But aren’t the Olympics a wonderful venue for young, talented athletes who have spent years honing their skills? As the hilariously prescient, satirical video-podcast “Ultra Spiritual Life” noted about athletes at the Rio Olympics, “I’m grateful that this 15-year-old girl had parents who were emotionally abusive enough to live through her. Nine hours of training every day since she was 3 years old equals trauma in her psyche, stress fractures in her legs, but it equals national pride for me.” Stories about young children in China being trained for the 2012 Olympics revealed a shocking level of brutality meted out for the national pride of winning a gold medal. Additionally, the financial burden of training for the Olympics, particularly in countries like the U.S., which does not provide subsidies for athletes’ families, is huge and often leads to bankruptcy. Even heartwarming stories of underdogs winning Olympic medals are not worth the price of the games. The story of a young Afro-Brazilian girl, Rafaela Silva, who hails from the famed City of God favela and won a gold medal, provided just the “inspiration” fodder that many people, including liberals, like to tout. But Silva’s story plays right into the neoliberal myth of individual success being possible for anyone who simply works hard enough. What about the broader community from which Silva emerged? Brazil’s favelas are among the most dangerous places for children to grow up, rife with poverty, drugs and violence, and Silva’s story has no practical, positive bearing on them. In fact, the Olympics only ensure that the state will spend years paying off the debt of hosting the games rather than spending the money on the welfare of its residents. Are the games really worth the collective and individual sacrifice that so many communities and legions of people pay? Ultimately, the Olympics, like most global sporting events (such as World Cup soccer), distract us from the real work of solving societal ills, divert far too many resources away from human needs and amplify nationalist fervor and existing divides. All in the service of athletes vying for medals and millions of spectators who wrap themselves in flags while cheering them on. Your support matters…

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