By Ken Reed
The Winter Olympics kick off on Friday in Beijing with the Opening Ceremony. In my experience, this is the least excitement and build-up I’ve ever seen for an Olympic Games – winter or summer.
Maybe it’s the Covid cloud that hangs over all sporting events these days: Will the Games be cancelled? How many athletes will get Covid during the Games? Will entire teams be quarantined? Etc.
Maybe it’s the repressive Chinese government’s human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.
Maybe it’s the Peng Shuai incident in which the WTA tennis player accused China’s former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her, followed by the Chinese government blocking the topic on its internet system.
It’s probably some of all those things. And rightfully so.
There’s so much baggage with the Olympic Games. The word “Olympics” triggers memories of not only amazing athletic performances, inspirational displays of courage and outstanding acts of sportsmanship, but also cheating scandals, nationalism, violence and over-commercialization.
The modern Olympics were established in 1896 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin to bring the world’s nations together in the “spirit of unity, peace, communication and cooperation.” In the more than 125 years since, the Olympics have probably failed at that mission more than succeeded.
There has been plenty of ugliness throughout Olympic history.
From Hitler’s use of the 1936 Berlin Olympics to tout the virtues of Nazism and white supremacy, to political boycotts, to terrorism at the Munich Games in 1972, to performance-enhancing drugs scandals and crooked judging, to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding disgrace.
And you can add to that list the disgusting graft in Olympic site selection and construction.
Nevertheless, the Olympics are filled with terrific athletic drama and never seem to fail to inspire the human spirit in each of us. Despite the gunk that infiltrates the modern Olympic Games, every couple years they still show us what human beings are capable of. And not just in terms of athletic achievement but via great examples of unity, intercountry and interfaith communication and sportsmanship.
We’ve also seen powerful moments of calls for social justice, such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in protest on the medal platform in Mexico City.
These Games will likely bring us examples of the human condition at its worst and best. And I think it’s important to not ignore either case. For it’s possible to call out — and shine the spotlight on — all the negatives surrounding these Beijing Games and still enjoy the many positives brought to us courteous of participants who not only have great athletic ability but in many cases great character too.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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