01:21] This is Dr. Nicole Forester. She's a former Olympic athlete in track and field who competed in the 2008 Beijing games. 

NICOLE FORRESTER: [00:01:28] The Olympics is like the pinnacle or the Everest of that sporting experience, both for the athlete and also for the viewers at home. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:01:40] Since the 1960 games in Rome, both the summer and winter games saw overrun cost on their estimates.

Things began to get dire in 1976 with the Montreal games. Andrew Zimbalist is an author and economics professor at Smith College in Northampton. One of the things he specializes in is the economics of the Olympic games. 

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: [00:02:00] Famously the mayor of Montreal declared that the Olympics -- this was before the games started -- but he declared the Olympics can no more have a cost overrun than a man can have a baby.

Well, it turned out that the Montreal Olympics had a cost overrun that was almost 10 fold over the initial price.

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:02:18] The Canadian government shelled out $1.5 billion in overhead costs in the Montreal games, well over their estimated cost of $120 million. The Canadian government finally paid off that debt in 2006.

NICOLE FORRESTER: [00:02:30] At that time in Canada, we were under a cultural war of sorts. The other issue that happened is the price of steel had skyrocketed. And then the year before the games were hosted, you had workers walk off on a strike, which then caused more of a delay. And then again, that added to the cost itself of posting these games. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:02:54] By 1984, no country wanted to host the games. Only the United States kept their hats in the ring for the '84 games in Los Angeles. It became the first and only summer Olympic games to have an operating surplus of $215 million. The reason: as the only bidder, Los Angeles had the leverage to negotiate its contract with the IOC. And the infrastructure was already there. 

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: [00:03:17] Together with the fact that Los Angeles is second largest city in the United States, arguably the entertainment capital of the United States, meant that they didn't have to do hardly any building. Basically everything was in place. It was a little building they had to do, but not very much. 

NICOLE FORRESTER: [00:03:33] There was such a surge in revenue that was derived through the media cover itself that actually went straight to the Los Angeles games. And so like that, as you realized, okay, now we make sure that we get that big cut of the media revenue that's generated. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:03:49] The IOC saw the LA games as an opportunity to restructure their television revenue distribution. Before, the IOC auctioned its TV rights to the games' local hosts, who are able to keep about 90% of the revenues generated. In the 1980 Moscow games, the IOC only took about 10% of the revenue. 

But all of that changed in 1984, when the IOC took 33% of the LA games' TV revenue. Over the years, broadcast revenue for the IOC increased. The 1984 summer and winter games generated $287 million and $103 million respectively. Fast-forward to 2016 and 2018, Rio generated $2.9 billion and Pyeongchang generated $1.4 billion. 

But it wasn't just the TV revenues that skyrocketed. So did the percentage that the IOC takes. Broadcast rights revenues for 2016 games and 2018 games were 73%. 

Over its lifetime, the Olympics has grown as more and more nations participate and more sports are added, creating the massive competition that we see today. 

NICOLE FORRESTER: [00:04:52] We're seeing the more sports that have been added to the program plan. So if we look at the games in 1896 and how many sports were there, versus what it's going to look like for Tokyo, it is a night and day difference, it's vastly larger for these games. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:05:09] But as the games become more expansive, the price tag of hosting the games becomes more of a burden. Before a host city begins constructing elaborate venues, putting in a bid to host the games itself can cost tens of millions of dollars.

NICOLE FORRESTER: [00:05:22] All these cities would come together and would bid, and then it would be narrowed down to say like five other cities. And then you've got people within the IOC visiting doing these site visits to help decide where we're going to go. And then it narrows down to like two cities and then so on. This used to be a very costly process to do with a very small guarantee that city would be successful through the bidding process.

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:05:51] Just take the Tokyo bid to host the 2016 summer games. $150 million was spent by the Japanese Olympic Committee for expensive consulting firms, city planning, event organizing, architecture firms, and much more. Eventually that bid went to Rio. However, Tokyo did have a successful bid for the 2020 games, but spent an additional $75 million for an updated evaluation and planning.

Winning an Olympic bid comes with a steep price tag. 

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: [00:06:19] The largest single facility it has to get built this is the Olympic Village. This is, for the summer games, this is the village that has to accommodate 11,000 athletes and  about 5,000 additional coaches and trainers. 

In addition to having the lodging, you need to have athletic training facilities. You need to have tracks. You need to have weight rooms. You need to have other facilities. You need to have restaurants. You need to have entertainment facilities for the athletes. You need to have clinics, medical clinics. So you're actually building a village. Now this is a full service village. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:06:52] So what else needs to get built?

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: [00:06:54] And you have the Olympic stadium, infrastructure, road infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure, also potentially billions of dollars there. Security costs these days easily run one and a half to $2 billion. 

The average cost overruns for hosting the games is 252%. 

DAVID GREETER - HOST, CNBC: [00:07:12] For the Rio games it was estimated in 2017 that $13.1 billion went into hosting the Olympics, well over its initial $2.8 billion budget. Economists, however, put that actual number somewhere north of $20 billion in 2018. An estimated $2.06 billion actually went towards sports related venues, while an estimated $8.2 billion went towards legacy builds, or builds intended to live well beyond the Olympics' three-week life cycle. The legacy builds went towards things like an updated infrastructure, highways, a renovated port, and cleaning the polluted Guanabara Bay. Of that $8.2 billion, delay-riddled subway line cost an estimated $2.98 billion, and the renovation of Porto Marivilha was an estimated $4.2 billion. To meet the IOC requirement of 40,000 rooms for accommodations, Rio had to lay out the construction of an additional 15 to 18,000 rooms intended to be used after the games as luxury apartments. Nearly five years after the games, most of those long-term use buildings sit vacant. They're also expensive to maintain. About $14 million a year goes into maintenance costs for Rio venues. 

Rio's famed Maracanã stadium, built in 1950, which held the opening ceremonies of the 2016 summer games, had its power cut off in 2017 after falling behind on payments during a tendency dispute from the games. After two months of no power and left vacant, the stadium reopened for football matches and concerts. 

ANDREW ZIMBALIST: [00:08:41] In all locations and in all cities, not just Rio, reason why the venues didn't exist before the games is because it didn't make sense to build them economically. Nobody wanted to build them.

The 2020* Olympics - Today, Explained - Air Date 5-18-21

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:08:53] A lot of what we're seeing in Tokyo is actually not necessarily Tokyo problems, but they're Olympic problems that get imported into each and every host city.

It just happens to be Tokyo in this case and under pandemic conditions. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:09:07] And the pandemic continues to be a real source of tension around these games. SCORING <ELOY DRUMS NEW>

ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: [00:09:12] With the Tokyo Olympics just over 10 weeks away, IOC president Thomas Bach canceling a planned trip to Japan citing the surge of COVID-19 cases there, with a state of emergency recently extended in several parts of the country. 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:09:26] The Olympics are experiencing major mayhem right now. Medical officials in Japan and across the world are clamoring for the Olympics to be canceled. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee and local Tokyo organizers are saying that the games will in fact go on in Japan, where cases are surging, where they're in the midst of their fourth wave, less than two percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: [00:09:51] And the build up continues to be dominated by two questions. Will they go ahead? And should they go ahead?

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:09:58] There's a lot of pushback in Japan, as well as around the world from medical professionals, scientists, and even some athletes are starting to wonder aloud, whether it's right to push ahead with the Olympics. 

ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: [00:10:09] <CLIP> BBC: tennis star, Naomi Osaka, represents Japan.

Here's what she said when asked whether it was appropriate for the games to go ahead: 

NAOMI OSAKA: [00:10:16] For me, I'm an athlete. And of course, my immediate thought is that I'd want to play the Olympics. But as a human, I would say ___ aren't healthy and if they're not feeling safe, then it's definitely a really big cause for concern.

<SCORING OUT>

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:10:28] At the end of the day, this is all about the athletes. How are the IOC and Tokyo planning on keeping them safe? Is it one big bubble, a bunch of small bubbles? 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:10:39] They're still working out how they're going to do their bubble system, but no matter how you slice it, it's sort of going to be like one “el bubble grande” 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:10:47] <chortle> 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:10:48] because there's 11,000 athletes that are going to be coming in.

You're going to have to figure out a way there's been a lot of concern from athletes as to how they will be housed. Will they be housed by sport? That way, if there's a breakout of COVID, one sport could be sacrificed maybe have that canceled for these Olympics, as sad as that would be for those athletes.

One other thing, they are limiting the amount of people that they're going to allow into the country. Previously, there was supposed to be in the neighborhood of 180,000 people, officials that would come into Japan for these Olympics. Tokyo organizers have announced that instead of 180,000, it'll be more like 90,000 or fewer.

So, for some that is comfort, for others, there, like what? 90,000 people? And that does not include the athletes, which is about 11,000 for the Olympics, 15,000, when you include the Paralympics. And so tens of thousands of people will be coming into the country. They have measures in place, such as not using the public transportation system if you're an athlete, trying to buy your meals takeaway instead of going into restaurants, and basically staying within the confines of the Olympic village, having testing all the time, every single day. And those sort of measures that are designed to make it safer space for Olympians and everybody else in Japan.

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:12:05] And we know people in Tokyo are protesting these games. Do we. have any idea how many people are for or against them? 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:12:14] Well, back when Japan won the Olympics in 2013, from the International Olympic Committee, they were popular.

<CLIP> IOC announcement: that the games of the 32nd Olympiad in 2020 awarded to the city of... Tokyo! 

ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: [00:12:29] <raucous applause> 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:12:30] But over time they become less so, with the spending that has happened. Originally, the Olympics were supposed to cost 7.3 billion dollars. And instead they're costing more like $30 billion dollars. And so slowly over time support has eroded. 

But really the thing that chipped away the most support for these Olympics among the general population in Japan is the rise of the coronavirus. Around 60% percent of the population in Japan prefers full throttle cancelation of the Olympics. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:13:02] Hmm! 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:13:02] Let's move on, we've sunk our costs. We've spent our money and we're willing to take the losses and move on to a safer day. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:13:11] Wow. So The majority of people in Japan would prefer they just take the L so to speak. Has the IOC commented specifically on the fact that the majority of the people in Japan don't actually want these games to take place this summer?

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:13:26] You know, they have, actually. There was one of the spokespeople for the International Olympic Committee, a gentleman by the name of Mark Adams.

MARK ADAMS - IOC: [00:13:34] As with all organizations, we have to pay attention to public opinion, but not be totally driven by it. 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:13:40] And I'm sure you can imagine how that went over in Japan.

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:13:44] <chortle> What do you think is keeping the IOC sort of committed to this line that they've drawn in the sand here that you know, they're going to hold these games in the summer of 2021, come hell or pandemic? 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:13:57] Yeah. I mean, I'm only being a little facetious when I say there are three reasons money, money, and money.  And it's important for us to note that more than 90% percent of the International Olympic Committee's revenues are derived from two sources: broadcasting revenues, as well as corporate sponsorship revenues. 73% percent of the IOC’s revenue come from broadcasters, big time broadcasters like NBC and smaller ones around the world that pay for the rights to broadcast the games. <CLIP>NBC: "The striking Vista of Copacabana beach on a Friday evening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where tonight...."

Another 18% percent comes from corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, Alibaba, Panasonic and other big behemoth corporations, <CLIP> VISA Morgan Freeman: "VISA, proud sponsor of the Olympic games, and the only card accepted there." 

Where you see a little bit of friction is between the Japanese organizers and the International Olympic Committee, when it comes to whether there should be fans in the stands. They've already said that overseas spectators will not be allowed to enter the country and attend the Olympics. But it's still an open question as to whether they're going to allow people in Japan to attend the games.

Why it's a little bit fricative between those two groups, the International Olympic Committee and the local Tokyo organizers, is because this was supposed to be a big source of revenue for the local organizing committee, around $800 million dollars was supposed to go to the local organizers. And so yeah, money really talks. And I think that's a good place to start to understand why they're trying to push ahead or why the International Olympic Committee is trying to push ahead with an Olympics in the midst of a global health pandemic. <SCORING OUT> 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPAINED: [00:15:39] Apart from the money, is there a certain sense of pride on the line here for the city, for the games, for the IOC?

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:15:46] There's definitely some pride within Japan. People I've spoken with there who would be proud to pull off this major, complicated, audaciously impractical event in the midst of a pandemic. And also, I think it's important to note the geopolitical factors involved here: less than nine months down the road, Beijing is slated to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and being somewhat of a geopolitical adversary to Japan, that gives Japan a little bit of extra incentive to try to pull these games off, not just hand the torch right over to their geopolitical foe.

Lotteryism, Part II - A Most Dangerous Game, How Sports Are Used to Fleece Public Trusts - Citations Needed - Air Date 12-20-17

ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [00:16:20] Communities, state and local governments, getting involved in what we call bumfights where we're looking for scraps by these large corporations and billionaires and sports owners, and if you've ever studied this and obviously with the recent news is the context of Amazon's second headquarters where you have 30 cities falling over each other to an increasingly, I think, degenerate corporate offers that this scam was, I think, not invented by but perfected by sports owners and sports teams. 

I want you to talk a little bit about that, what the general formula of this is maybe some of the more egregious examples, and how you view the media's role in going along with this. 

DAVE ZIRIN: [00:16:54] First and foremost you're absolutely correct. In terms of the way sports and the sports stadium scam, and I'll put the Olympics on that as well, with different cities bidding for the Olympics, of this idea of creating this kind of corporatocracy, where corporations dictate public policy and dictate where tax dollars go. And I think sports, more than anything, has really primed the pump nationally for this idea that debt is to be collectivized, but public money is to be privatized, and we've seen this time and again. 

In some of the ways that are similar to Amazon, you see when, for example in the Olympic bid for first, the 2024 and now the 2028 Olympics where you had Boston and Los Angeles and other cities as well, all trying to put together packages that would be appealing first to the US Olympic Committee and then the international Olympic Committee and the things that they were promising were just so outrageous. Basically the tearing down... That's an important thing to say, is that it's not just about their promising public money, it's that they're also promising to eradicate neighborhoods. They're promising to reshape entire communities. And they're promising to step up national security state features in these different cities in terms of surveillance, in terms of the presence of Homeland Security in unprecedented ways.

And they're doing this all festooned in the ribbons of the Olympics. So a city like Boston or Los Angeles, these are liberal cities with pretty active civic basis. If they just went to those people and just said, "Hey, we have this plan. We're not going to tell you what it is, but it's going to end up with Homeland Security on every corner, ICE on every corner, cameras to watch where you're going and oh, your rents will go up or your neighborhood is going to be torn down. What do you guys think of that plan?" People would say, "wow, we're going to destroy you now for even bringing that to the table", but when they say, "Hey, we got the Olympics! How does that sound?" then it becomes something that's a lot easier to sell. 

And amazing props, first of all, to the people of Boston who didn't fall for this okie doke and fought it and got the city leaders of Boston to actually pull their bid. And now the people in Los Angeles, I was out there and they're organizing incredibly because it's unbelievable how LA has allocated and earmarked funds and operational plans for the 2028 games, so basically they're telescoping what the local economy is going to be like and what they're going to be able to do for something that's 11 years off. I mean, it's absolutely absurd. 

ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [00:19:26] It's a contrived shock doctrine, right? Instead of waiting for a hurricane, you sort of force a hurricane by saying the Olympics or the World Cup. And vis-a-vis the national security state, one of the more egregious examples of this was in Brazil, they literally had extra constitutional zones where the law didn't apply. South Africa had the same thing, you had the 48 hour trials of people. So, in America it's, there's also similar features, they throw first amendment rights out the window. There's other kinds of security measures. 

The 2021 Olympics is a Moral Hazard w/ Jules Boykoff - The Majority Report with Sam Seder - Air Date 6-28-21

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:19:49] We're three weeks out from Tokyo. There's a whole nother, sort of, set of issues regarding the Tokyo Olympics, because of COVID. But, in many respects, the relentless, I guess, insistence on having these games, when you have some of the top medical experts in the country saying, "This is a bad idea;" the same forces are creating that dynamic, in addition to all the other issues that exist with the Olympics. 

So, so let's start with just, sort of, the... the history of the games, and the... the problems with the games. 

And we should say, this is not about the athletes per se, right? This is about everything else that comes with it. 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:20:33] Absolutely. That's a great place to start, really, because there's no question that athletes are what make the Olympics what they are. Were it not for the athletes, there'd be no Olympics. But then you have this group of people from the International Olympic Committee, who are the organizers of the games, who essentially use athletes like human shields to create these monstrous events that do incredible damage to the communities that host the events, whether it's Tokyo, or whether it's London; whether it's Vancouver, or whether it's a future host, like Paris or Los Angeles.

The longer history of the Olympics really does help us make sense of it this, when you go all the way back to the beginning of the games and think that they were started by a Baron, an aristocrat from France, named Baron Pierre de Coubertin who got together a bunch of other barons and dukes and counts, and really created this elite affair. And ever since then, the Olympic chorus has sung with an upper-class accent. And it definitely does that today. 

And that explains a lot of what happens, and why it might not make sense to your listeners and viewers, why we're pressing ahead with an optional sporting spectacle during a global health pandemic. Well, if you think about the fact that it's elites with money on the line, including the International Olympic Committee and NBC, which is hosting the games here on the broadcasting networks in the United States, then it starts to make a little bit more sense. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:21:48] All right, so, let's start, I mean, how much money are we talking about? Like, I mean, how much money in, when it's... we're talking about an extraordinary amount of money. And then, lay out for us the different, sort of, cohorts of people who are getting that money.

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:22:07] All right. So, for starters, the Olympics are extraordinarily expensive affair. And there's this dynamic, what I call "Etch-a-Sketch Economics" whereby during the bid phase of the Olympics are only supposed to cost this much. You put it on your extra sketchy, say, "Hey, public, look, it's only going to cost," in the case of Tokyo, "$7.3 billion!"

But then, once you actually get handed the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, you shake up that Etch-a-Sketch, write a brand new number on it. In this case, in Tokyo, we're looking at $30 billion being spent on the Tokyo Olympics. Now, that's just to get the games to happen. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:22:41] By whom? Who spends that money?

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:22:43] All but $6.7 billion of that $30 billion is public money, which is to say, taxpayer money. And that's pretty par for the course, to be honest. When you look at most Olympic games, they're essentially purchased by the taxpayer, and they're there for corporations to, kind of, come along and make money off, and that's the general dynamic that undergirds them.

So, who's going to make the money? That's another one of your elements of your question. Well, for starters, the broadcasters of the Olympics, they stand to do quite well. The International Olympic Committee, as well. They've got more than a billion dollars in their coffers their, their reserves at all times.

And, so, we're talking, in these games, around $5 billion or so in broadcast revenues will be distributed to the IOC and other entities. They like to tell us that they spread them around to the wider Olympic movement. That's what they call it, the Olympic movement. 

But a really important study out of Ryerson University found recently that compared the amount that actual Olympic athletes get, from the revenues of the Olympics, to other sports, like from the NBA or the National Football League, National Hockey League, or the English Premier League of soccer, football in England. And they found that those other leagues, the athletes get around 45% to 60% of the revenues that are brought in by their sport. With the Olympics it's only 4.1%. 46 to 60, or 45 to 60, compared to 4.1%. So the money does not necessarily go directly to athletes. 

And that's why you're seeing a lot more athletes starting to organize in the Olympic space. People from track and field, people from swimming, starting these organizational bodies, that kind of resemble independent unions, that are trying to fight back and claw back some of this money. Cuz it tends to go to the International Olympic Committee and well-connected political and economic elites in each host.

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:24:21] And how much of this, you know, capitalist driver is part of why we see the Olympics move from city to city, which has devastating effects on the infrastructure, the houseless population, et cetera; people who don't have the resources and who are forced out of areas where there's just this enormous amount of construction and building that just goes by the wayside, you know, once these temporary events are done? 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:24:47] Yeah, that's such a great and important question. So for starters, if I may just say, that no matter where the Olympics happen, there tends to be at least four negative externalities, downsides, negative underbellies of the Olympics. 

And that is: overspending, which we've talked about;

That is the displacement and eviction that you're talking about, there; 

There is the greenwashing that is endemic to the Olympics as well, talking a big green game, but not actually following through; 

And then there's the militarization of public space around the Olympics that has become such a large spectacle that local security forces basically use it in order to get all the weapons that they'd ever want to get, and special laws, to suppress dissent during, that they'd never be able to get during normal political times.

So, why don't we just put it in one place, for example, I think it's kind of ghosting behind your question there, Emma. And the answer is exactly what you're talking about. Capital accumulation. The International Olympic Committee is this band of peripatetic elites that definitely don't want to keep it in one place. That's part of the fun for them. 

Also with the corporate sponsors, who, by the way, give about 18% of all revenues to the International Olympic Committee, they use the Olympics as a way of grooming potential hires down the line, partying with their friends, and that kind of thing. Why would they want to give it up and have it in the same place, like boring, old Athens or something like that? 

(Sometimes people will suggest Athens, even though it's not clear that actually the people of Athens would even want the Olympics, after the debacle of 2004, where they way overspent, and you have a herd of white elephant stadiums sitting there unused). 

And so, I think, to really directly answer your question, it's because of the international Olympic committee has no interest in anchoring it somewhere. It's much more fun to zip around the world with all of your IOC members. 

I'll just say as a sort of counterpoint to the fact that the athletes barely get anything: if you're on the International Olympic Committee's executive committee, or their board, you get $900 a day in per diem only. That's not to mention the five-star hotels, everything else. You're stacking up $900 a day for just sitting in the crowd, maybe snoozing away the afternoon, watching a sport. 

So, that is... because of all that, you've seen this real rise in dissent against the Olympics. In Tokyo, we're definitely seeing it some 80% of-the-population-plus don't want the Olympics this summer, but it's even beyond Tokyo because of the problems that you're alluding to.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:26:54] So, and when we talk about, I mean, the...  when you're explaining, like, you know, the amount of public funds that go into this, and how, the, NBC in this instance, gets $5 billion. The public spends $35 billion essentially. And NBC gets $5 billion. I would imagine you have a tremendous amount of real estate interests that are local, but who knows what relationships they have with other, you know, real estate. They're making hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars, as well.

It just reminds me of like my, basically, my daughter's business that she got going, which is: I buy her clothes, she sells them on Depop, and she thinks that she's, you know, some type of business mogul. Like, you're... "I'm just, it's just a transfer of money. I'm just giving you money. You're just going through the exercise of selling the money I gave you, for maybe a little bit less money, and then you're just pocketing it!"

And that sort of feels like what this is. Even before we get into all of these sort of ancillary ills that it creates, and displacement that it creates, that, and, essentially, scarring of the development of cities that it creates. 

JULES BOYKOFF: [00:28:08] Yeah, that's a great way of putting it. I hadn't quite thought of it like that before.

You know, I'm talking to you from Portland, Oregon, and just up the road from where I live in Vancouver, in Canada, I interviewed an activist there back in 2009, called Am Johal, is his name. And he said, at the time, he said, "The Olympics are a corporate franchise that you buy with public money." 

And I think that's, kind of, underneath what you're saying there. It's a corporate benefit to the Olympics, but it's bought public money, or in the case of your family, with your money. And that money, that the corporations benefit from, that doesn't stay in the local community; that gets leaked out to these corporate sponsors, who are worldwide corporate sponsors.

I mean, we're talking about like Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Ali-Baba, these international firms, they're leaking the money that they make out from their pole position at the Olympic games. 

And so, more and more people are waking up to this. And that's why the Olympics are having a harder time locating in particular cities. Because, nowadays, whenever some elites in a city decide to put a bid forth, you basically have a bunch of activists ending up saying, "Wait a second, we heard about these Olympics!"

 Now to, also, to your point about developers, you're absolutely right. They stand to benefit massively. Let's just, again, look at Tokyo for a second, since that's on everyone's horizon here.

And, when they built the new national stadium for the Olympics in Tokyo, they actually had to adjust local laws, because previously you could only build up 15 meters. It was an old Imperial law, so you didn't dishonor the empire. Well, when they wanted to build this national stadium, it was going to be 80 meters tall.

And so they actually had to change the law. Well, who benefited from that? Again, well-connected developers who could build up with the structures that they already owned and stretch more rent out of their spaces that they own. 

And so, again, this is a corporate franchise bought with public money, as Am Johal said way back in 2009.

Sha'Carri Richardson's Suspension for Marijuana Defies Common Sense - Time's Top Stories - Air Date 7-2-21

SEAN GREGORY - REPORTER, TIME'S TOP STORIES: [00:29:51] You were going to hear Sha’Carri Richardson's first name a lot at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Richardson announced her arrival at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials last month, winning the women's 100-meter in dominant fashion. Her long orange hair blazing down the track. She was America's best hope to win 100-m gold since Gail Devers did it in 1996. Her style and swagger have earned comparisons to another American great, 100-m world-record holder Florence Griffith Joyner. “I am not trying to be the next FloJo,” Richardson, a Dallas native, recently told D magazine. "I am trying to be the one and only Sha’Carri Richardson.” 

But Richardson's Olympic dream just disappeared faster than she churns down the straightaway.

In a development that shocked and saddened fans of track and field and the Olympics, the US anti-doping agency, USADA, announced Friday morning that Richardson had accepted a one-month suspension after testing positive for cannabis, a substance that remains—even in the face of widespread legalization and mainstream acceptance—banned by the World Anti-doping Code as a substance of abuse. The positive test disqualified her Olympic trials win, so she will not be able to run in the individual Olympic 100-m race in Tokyo. Richardson could still be named to the 4X100-m relay team, a relatively small consolation for an athlete who could have threatened a world record in her sport’s fastest, most-anticipated race.

Richardson's suspension is the rare Olympic drug scandal where everyone loses. The games will be without a charismatic star in a signature event. Her potential showdown with Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce—who won the 100-m at both the Beijing and Rio games, and in early June clocked the second fastest women's 100-m in history, 10.63 seconds—created a compelling storyline.

The Olympics lose out. Track and field, a sport seemingly forever tainted by drug scandals—of the raw performance-enhancing kind or not—loses out. Fans lose out. Even her opponents lose out. Sure, the path to a medal becomes easier without Richardson in the field, but any win will forever be accompanied by a sort of hidden asterisk. What, history will wonder, would have happened if Richardson had raced? Usually these suspensions come with a ready-made villain. "Cheater!" we can scream. But Richardson took no steroids. She said in a Today Show interview Friday morning that she turned in marijuana to cope with the news that her biological mother had died.

Richardson was raised by her grandmother, whom she poignantly hugged in the stands after her trials victory, and also by her aunt. Her situation has drawn sympathy for good reason. An Olympic gold—combined with a fun-loving personality that fits the celebrity mold—could have enriched Richardson. That opportunity is gone.

The presence of marijuana on the World Anti-doping Agency’s banned substance list has long been controversial. Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was originally stripped of his 1998 Olympic gold medal after testing positive for THC. But that decision was overturned since it wasn't on the banned substance list at the time. 

USADA singles out Three reasons why cannabinoids are banned. Athletes could endanger themselves and others because of slower reaction times and poor executive function and decision making. Marijuana can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines. And the use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world.

None of these reasons seem to apply in Richardson's case. She endangered no one at the track, quite the opposite. She distanced herself from the competition. The performance-enhancing benefits of marijuana are if not specious, at least very much up for debate. A 2018 literature review published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, for example, said that although cannabis use is more prevalent in some athletes engaged in high-risk sports, there is no direct evidence of performance-enhancing effects in athletes. Even USADA’s statement on Richardson's suspension acknowledges her use of cannabis occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance.

As for the moral high-horse bit, can anyone reasonably argue in this day and age that an athlete using marijuana deserves a boot from the Olympics because such behavior "is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world?" In a world where momentum for legalization is growing, it's legal in Oregon, where Richardson competed at trials, in a situation where someone may have turned to a legal substance to cope with grief? Come on. Yes, rules are rules, but no one who watched Richardson win at trials could possibly think that marijuana fueled her victory. Richardson has acknowledged her mistake, apologized, and will pay the harsh consequences. But sometimes it would be nice for common sense to rule instead.

Sha'Carri Richardson left off relay team, won't compete in Olympics - All In with Chris Hayes - Air Date 7-6-21

CHRIS HAYES - ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: [00:35:09] Sha'Carri Richardson, the U.S. women`s track star is not going to Tokyo Olympics That`s official today. The Us track and field announcing that she will not compete in the four by 100 relay Richardson. Of course lit the track on fire in the trial. She won the women`s 100 meter dash. She then tested positive for the use of marijuana.

She was apologetic and suspended by the U.S. track and field association, but there was a possibility for completing in the Olympic relay because that event competition was outside the window of her suspension. But instead today, the U.S. track and field saying while us track and field fully agrees, the merit of the world anti-doping agency rules related to THC should be reevaluated.

It would be detrimental to the integrity of the U.S. Olympic team trials, track and field. If us ATF amended his policies falling competition, only weeks before the Olympic Games. All us ATF athletes are equally aware of and must adhere to the current anti-doping code. And our credibility as the national governing body would be lost.

If rules were only enforced under certain circumstances. Joining me now, former NBA player, Etan Thomas author of we matter athletes and activism who has some very strong feelings about this. Etan I`ve been following this story and I think that the mass opinion I saw, is like, this is insane. This woman is obviously an incredible athlete.

Marijuana is either legalized or decriminalized in tons of states. You can use it recreationally. These laws are outdated, but to get the final blow today. I just found myself feeling this like visceral rage at the decision. How are you feeling?  

ETAN THOMAS: [00:36:43] I mean, I feel disappointed, you know, it`s interesting. You said that you hear a lot of know, people saying how ridiculous it is, I kind of hear a lot of the opposite, I hear a lot of people saying, you know, the rules are the rules, she broke the rules, you know, nevermind what happened to her personally, the rules are the rules. It`s interesting because a lot of those same people who are the rules are the rules, crowd are the same people who had so much trouble following the health guidelines during a national pandemic, to be able to just wear a mask. It`s really interesting that that happens. But you know, there`s a lack of compassion that is happening right now. And, you know, to understand what she was dealing with and people say, well, you have to take her personal situation out of it.

Well, I don`t think you do, you know, she just lost her mother. I mean, you know, you can tell, even during the race, she ran them to the --to the crowd and fell into her grandmother`s arms. I mean, this type of situation should make you reevaluate. If this rule should even be a rule in the first place and what she did know, before, the, her trials, before her race, didn`t in no way, shape or fashion, help her win, you know, you know, run that 10.6, you know, You know, time that she ran it was not a performance enhancer.

It didn`t assist her in anyway, and it has to be evaluated. But this the situation that happens like this, hopefully the Olympic committee will then start looking at it and start to reevaluate to see if this should even be the rule. in the first place.

CHRIS HAYES - ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: [00:38:05] Yes, there`s -- it`s a good point. I mean, there`s --this line stuck out to me in the track and field statement is When they call it the current anti-doping code and it`s like, OK, right. invoking that term. And I understand that. You know, there`s more banned substances than just six substances that are performance-enhancing. But When you use that term, it`s like she wasn`t cheating. She was using a recreational drug.

that`s no more dangerous on the whole than alcohol, probably less dangerous, honestly says, to, cope with the awful know, grief of her mother`s loss Like, just she`s in a completely different category. just rubbed me the wrong way to read that word in that context. 

ETAN THOMAS: [00:38:46] definitely. I mean, it doesn`t apply to this situation.

And when you`re looking at the different things that she could have done in this situation, and everybody speaks to a bigger topic of being able to view athletes as humans. And the fact is a lot of times nobody cares. Nobody cares what you`re going through. Nobody cares what you`re dealing with.

You know, if you`re Naomi Osaka and you`re having all this depression and anxiety, nobody cares. You`re just supposed to just, you know, talk to the media, that`s your job. And that`s what you have to do. And that`s the part where hopefully this is another situation where people can see that athletes or human athletes, deal with tragedy and still have to perform at an optimal.

level. So, you know, that`s one of the things that kind of, you know, when I was seeing all of the comments on social media and a lot of the comments I got to tell you, they honestly surprised me a lot of thee talking heads and you know, in the sports world when they were covering this subject, it really surprised me because, you know, talked about athletes as if they were robots.

You know, they`re not supposed to have any type of feeling and none of your feelings matter. And, you know, hopefully this can allow people to see that there`s something wrong with that type of mentality. 

CHRIS HAYES - ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: [00:39:53] I want to just quickly play Richardson was on the today show on Friday where talked about this.

I found it really powerful take a listen.

SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON: [00:40:04] As much as I`m disappointed. I know that when I step on that track I don`t just represent myself. I represent a community that has shown me great support, great love and to you all, [INAUDIBLE] I apologize for the fact that I didn`t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions.

I`ll just say, don`t judge me because I am human. I`m you? I just happen to run a little faster.

CHRIS HAYES - ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: [00:40:27] I like that line. I am human. it also strikes me here that more broadly whether it`s us track and field or the IOC or wherever, like as the status of marijuana changes in both a social and legal sense, All these leagues and all of these athletic bodies are going to have to update the rules.

ETAN THOMAS: [00:40:48] Oh, yes. Well, they`ll have to, I mean, you know, it`s the -- it`s the contradiction of, it especially here in the states where you have opioids being passed out, like candy in the NFL for decades and nobody having a problem with it In the NBA as well, you know, in different professional leagues.

know, but then you`ll have something like proven, medicinal With cannabis and it`ll just be frowned upon, but that those are two of the much bigger topic you know, and as far as the way that criminalized in society. I mean, so many --so people right now, you know, for non-violent crimes end in jail for a nickel bag of weed is ridiculous.

Olympic Athletes Not Allowed To Protest - TYT Sports - Air Date 4-30-21

RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:41:18] We have discussed on this show, time and time again, how athletes speaking out moves mountains for change, even when White America continually pushes back, like in the case of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

In the Olympics, the most notable protest came in 1968, at the Mexico Games, where Tommy Smith and John Carlos, protesting the racial injustices Black people face in this country; third place medalist Peter Norman of Australia, supported them and asked how he could help. 

Which makes the IOC, or International Olympic Committee's, latest decision flat out infuriating. They announced that athletes will continue to face punishment for protesting or demonstrating while on the metal podium, at official ceremonies, or on the field of play.

The IOC said that it surveyed more than 3,500 athletes over this past year, and that 70% said it was not appropriate to demonstrate or express their views on the field play or at the opening or closing ceremony. 

This means raising a fist or taking a knee is banned; making note of the injustices minorities face? Banned; bringing awareness to the unfair shake folks have because of the color of their skin? Banned.

"The IOC has not said what consequences athletes might face for protesting, but a proportionate range of punishments will be drafted before the games," said Kirsty Coventry, who represents athletes on the IOC executive board. 

The thing is, carron J. Phillips of Deadspin put it rather well, in playing in simple terms:

"If you were ever dumb enough to believe that racism was just an American problem, then this is proof that people all across this globe hate Black people." 

ARCHIVE FOOTAGE: [00:43:00] Hammer throw gold medalist, Gwen Berry, raised her fist, uh, reminiscent of John Carlos. 

RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:43:07] Gwen Berry, who protested at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, told USA Today last summer, "For Olympic athletes, we literally only get one chance every four years," Berry said. "People work their tails off for years to get to that moment. So, it's important, to them. If they want to speak at that moment, they should have the right to, because they worked for that. Kneeling and fist raising will lead to punishment, which is, I guess, the equivalent to when Heisman winners, coaches, and programs get their trophy-slash-wins vacated at college, as if we didn't watch them win," Phillips wrote. 

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee told their athletes "While we support your right to demonstrate peaceably, in support of racial and social justice, we can't control the actions others may take in response."

What the IOC doesn't realize, is that this decision will just fuel the athletes that were considering taking part in a demonstration. History has proven that it will be on their side. At worse, they could be stripped to their metals that they won. And at best there'll be immortalised like the pioneers that came before.

Anne Orchier of NOlympics LA on Tokyo 2020 Olympic Opposition - Burn It All Down - Air Date 7-8-21

ANNIE ORCHIER: [00:44:16] So, NOlympics LA started in the spring of 2017. We formed through the Housing and Homelessness Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter. 

And, yeah, there were essentially a few of us, including myself, who were already organizing with other groups in LA, and were part of other organizations. I'm a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union. Some other folks were part of LA Can, who were based in Skid Row, and a few of the, kind of, original coalition partners and members of NOlympics, and through the work that we were doing in our own communities, and with some other organizations, we... we were just hearing a lot about how badly the Olympics were going to affect the work that we were doing, in particular hearing about the impact that the Olympics had on poor communities, particularly around policing and displacement. 

You know, I personally, I was not in LA for the 1984 Olympics, but a lot of folks we organize with were. Partners and comrades who... who live in organize on and around Skid Row really pointed to the connection between police militarization and, kind of the, you know, the war on drugs. 

And under Daryl Gates, who was like the notoriously monstrous, racist, LAPD Chief in the eighties... So like leading into the '84 games, for example... So, Daryl Gates, you know, because of, like, a lot of high profile, like, well-publicized incidents around police brutality, and, like, some incredibly, like, ugly racist comments that he had made at press conferences, was, a little bit on-the-chopping-block in the lead-up to the '84 games.

And, then, as that came up, that shifted into, like, "Okay, well now you have unlimited funds and authority to do whatever you want to clean the city up." And so that meant, like, additional patrols on Skid Row, and aggressive sweeps. That meant doing a lot of the stuff we see around, like, gang injunctions, and, kind of, like, the indiscriminate policing of, in particular, like, Black and Brown men living in certain areas because of, you know, like, suspected gang involvement. That kind of all started in the lead up to the 84 games. 

Folks who, you know, who were... directly experienced the results of that have such a different memory of '84 compared to, kind of, the Eric Garcettis and the Casey Wassermans the, kind of, like, rich kids on the west side who were, "This was really fun!" You know, Casey Wasserman got to run in the torch relay with OJ Simpson, whereas a lot of the, you know, Operation Hammer, you know, war on drugs, you know, efforts by the LAPD to, really,  to terrorize Black and Brown communities in LA. 

There's, like, one kind of famous story about, you know, a SWAT team went to a house in South Central and used a tank with a battering ram to, kind of, knock down a house and found there was, like, a young mom with her kids eating ice cream. And that tank and that battering ram was purchased as part of the expanded funding for the '84 Olympics. 

So, you know, that had been, sort of, percolating for a couple of years as Eric Garcetti was... was angling for the Olympic bid. And then in spring 2017, A group of us met in... in DSA LA and started talking about what would it look like to create that organized opposition.

We had some contact with folks in No Boston, and No Chicago, who gave us some sort of background and advice on their successful campaigns to kick the Olympic bids out. At that point, we knew it was a little bit late in the game. But, still  thought, you know, it was worthwhile. And even just the process of bringing together this coalition of groups would be important.

I think the most important thing, off the bat, was that this was a "No," this was not a "Make Them Better." And, this was also, specifically, about the impact to poor communities. So, this was not about, like, the budget, basically, because all of the conversations in LA up until that point had really been focused on the budget and profits. And we were saying, you know, this is really about what this is going to do to our city. 

Like, what is the vision of LA that we want to push for in 2028? Is it creating a playground for rich tourists and, you know, corporate sponsors? Or is it having a city that's equitable and comfortable for everyone to live in?

LINDSAY GIBBS - HOST, BURN IT ALL DOWN: [00:48:29] I know you all have connected a lot, as you mentioned, with organizers locally and with organizers internationally, and that there was a trip to Tokyo to meet with NOlympics Japan organizers. 

ANNIE ORCHIER: [00:48:43] It was two years ago, which feels like a very long time ago, and also not long ago at all. But I think first of all, you know, we were there really in solidarity with Hangorin no Kai, who are the lead organizers in Tokyo against the 2020 Olympics.

And there are a group of folks, predominantly, and led by unhoused folks in Tokyo, they were really, really amazing organizers, and the, kind of, mantra was, "We can still stop them." It was end of July, so the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were originally supposed to open, I think, July 23rd, 2020. So we were there around, you know, a few days before July 23rd, 2019.

And then, you know, a few days after that, you know, I think since every opposition group has started this campaign, there's always this idea of, like, this is a done deal, and it's too late, and you can't stop them. But I think what last year showed, pretty definitively, this is all made up. Nothing is actually set in stone.

It's just, like, is there a force strong enough to stop the IOC's plans? But the Olympics are not... they're not natural. They're not inevitable, which is, kind of, the same, you know, framework we use to talk about gentrification, for example. 

It's like, that's kind of, one of the biggest barriers is just making it clear. Like, yeah, these things are stoppable. It's not like the rain, or something. It's like, you can... This didn't exist at one point, it doesn't have to exist. You know, it doesn't have to look exactly the way it looks now. Like, this, these are all decisions that have been made at some point and they can be unmade. 

And then, the trip itself, you know, primarily like lead and organized by folks in Tokyo, as well as other parts of Japan, there were some, a group of amazing organizers from Osaka who, you know, who are also part of that. 

You often  meet folks from Nagano, which also, you know, had previously hosted the Olympics in Japan. And that was really interesting. 

There were folks from Paris, there were folks from London, there were folks from Jakarta, who are, kind of, staring down a potential Olympic bid; folks who are in Rio. You know, there was a contingent who also went to Fukushima to see up close, you know, what that devastation looked like, and, you know, the, this, sort of, really stark chasm between what the media and the government and the Olympic boosters were saying in terms of like, these are the recovery Olympics, and these are the Olympics that will, kind of, celebrate the end of this crisis in Fukushima. And then being there and seeing like, oh, this is not even, like, remotely, like, recovered.

People are still really suffering here. And this is all a bit of a Potemkin village setup to, you know, the Olympics to, like, make it look, like, "Okay, this is great. And now we don't have to give anyone government benefits who, you know, is suffering from thyroid cancer as a result of radiation. And we don't have to help people who have been displaced find new homes, or fix their homes, or give them medical care, because everything is recovered." 

And I think, you know, a lot of us too are experiencing that firsthand in our own cities, through the, you know, with COVID, like, this period that we're in now, in a lot of ways, where it's, like, "It's over, and everything is recovered!" But in a lot of ways, it's like, well, is it recovered though?

LINDSAY GIBBS - HOST, BURN IT ALL DOWN: [00:51:36] Yeah. So, you know, I think  there's been a lot of talk about... people understand the push to cancel the Olympics in the wake of a global pandemic, or a lot of people do, you know? And so a lot of the talk around the.... should this be happening right now? Is focused solely on the pandemic. 

But what was the main thing... I mean, you just mentioned a lot of things, but what was the main thing the organizers were concerned about these Olympics before the pandemic? Because I think it's important for everyone to know that, you know, this organizing didn't pop up right when COVID did. Like, this predates COVID.

ANNIE ORCHIER: [00:52:14] So, yeah, so, I mean, I think starting with the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi earthquake, a nuclear disaster,  which was a massive earthquake that led to a tsunami that caused a nuclear reactor to meltdown in Fukushima, which just completely devastated that entire area. Tens of thousands of people were displaced, still are displaced. The people who are still living there are regularly exposed to just, like, insane levels of radioactivity, you know, because of how the nuclear reactor melted down, like, all of the soil in that area is contaminated with nuclear waste. 

You know, the Olympic boosters also, just, dumped a lot of the remaining nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean. And the greenwashing, too, because, at the same time that was going on, you know, the Olympic organizers were continually promising, like, "These are the most green Olympics ever!" using like endangered rainforest wood to build new stadiums. 

So keeping in mind too, with Fukushima, that displacement is a big part of that too, right? Because, again, the people who... who were displaced, who are, kind of, in this limbo of not-knowing, like, where they were going to go, if they could come back, when they would be able to come back, and then people who didn't leave, who were staying, but who, you know, don't have the homes that they had, but don't really have anywhere else to go.

So, Fukushima was one big thing, and then, Tokyo organizers, who, again, you know, are led by folks who are unhoused. And so, part of what they were seeing was the, really, you know, accelerated policing and brutalization and, like, evictions of where they were staying. Like, police started clearing out those parks. 

And it all starts with the privatization of public space. You know, spaces where poor people are typically allowed to exist, and, you know, enjoy their lives, and eat, and, in some cases, sleep... become privatized, become spaces that are more exclusive and then therefore lead to policing. 

So as the Olympics were approaching, as these sites were becoming designated for tourist zones, police started coming in and really cracking down on poor folks who were staying there. There were a lot of, like, media headlines about some individuals whose homes were demolished and who were displaced for both the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 2020 Olympics.

But pretty much every single one of those articles missed, that, we didn't really get to dig into until we were in Tokyo, was, that, it's specifically because those people live in public housing. It's because... and that's something we see in every Olympics too, including in LA: it's always... the people who are displaced in the types of housing that are targeted for demolition, in order to make way for Olympic development, are the housing that the most poor people live in.

It's public housing in Tokyo, it's Skid Row in Los Angeles, it's in South Central LA in Los Angeles, it's the Favelas in Rio. So, those were the issues that... that folks in Tokyo are grappling with. 

They also... something that was interesting to see, like, the... there was a big, sort of, like, uproar, I think, last year, when they were talking about allowing the use of Japan's Imperial flag in the Olympics.

So, kind of, the, you know, the role that, like, nationalism and imperialism play in these games and heightening those sentiments, a lot of people were really concerned about. And that's obviously something to be concerned about here as well, as, you know, we've seen such a really sharp rise in right wing nationalism, and how these types of events can really heighten that.

You know, and those continue to be concerns in Tokyo, along with the pandemic, like, how is the pandemic accelerating and heightening those. In the same way, in the U S, it's, like, you know, there's the pandemic, but it's, which is, you know, a new thing, but a lot of the specific harms of the pandemic in the United States and, you know, in the city that I live in, los Angeles, for example, it's like, it's just accelerating and heightening the inequality that existed.

Olympic racism is being exposed - By Any Means Necessary - Air Date 7-6-21

SEAN BLACKMON - HOST, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: [00:56:01] I wanted to touch on this issue about Namibian female athletes being disqualified from the Olympics in Tokyo due to naturally high testosterone levels, and I'm speaking specifically of an eighteen-year-old sprinters, Beatrice Masilingi and Christine Mboma who, again, we're basically told her their natural testosterone levels were too high and that they must take medication to reduce them to be able to compete in the middle distance races, which is pretty wild.

So now they're being told that basically they have to throw a monkey wrench in their body's natural chemistry to run in this race. And this, honestly to me, is what a lot of people were saying was going to happen when this whole issue of testosterone and female athletes came up, because at least to me, it seemed like a pretty obvious way to try to discriminate against a transgender athlete, specifically trans women athletes, but people were ringing the alarm at that time saying that this would reflect on cis-gender athletes as well, and just lead to a whole bunch of problems. And Karleigh, just feels like we're starting to see that here. 

KARLEIGH WEBB: [00:57:07] We've been seeing it. This is another application of the Caster Semenya rule, that's what this is. And it's really sad because this is where you're really throwing a monkey wrench in is actually going to be a lot of ratings points in viewership numbers, because right now, especially in the 400 meters and the 800 meters, and that's what's really interesting about this, the two longest standing records and women's track and field, and now you have a young generation of talent such as Mboma, Masilingi, also [inaudible] of the United States, and it'll be very interesting, I'm going to be getting to touch on that in a few minutes cause it's important that we mentioned her name as well. 

They're 18 years old and Masilingi is running a 49.5, Mboma is running a 48.54. That's less than a second off the world record that's been since 1985, and she's only at the beginning of even learning how to run yet. Now add say Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin to the mix, get them off the hurdles and get them in the open quarter, and you have a combination of factors that can really make that event a marquee event. It can take down a longstanding world record very soon. This is some young talent, but again, this goes back to world athletics trying to decide, in many ways, what defines womanhood, who defines womanhood. 

There's many different factors that are going into play here. Race is a factor don't let anyone tell you different. Race is a factor here, because under this DSD role, the vast majority of athletes who have been picked under this rule, since world athletics implemented it in 2009, have either been Sub-Saharan Black Africans or south Asian people.In other worlds, Black and Brown people.

I've said this often, if Caster Semenya was a white American girl went to the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, the stuff she has gone through, doesn't go down like that. And the thing that most likely these two young women are going through, and what the rest of the podium in the 800 meters at Rio in 2016 have had to go through in terms of testing, gender verification. [Inaudible] at the Human Rights Council are calling human rights violations [inaudible], telling the UN to get in on this issue.

These things are continuing to happen, and this plus all the other things that are happening are giving people the idea that maybe the Olympics really doesn't like Black women, and the optics on this are just bad. And Lord Sebastian Coe, you need to realize the optics on this are horrible. It's bad optics and it's bad policy, and it has to be rethought across the board. It has to be rethought for these two, it should be read thought forCaster Semenya. And another thing is, when you are forced to rethink the policy in the case of 50 Chinese who will qualify for her second Olympics and will be allowed to run, the optics on this are just bad. 

Even the speculation over why you even put this rule in, and remember this rule, these changes in testosterone limits are only applicable to races 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,500 meters, and one mile—certain events, that's why I call it the Caster Semenya rule. It was specifically to try and blunt her dominance at 800 meters, and now you're seeing the blow back. And again, the optics on this are just bad. And it's claiming into the idea that maybe the Olympics is... it's playing into a lot of anti-Blackness on the part of the IOC and world athletics. And Lord Coe, come on, take the blinders off buddy, this is not a good look. 

JACQUIE LUQMAN - HOST, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: [01:00:43] Yeah, and this testosterone rule is not the only place in the Olympics and their rules where the optics are bad. It's even being reflected in, obviously, the response to Sha’Carri Richardson and being disqualified for violating the anti-doping policy for testing positive for marijuana, a drug that has been decriminalized in most US states, so she won't be running in the 100 meter dash. And it's crazy that if the Olympic committee said that THC is a performance enhancing drug, but if she had THC in her system and she still blew away the rest of the competition, goodness, that's ridiculous. 

But then, there's also this issue of swim caps for Black hair in particular that are now being banned at the Olympics, because according to the International Swimming Federation, they don't fit the natural head shape. I think the Olympics and the white supremacy in sports, Karleigh, is really being exposed at this moment in particular, again, through Olympic history, and I'm wondering how you seeing all of this through the lens of, if the Olympics are going to change any of these rules because of the massive blow back they're getting. 

KARLEIGH WEBB: [01:02:06] Well, in the case of SOUL CAP, it was reported at the BBC this morning that FINA, the world governing body for aquatic athletics, reached out to the creators of SOUL CAP, Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed-Salawudeen, and they said we need to sit down and talk and we need to take a second look at this because of the backlash that FINA has received worldwide over this issue. There was an athlete, Alice Dearing, who used the SOUL CAP in competition. In fact, she is the first Black woman to represent team GB in swimming at Olympics ever. She's in the ten kilometer long distance, open water swim later this month.

So, they are maybe walking that back, but again, it goes to a lot [inaudible], but this is, at the same time, a lot of people think this is all relatively new when it's really not. This is Olympic history just coming back, and for those who don't remember their history get condemned to repeat it, and right now it's Lord Sebastian Coe, the head of world athletics, then it was Avery Brundage. And Avery Brundage in many ways as the genesis of a lot of the gender verification schemes you've seen in the Olympics for the last almost 100 years. Brundage openly felt that most women who were great athletes were actually men. That was something that Brundage, in his heart of hearts believed, in addition to being a racist and anti-Semite. As a Nazi, sympathizer is also very much a raging sexist. 

And we've seen that developing to the naked parades in the 1960s, where they literally took women, they questioned about their gender and actually strip them naked to do a full genital inspection. Then, later, there was the chromosome testing, which was added by the IOC in 1999, which is now being brought back through the back door in terms of things such as the testosterone regulations and all the secret testing that goes into that, i.e. the process that Caster Semenya had to go through. [inaudible] Caster was being told you can't talk about. 

All these things are coming to a head, along with things such as the SOUL CAP issue, which I think is a... it's silly on the part of the FINA to even say things such as it doesn't fit the natural form of the head. Do they realize what they're saying, when they say this stuff? That's the whiteness. That's that is the whiteness right there. And that's what a lot of people reading into. And that's where a lot of these regulations are reading into. And again, Jacquie,meantit's Olympic history.

The Olympics were meant, at the beginning, to be a sport festival that was created by the gentleman classes of  the world. When Baron de Coubertin first thought about the modern revival of the Olympics, leading up to 1896 and forward, the thought was this is for the gentlemen class, i.e. the elite class, which is largely white, somewhat semi-monarchal, and Euopean. There was no idea that there would be African/Asian countries, Latin American countries. These things were not even factored into what they could get, and this was another body and another system that weren't necessarily built for us, but the world changed, the world grew, the world developed, and now, like it or not. 

There was only 14 nations at the first revival of the modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, there were 206 nations in Rio, five years ago. There will be 206 nations plus a refugee team in Japan coming in about three weeks time. So we've seen those changes and unfortunately the Olympic movement still has remained archaic and not really moved much from the days of Avery Brundage, and now it's 2021 and it is time for the Olympics to join the 21st century.

Summary

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:05:55] We've just heard clips today, starting with CNBC laying out the history of ballooning costs of the Olympic games. Today, Explained explained the pandemic concerns and ultimate decision to ignore the dangers for the sake of corporate profit. Citations Needed highlighted the pattern of public funding of private profit ventures. The Majority Report looked at the role of elites in the Olympic committee, with motivation to maintain the status quo for themselves. Time's Top Stories laid out the absurdity of the suspension of Sha'Carri Richardson, while All In with Chris Hayes highlighted the human aspect of the Richardson suspension. TYT Sports explained the dynamics of athletes being banned from using their platform to protest during the Olympics. And Burn It All Down spoke with a no-Olympics activist about why the reasons to stop the Olympics predate the pandemic by a wide margin. 

That's what everyone heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from By All Means Necessary, looking at multiple aspects of racism that continue to show through the cracks in the Olympic facade. 

To hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at BestoftheLeft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked. 

And now, we'll hear from you.

Names - Alyson from Boulder, CO

VOICEDMAILER: ALYSON FROM BOULDER: [01:07:20] Hi Jay,

This is Alyson from Boulder. I have a little sort of related piece about pronunciation of names. My last name has four letters but still most people can’t spell or pronounce it correctly. It is an uncommon Irish name. However, it doesn’t bother me when people mispronounce it. I have no problem correcting people. 

My problem stems from when people know I have disabilities. My name is already hard for them to deal with, so they will sometimes argue with me that my own pronunciation is wrong. My second grade school year was the biggest nightmare of my entire life because I corrected the teacher on the pronunciation of my name and she was so offended by a disabled kid correcting her that she targeted me for abuse for the rest of the entire year. I was kept in from lunch and recess almost everyday and constantly humiliated. I’m sure it would’ve happened anyway, this is common treatment for students with disabilities, but because my name was the catalyst, I have pretty extreme triggers around that.

I know this isn’t the same as what people of color go through, but in a way it has a similar invalidating effect. When someone tells you your name is too hard to pronounce and they shouldn’t have to try, or when they correct you on your own pronunciation of your name, that is a major display of privilege and basically says they have more power over our identity than we do.

Our names are very personal to us in ways that some people who haven’t experienced oppression may not completely understand.

Thanks for the awesome show!

Final comments on why we all, including Sha'Carri Richardson, are victims of White Supremacy

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:08:37] Thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as a VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at 202 999 3991, or write me on message to [email protected]

Now, to wrap up today, I want to put a little bit of a finer point on the Sha'Carri Richardson story. What you didn't hear in today's show was a big analysis of race disparities: for that story in particular, or a comparison between Sha'C’Carri Richardson's treatment and Michael Phelps's treatment, and you may have even seen that come across your social media feeds... of course, hot takes went viral first, to the point that they actually needed to be fact checked. 

So, to give a quick summary  on how they were fact checked, people began writing,  "Oh, so Sha’Carri Richardson, a Black woman, is being suspended for smoking pot [with, as a side note, all these extenuating circumstances], and yet Michael Phelps, didn't he smoke some pot a few years  ago, but he still got to compete in the Olympics, what's up  with that?" The implication being pretty obvious. And, the fact checking on that is that, it's a lot messier than simple racial disparity. 

The first is timing, and the second is testing. So, to start with the second, Michael Phelps, didn't actually test positive for THC and the second, with timing, it didn't happen right before the Olympics. If it had, if he had tested positive and it had been before the Olympics, we could hope and presume that he would have gotten a very similar suspension. 

As it played out, he just had a picture taken of him smoking pot; it wasn't right before the  Olympics so the suspension, had it kicked in, wouldn't have affected his Olympics anyway. So he just ended up losing some sponsorship deals. That's how that played out. 

With a very cursory, surface level analysis, many may think then, "Well, okay. Race wasn't a factor. We don't have to think about it anymore. Any accusations of race being involved in this story whatsoever should be shunted aside and possibly ridiculed." 

That is not what I'm going to do. I actually want to use this as an example of how, in a very messy, complicated, and nuanced way, racism and the legacy of white supremacy continues to reach into the present from the past, impact people of color, disproportionately, yes, but impact everyone negatively. 

So, perhaps race had absolutely no bearing on the Sha’Carri Richardson suspension, let's assume that's the case. Well, it turns out that White supremacy is still at the heart of her suspension because that is the only reason that marijuana was made illegal in the first place and continues to be so. 

To illustrate this, I have a bonus clip for you from none other than that liberal rag, Business Insider.

The Racist Origins of Marijuana Prohibition - Business Insider - Air Date 3-1-18

NARRATOR: [01:11:50] Weird orgies. Wild parties. Roots in hell. How did marijuana get such a bad rap? The answer is simple... Racism.

As early as the 1800s, there were no federal restrictions on the sale or possession of cannabis in the US. Hemp fiber from the plant was used to make clothes, paper, and rope. Sometimes, it was used medicinally, but as a recreational drug, it wasn't that widespread. A New York Times article from 1876 even cites the positive use of cannabis to cure a patient's "dropsy," (basically swelling from an accumulation of fluid).

In the early 1900s, an influx of Mexican immigrants came to the US, fleeing political unrest in their home country. With them, they brought the practice of smoking cannabis recreationally, and it took off. The Spanish word for the plant started to be used more often, too--marijuana. Or as it was spelled at that time, Marihuana, with an H. This is one of the more sensational headlines about the drug began to appear.

In 1936, a propaganda film called Reefer Madness was released. In the movie, teenagers smoke weed for the first time, and this leads to a series of horrific events involving hallucination, attempted rape, and murder. Much of the media portrayed it as a gateway drug 

ARCHIVAL NEWS CLIP: [01:13:23] "Marijuana, a powerful excitant produces unpredictable emotional results, but its greatest danger lies in the fact that it is a stepping stone to the harder drugs, such as morphine and heroin."

NARRATOR: [01:13:33] The Following year, in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. Cannabis sales were now taxed. Part of the reason this act was passed was because of all the fear-mongering going on at the time. 

A huge instigator of that fear-mongering was the man behind the Marijuana Tax Act, Harry Anslinger. Anslinger was named the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the prohibition era. But once the national prohibition ended in 1933 Anslinger turned his focus to marijuana. This is when racism and xenophobia really kicked in.

Harry Anslinger took the scientifically unsupported idea of marijuana as a violence inducing drug, connected it to Black and Hispanic people, and created a perfect package of terror to sell to the American media and public. By emphasizing the Spanish word "marijuana" instead of cannabis, he created a strong association between the drug and the newly arrived Mexican immigrants who helped popularize it in the states.

He also created a narrative around the idea that cannabis made Black people forget their place in society. He pushed the idea that jazz was evil music created by people under the influence of marijuana. 

But these racist ideas didn't just influence the media's portrayal or the public's perception of the drug. The discrimination they encouraged was evident in real numbers. In the first full year after the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, Black people were about three times more likely to be arrested for violating narcotic drug laws than Whites, and Mexicans were nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for the same charge.

In 1952, the Boggs Act was passed. This made sentencing for drug convictions mandatory. A first offense for possession could land you two to five years in prison, and a fine up to $2,000. 

Through the 1960s and 70s weed smoking took on a new perception through the counterculture movement. Young White people resisted mainstream culture and powerful institutions. This was the era of hippies, beatniks, and flower power. But despite all the peace and love, laws continued to emphasize the severity of the drug. 

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, passed under President Nixon, repealed the Marijuana Tax Act and instead made cannabis a Schedule I drug, the most serious class. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse and addiction, with no medical use. Other examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug has been highly debated since then. 

JOHN OLIVER: [01:16:21] Marijuana is not a Schedule I any more than a hedgehog is an apex predator.

NARRATOR: [01:16:25] To this day it remains in that category, and criminalization still disproportionately affects minority groups in the US. The ACLU reported that in 2010 Black people were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than White people, even though both groups consume marijuana at about the same rate. 

Some states have taken action to reduce this type of criminalization. Nine states and Washington DC have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and 29 states allow some form of medical marijuana. San Francisco recently dropped thousands of marijuana related convictions, and Seattle plans to do the same. But this doesn't change the federal restrictions and Attorney General, Jeff sessions seems hell-bent on enforcing those federal rules. 

JEFF SESSIONS: [01:17:14] Good people don't smoke marijuana. 

NARRATOR: [01:17:17] Kansas State Representative, Steven Alford, made a case against legalizing cannabis by referring to the racist rhetoric of the Anslinger era. 

REP. STEVEN ALFORD: [01:17:24] What you really need to do is go back in the 30s, the African Americans, they were basically users and they were basically responded the worst of those drugs just because of their character and makeup.  

NARRATOR: [01:17:43] And we're still seeing a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment. 

DONALD TRUMP: [01:17:47] They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. 

NARRATOR: [01:17:51] So while some things have changed on the state level, some politicians are sticking with the fear-mongering and racism playbook, even though Pew Research polls show that 61% of Americans now approve of nationwide legalization, up from 16%, about 30 years ago. Popular opinion suggests it's high time to reconsider federal laws.

END OF CLIP

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:18:17] So, as I said before, maybe race had no bearing whatsoever on Sha’Carri Richardson, and let's even imagine a scenario in which it was a White contestant who was suspended. That White contestant, in this hypothetical scenario, would have been the victim of a legacy of White supremacy. If you want to do a deep dive on this, I recommend one of my most recent reads, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGee. It could alternately be titled "Why Racism Means We Can't Have Nice Things." And one of the primary examples is how White people decided to deprive themselves of beautiful, well-maintained public pools because they refused to share them with Black people. And now, today, we don't have beautiful, well-maintained public pools, by and large, and it is because of the legacy of racism. 

As always keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991, or by emailing me to [email protected] That's going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support or from right inside the Apple Podcast app if that's your style. That's how you can get instant access to our impressively good bonus episodes in addition to their being extra content and no ads in all regular episodes. 

For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on our website and likely right on the device you're using to listen. So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com

 


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