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 #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. He previously covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for The Athletic. His new book is titled “How to Beat a Broken Game: The Rise of the Dodgers in a League on the Brink.” We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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