Going for the (Taxpayers') Gold: The Olympic Games Have Produced a Gold Rush of Federal Subsidies -- and Some of the Nation's Wealthiest Corporate Leaders Are among the Biggest Winners. (Olympics)

Article excerpt

The Olympic torch will have passed through 46 states and 80 cities by the completion of its 13,500-mile odyssey to Salt Lake city for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The familiar Olympic ritual has a special resonance for Americans this year, as the torchbearers include family members and friends of those who perished in the Black Tuesday atrocity.

"Our nation is in prayer," intoned Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC), insisting that the torch has become "a symbol of the heroes of our community, those who lost their lives and their loved ones." But Romney, like many others, sees the Olympic flame as the emblem of a larger ideal that "binds each of us to the family of mankind." Billy Payne, president of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, praised the torch's symbolism even more effusively than Romney: "This precious, magical flame can illuminate us all with its hope of a brighter future. In its light, you can see the promise of a world united, not divided."

Taken at face value the Olympics seem to embody the vision expressed by 19th-century British political leader Richard Cobden: "Peace will come to this world when her peoples have as much as possible to do with each other, their governments the least possible." Unfortunately, the U.S. Olympic movement has fallen prey to government intervention, a fact usefully illustrated by the estimated taxpayer price tag of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics -- $1.3 billion and rising, according to a General Accounting Office report.

Following a lengthy investigation of federal subsidies to the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, the December 10, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated reported that the estimated total is more than one and a half times the amount "spent by lawmakers to support all seven Olympic Games held in the U.S. since 1904--combined. In inflation-adjusted dollars." SLOC President Romney acknowledges the dominant role played by federal subsidies in the Winter Olympics: "We couldn't have done it without them. These are America's Games."

While the Games may belong, in some ethereal sense, to America, only a handful of well-connected political and corporate elites will enjoy the tangible benefits produced by the mammoth federal subsidies. Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, using an increasingly popular euphemism, called the Utah Winter Games "a public-private partnership." A more accurate description would be corporate socialism -- a variant of the economic formula pioneered in Mussolini's Fascist Italy. Through government intervention, investments are subsidized, risks and losses are socialized, and profits are privatized. At the center of this process is the so-called "Olympic Family," led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- a body whose arrogance and corruption are truly Olympian in scale.

The "Olympic Family"

In December 1998, the IOC commemorated the 50th anniversary of the UN's so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Speaking on that occasion, IOC member Judge Mbaye declared: "Sport is both an individual and collective right, the foundation of which is the same as that of human rights, namely humanism."

Like those who work on behalf of the United Nations -- the world's other great venture in globalist humanism -- the 116-member IOC depicts itself as a group of international civil servants working selflessly on behalf of noble ideals. Like the UN, the IOC largely depends on American generosity to survive. In his book The Great Olympic Swindle, British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings points out that "more than half of the IOC's budget comes from U.S. tax breaks, American television companies and sponsors." And like the UN, the IOC exemplifies a "culture of corruption": IOC members have used their position to extract money, gifts, and other favors from civic officials desperate to win the Games for their cities. The seamy underside of the Olympic movement was brought to public attention in 1997 when it was revealed that the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) had lavished bribes and other inducements upon JOG members prior to winning the 2002 Games. …