An era without Olympics? Say it ain’t so. But if Rio 2016 discus champion Christoph Harting is to be believed, the Games are “slowly dying” and will be extinct by 2040, unless dramatic reforms take place.
According to an article in Inside The Games, Harting has called for the resignation of International Olympic Committee President and fellow German Thomas Bach amid fierce criticism of the organization’s response to Russia's doping crisis.
That statement comes after the IOC opted against giving Russia a blanket ban from the Rio Games in response to evidence of state-sponsored doping published in the McLaren Report. Over 1,000 Russians are thought to have been implicated in a scheme in which doping samples were manipulated and tampered with at events including the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
"Thomas Bach should resign, so that the IOC again gets a face, which stands for clean sport and consistent action," the 26-year-old told the Berliner Morgenpost. "The Olympic idea has suffered a lot of damage last year and lost its glamour and credibility. There is now a need for reforms that are transparent, comprehensible, consistent and sustainable."
Otherwise, Harting noted, there will be no Games by 2040.
While Harting’s prediction may be an overstatement (the Olympics are, after all, not only an ancient and hallowed establishment but, let’s face it, a hugely successful commercial property), it does fan the flames of disillusionment surrounding the Games. In addition to the doping issues, much has happened over the years to sully the once-impeccable reputation of the Olympics. The Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding fiasco from 1994 and the 2002 figure skating pairs judging scandal are only two examples of times where drama has overshadowed the actual competition and soured the public’s view. The almost weekly crises leading up to the Games in Rio were a side show in themselves.
The Games are also becoming known as a less than desirable piece of business. Cities that once jockeyed for position to host are now backing away from the table, deterred by the enormous costs and inconvenience. In fact, organizations exist for the sole purpose of teaching citizens how to vote against hosting. Still other destinations, seeing formerly glorious Olympic venues now going to waste, are disinclined to bid and have to build them.
To counter the problems, the IOC has launched its Olympic Agenda 2020, meant to help revamp the ideals of the Games and make them more appealing and accessible – as well as ecologically and financially sound.
It’s hard to tell whether this effort is too little, too late. Obviously, Christoph Harting thinks the Games are in crisis now and need an immediate overhaul – something that does not sit well with Thomas Bach.
"It is an unacceptable lapse to insult someone who is not of the same opinion as you in such a manner," he told Germany's DPA news agency.
Count on this war of words to continue. As for the Games themselves, count on the debate over them to rage as well.