Ongoing sporting controversies – such as the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympics, or the broader question of trans-athlete participation – make me realise how stagnant, traditionalist and outright flawed our sports world is. Band-aid solutions for an outdated construct that screams to be overhauled can do little good; instead, they help to maintain a corrupt system.
For years, waiting for the Olympic ice skating broadcast was a nail-biter. I idolised the athletes and idealised the competition; I imagined myself being like them, being them, gliding, pirouetting, sacrificing everything for a chance to win – in fact, despite everything I know today, I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. The rivalries of Yagudin vs. Plushenko, or Kwan vs. Lipinski, were more fascinating than any fiction could ever be. What I saw on the tv screen – the pure human emotions, the incredible athleticism, and the glory associated with representing one’s country – shaped my perception of the Olympics and of elite sport more broadly. Through an ingenious mix of old-style propaganda and some cutting-edge marketing, the IOC managed to pull wool over my eyes in the same way it manages to do so for billions of spectators, and god knows how many Olympic hopefuls.