Athens 2004: Where’s the critical coverage?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Society
August 8th, 2004 • 10:34 pm

Unlike billions of people on this planet, I have next to no interest in the Olympics. To me, the whole thing has been irreparably tarnished by doping issues and commercialism.

What I find really disappointing, however, is the abysmal media coverage. Yesterday evening, for example, the BBC News reports on BBC World praised Athens for miraculously living up to its promises and finishing the construction and preparations on time — after all the concerns about things being so late. When the reporter concluded by saying that he could sense the excitement building now, it rang horribly hollow, especially in light of the fact that they still haven’t sold more than half of the millions of tickets that were issued for the games.

What I felt like asking was: “Yeah, the construction work may have completed at last, but how many construction workers died from exhaustion in the process?” I had little doubt that the Greeks would be able to finish construction on time; they simply couldn’t afford not to. But a real report by a real journalist would have attempted to find out exactly how they did it, at what cost — and not stupidly marvel at the fact that they did pull it off after all.

Of course, I suspect that the BBC is one of the many channels that will provide extensive coverage of the games — so they have no interest in casting a critical eye on them.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times has an article on “the most significant doping scandal in U.S. Olympic history” that has tainted the entire US delegation heading to Athens.

But who’s paying attention? There’s simply too much money at stake, and too little critical coverage in the mainstream media. These atheletes will still be applauded, people will still get excited — even though everyone knows very well that most of the top athletes, especially in the high-profile disciplines, can be at the very least suspected of taking or having taken drugs. It’s the same thing as with the Tour de France in cycling.

Of course, you could probably argue that, since everyone is taking drugs, that creates a level playing field again. But is this really what sports are about? Watching doped-up so-called athletes trying to pretend that they have got there through sheer force of will and physical strength?

I have no miracle solution. But I find that the absurdity of the whole thing and the hypocrisy of the media coverage are simply too much.

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