Are the Olympics fair?

Are the Olympics fair? A look at the disparity of the various nations, from the rich to the poor, and how that directly impacts the competing athletes

By Ray Hanania

I know that the Olympics are probably as political as a Chicago election. It’s not just about talent. It’s about who you know that gets athletes onto Team USA.

It’s even worse in other countries.

But I have a higher conscience that I just can’t abandon.

This year, 205 nations sent athletes to the Olympics. But the battle for Gold comes down to a handful, the richest, the most powerful and the most influential: The United States. Russia, China, Great Britain. Canada, France, and most of the European countries and a few of the Asian countries, including Japan.

So far (as of August 13), athletes from only 65 countries won medals. The top 10 were America, China, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Russia, Australia, Italy, South Korea and France.

In 2012, the Top 10 medal winners were America, China, Great Britain, Russia, South Korea, Germany, France, Australia, Italy and Hungary.


Of the 205 nations competing in 2012, athletes from only 89 countries won medals. The balance is skewered. The richest and wealthiest nations win the most, and the poorest and oppressed winning one (18 countries) in 2012, or none at all, out of a total of 961 won in 2012.

This year, maybe 110 of the poorest nations will win nothing.

There’s something wrong with all that.

Sports and athletic competition is about talent first. But it is also about opportunity and training. You have to be a great athlete to win Gold, but the truth is that when everyone is “rah rah-ing” you, it does make it easier to win that Gold. It builds confidence and puts pressure on others.

The media is in that “confidence game,” an appropriate description if you ask me. But the majority of athletes from a majority of countries don’t have the same opportunities to train and practice because their governments can barely find enough money to feed their people let alone build an Olympic size swimming pool or track.

The Olympics generate a lot of money and I think they should be spending most of that money on helping athletes get a chance to compete on an even and fair playing field.

I’m glad America leads in the Olympics nearly every year. But winning 103 medals while most other countries barely win 1 seems a little unfair. And I wonder about the real value of those “wins” when the people you are competing against are so out of your league.

I don’t have the answers but I do know that in today’s world, people are concerned about the environment in which they live and the systems that manage their lives.

In today’s presidential elections, for example, one of the driving issues is the issue of breaking the chokehold insiders have on the system.

I think a win would mean a lot more if it were won by athletes who competed against other athletes who had the same opportunities to train.

But then again, that’s me. When everyone is walking in step together, I stop and force myself to be out of step so I can understand the “why” of the people around me.

As a writer/columnist, I’m not here to “create disorder,” but to quote the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, I am here to “preserve dis-order.” That’s my job and I am sticking to it!

If by some magic my writings get you to think or expand your understanding of an issue, I feel like I have achieved “dis-agreement.” Kind of like a poor nation just happy to be in the Olympics at all.

ON A SIDE NOTE: the Ryan Lochte affair is disturbing. It was shocking when Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte told the world that he and at least one other swimmer had been robbed by Brazilian thugs waving guns and pointing one at his head to steal their money.

But we soon learned that Lochte was lying, even though he refuses to call it a lie. Lochte, desperate to save his Gold Medal career, said it was a “mistake” and that he simply “over-exaggerated.”

Serious questions remain about what happened.

Rio police provided a video that showed Lochte was in fact lying. They said the athletes were drunk and had vandalized a gas station. Security guards at the gas station tried to confront Lochte and his fellow vandals and that became the basis for Lochte’s outrageous lie that a thug had pointed a gun to his head to extort him for money.

What do you make of spoiled brats with so much celebrity and worldwide attention?

They had the world in the palm of their hands, but somehow that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to have been pampered by the International Olympic Committee and Team USA as athletic stars with the best training and the best opportunities.

They have to go to a Third World country and act disgraceful.

The lying was not enough, though. It’s all arrogance, now. The fact that Lochte refuses to acknowledge that he lied and made up his story is even more shameful.

He should be stripped of his Gold Medals. Instead of bringing honor to America, Lochte has just brought unnecessary shame.

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(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. Email him at

Categories: Baby Boomers, General Topics, US & National Politics

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