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 #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. Linda writes extensively about how youth sports can hijack families, and family outings, non-sports activities and bonding time are lost in the pursuit of the next club team game or travel tournament.
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Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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