Tag Archives: Olympics

A Move Against Olympic Terror

The Obama Administration has levied sanctions against Abdul Haq (not to be confused with this Abdul Haq), who attempted to launch terrorist attacks during the Beijing Games:

The Treasury Department’s target was Abdul Haq, head of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party. The action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States belonging to him must be frozen. Americans also are barred from doing business with Haq, who is Chinese.

With that off the docket, Obama can now focus on forging a non-proliferation treaty with Lehman Brothers.

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Jay-Z on Phelps

Rapper/Nets minority partner Jay-Z sounds off on the semi-recent Michael Phelps/doobage tempest in a teapot:

“You look at all these people who graduated from Princeton and Harvard, who are supposed to be pillars of the community – every day [they’re] in the newspaper arrested for some kind of financial fraud,” the New York Daily News quoted him as telling told Cigar Aficionado magazine.

“Then you look at someone like Michael Phelps. He’s 23. What’s he gonna do? He’s a kid. He’s going to experiment,” he added.

The last part of his quote rings especially true. Phelps is young, rich, and famous. That he smokes weed–once, twice, on occasion, with tidal regularity, whatever–should be neither surprising nor a source of outrage. This whole nonsense reached a nadir when Matt Lauer solemnly tsk-tsked Phelps, and then Kellog’s dropped him as a sponsor. More recently, Usain Bolt learned the costs of offending Puritan sensibilities. If nothing else, it’s absurd that Phelps’ pot-smoking generated more outrage than his 2004 arrest for DUI.

I just wish that some interviewer, in the course of Phelps’ penitential media tour, had asked him, “Isn’t all of this really f***ing stupid?”

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Olympic Bid Update

News from the four finalists angling to host the 2016 Summer Olympics:

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The Humiliation of Taiwan

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When you see Taiwan competing in international events like the Olympics or the World Baseball Classic, you’ll notice it goes by the moniker “Chinese Taipei” and its athletes stand for the Chinese national anthem. This isn’t by choice, as “Uncle Popov” reminds us in an excellent piece at the Bleacher Report.

Depending on whom you ask, Taiwan is either a free country, part of an archipelago called the Republic of China (distinct from the People’s Republic of China), the rightful rulers of mainland China (a fairly wacky stance), a client state of China, or the rightful inheritance of the People’s Republic. Obviously, China believes–illegitimately–that it has claim to Taiwan, and because China is more powerful and wields more influence, that’s the global consensus today.

Indeed, most of the world doesn’t recognize Taiwanese sovereignty, and international sports governing bodies–never known for their testicular fortitude when it comes to standing up to the People’s Republic–almost always follow suit. That’s led to some controversy and resistance.

For example, leading up to the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, then U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) blasted MLB for bowing to Chinese pressure and forcing the Taiwanese to compete under the “Chinese Taipei” name, which they’re known by in IOC and even World Trade Organization circles. Tancredo’s efforts, of course, came to grief.

As petty as it sounds, any change in WBC or Olympic policy would be seen by the Chinese as an international incident. Over here? Hell, the governor of Texas can daydream about high treason, and we don’t sweat it too much.

Anyhow, things aren’t likely to change. It would be nice, though, if at the very least journalists and commentators covering these events would make a point of saying/writing “Taiwan” loudly and proudly at every chance.

Baby steps, as they say.

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Olympics Econ

Touting the economic benefits of hosting the Olympics is s.o.p. for any city aspring to lure the Games. But a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research throws some cold water on those claims:

Using a variety of trade models, we show that hosting a mega-event like the Olympics has a positive impact on national exports. This effect is statistically robust, permanent, and large; trade is around 30% higher for countries that have hosted the Olympics. Interestingly however, we also find that unsuccessful bids to host the Olympics have a similar positive impact on exports. We conclude that the Olympic effect on trade is attributable to the signal a country sends when bidding to host the games, rather than the act of actually holding a mega-event. We develop a political economy model that formalizes this idea, and derives the conditions under which a signal like this is used by countries wishing to liberalize.

Another money quote from the study’s authors:

Much of the spending on the event by local citizens is a substitute from a different leisure activity or consumption good, rather than true additional spending. Moreover, the projects associated with the games typically seem to be white elephants, such as poorly-used sporting facilities associated with idiosyncratic Olympic sports, or hotels and transportation infrastructure built to accommodate a one-time peak demand of just three weeks.

Here in Chicago, we’ve been assaulted with such specious arguments. Of course, sports fans are accustomed to all of this–it’s really the “build us a new taxpayer-funded stadium and behold the economic growth that follows!” trope writ large. Not surprisingly, it’s just as false.

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Chicago’s Big Day

Today is the day that members of the IOC will tour Chicago and determine its suitability for hosting the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago will spend roughly $50 million on seducing the IOC, and today marks the “champagne on ice and Barry White CD” stage of that seduction.

The City will cut on the fountains two weeks early, charm the delegation with newly planted flowers, and sell their visitors on the promise of a “green” Olympics. The IOC decision-makers will eat world-class grub and be whisked over streets that–miracle of miracles–have no potholes (without any help from KFC!). Heck, Mayor Daley, in his best Dear Leader fashion, is even encouraging rank-and-file Chicagoans to make signs showing their support for the City’s bid.

Indeed, with the promise of President Obama’s involvement when the final decision is made in October and with the reassurances of IOC president Jacques Rogge, it appears Chicago’s star is on the rise. Ultimately, it may come down to the IOC’s desire to place the Games within the powerful and far-reaching American media market. Tokyo can compete in this regard, particularly after the ratings successes of the Beijing Games. Then again, will the IOC put the Summer Games once again in the Orient when the U.S. hasn’t hosted since Atlanta in 1996?

In any event, this Chicago resident says, “Vive le Somewhere Else!” Perhaps I’ll make a sign.

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Demise of the Activist-Athlete

A thought-provoking quote from Celtics guard Ray Allen on LeBron James:

“Mike (Michael Jordan) paved the way for all of us to open up the endorsement door. But the one thing that Mike never was is political. I think in today’s era, the NBA player has an even greater podium if he chooses to use it. And with Barack Obama being the first black president, it’s a great forum. I think that would separate him from anybody who’s done this. … It’s great to be a basketball player, but to transcend sports is a big responsibility. If he were able to pull that off — if he wants to pull that off — I think that would set him apart.”

Jordan was, of course, famously apolitical. Whether it was his perhaps apocryphal remark that “Republicans buy shoes, too” or his refusal to endorse the black challenger to Jesse Helms’ North Carolina senate seat, Jordan chose to remain above the fray. In my view, this is merely a personal choice and not a moral failing (although I’m critical of Jordan’s silence on Helms).

Famous athletes, as far as I’m concerned, are obligated to obey the law and be charitable. (And I mean charity in the genuine sense, not in the “sham foundation” sense or the “coerced by Frank McCourt” sense.) It’s not incumbent upon them to be politically active.

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