The (Non) Mirror of the Olympic Games


Author’s Note: This was written in February 2015 for a course over the history of the Olympic Games. The paper below was a proposition paper where we had to analyze both sides of a situation and then give our own personal opinion. In honor of the upcoming 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, I wanted to share two papers from my undergrad career that sheds some light on how the Games, in my opinion, are not a mirror of the World and are NOT benefical. Read my paper below, refer to the resources cited below, and share your own opinions on it. 

Greek mythology states that the idea of fire, in essence knowledge, was given to humankind by Prometheus (Prometheus, 2013). The flame introduced humankind to the revelations of life which upset Zeus and the Greek Gods. Prometheus was punished by Zeus by being chained to a rock where birds would eat from his liver on daily basis as it would form a new each day due to his immortality. This idea of revolution against political leaders enables the history of the Olympic Games to embrace hope and perseverance that can evolve into the idea of being an equal to the Olympic Gods as seen by Prometheus’ revolt. The flame that is introduced at the ceremonies of the Olympic Games pays homage to this act which influences the ways in which the Olympic Games are recognized. In summary, the flame that Prometheus stole is a symbol to the world (and athletes) of today’s Olympic Games to pay honor and respect to the man who wanted to educate all peoples where education was once controlled. The flame begins from Athens playing tribute to the Greek Gods and Prometheus and through the Games, the flame is center stage to where everyone can see the flame throughout the Olympic Park that continue to burn for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tomlinson, 2005).

To be an Olympian, one would have to encompass the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Olympic Charter revised in 2013. The Charter holds seven fundamental principles that are made to embrace all the ideals of the Games. One can research the charter for themselves; however, it is interesting to note the first principle as quoted from the Olympic Charter (2013):  Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles (p. 11).  

This ideology implies that every athlete be willing to have a new philosophy that helps spread the values of the IOC and what they continue to perpetuate their own self-interests which will be discussed momentarily. For now, this principle instills that anyone who wants to be an Olympian be able to bring sport, culture, education, social responsibility, and ethics into a balance of pursuing the gold as the athletes participate in the Olympic Games. This symbol of sportsmanship is guaranteed for any athlete who wishes to participate in the Olympic Movement as “belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC” (Olympic Charter, 2013, p. 12). In hindsight, this may be good for athletes to be able to be recognized by the IOC as the IOC owns and sells the rights to broadcast, endorse, and produce anything that the athletes are a part of including using the athletes in commercials for the Games. What athlete would not like being shown to the world from video footage (e.g. qualifying round footage, past game performances, medal ceremonies) to endorse the Games as it is recognized today? This is a question that can be analyzed in another paper but for now it simply segues into looking at two perspectives of why the Olympic Games are not a mirror to the world as they are.

For the average person, the Olympic Games are known to be played every two years, rotating every four years between the seasonal games (i.e. summer and winter). The location of the Games has been debated since the revival of them in 1896 when Coubertin wanted the games to have a permanent city (Young, 2005) while others felt that as the world participates, the world should play host. By hosting the Olympic Games, cities hope for an economic boost to the city’s economy (Cashman, 2002) but also realize the negative effect of financing the Games as seen by Montreal having a debt being paid off nearly 30 years later after hosting the 1976 Olympic Games (Newtown, 2012, para. 2). The negatives of the financial burden of hosting the games rest predominately on the host city (Cashman, 2002). A host city has to be able to show the IOC the benefits of hosting the Games and how the Games will benefit from being hosted in said city. For many cities, the benefit lies in the economic promises post-Olympics which sadly do not come to pass as the city desired as Cashman suggests. The cities seem to only be involved in the pre-Games, and Game duration (16 days), but fail to do anything productive post-games. For some, the productivity includes a festival a year after the games but for some a celebration cannot take place as regrets stand nearby. To sum up this first argument against the idea of the Games are a mirror to the world for what they are, financial misfortune and miscalculations exist which may put the cities in more debt than they wished, as seen with Montreal. Financials should be analyzed pre-Games but also post-Games to ensure that the words entrusted to host the games do come pass as seen with the success of Barcelona in 1992 (Botella, 1995).

Another reason that many fail to see the Olympics as a mirror to the world include the controversies that surround the Games as a whole. The controversies surrounding the Games themselves (e.g. 1976 U.S. men’s basketball game against Soviet Russia) or the controversies surrounding the IOC (e.g. the killing of Mexico City students in the Tlatelolco Massacre in 1968). These controversies are simply manifestations of human judgment that interferes with the games due to the weight of the country they are representing or the idea of human and civil rights being protested in many games including the 68 Mexico City Games and the last Winter Games in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. The controversies are either by athletes or are impacted by the IOC due to the capitalization and commercialization of the Olympic Games. Hindsight is 20/20 but scholars suggest that the IOC is out to make money which in business terms, it’s all about the bottom dollar (Achbar and Simpson, 2003; Muchinsky 2012). The IOC is a corporation who are out to serve their own interests including many scandals in which host cities are at the center of (e.g. Salt Lake City Scandal).

With the summary of four different perspective arguments of what the Olympic Games mean, I find myself siding that the Olympic Games are not a mirror to the world for how they are. I take into consideration many viewpoints but I look to a local athlete that suggests countries only want the medal and like the IOC, simply do not care for the athletes. Local newspaper in Berea, Paint Lick Reflections, discussed the 1972 men’s basketball game in the Olympics held in Munich, Germany. Kentucky Olympian Kenny Davis retold the story of having to play the last three seconds of the title match between Soviet Russia three times. In the 2002 article, Davis recounts how the entire U.S. men’s team refused to the silver medal after winning and then losing the gold. I had the privilege of having Davis come to class to discuss this controversial game and he ensured everyone that no man on the basketball team wants the silver medal because they want the gold medal. In fact, the U.S. Olympic Committee urged the basketball team to get the silver! Our own country was willing to cowardly accept second place when we had won the gold! As previously alluded to, countries only care about the medals that they are receiving and not the players! It has already been stated that the IOC is likened to that of a corporation who are selfish but it is upsetting to see that countries who pride themselves on doing the right thing want to blow over the incident just to receive a medal. It is a revolting thing to think about and unnerving to hear from a legendary athlete that had to live through the after effects of being in Munich 40 yards from the terrorist attacks that would become known as the Munich Massacre.

Furthermore, the games are not a mirror to the world as they are because they capitalize on the monetary gains made by having the Games—remember the IOC controls the production and promotion of the Games. Take for instance the Opening Ceremonies of the Games. In the United States, directors, writers, and producers have the opportunity to be nominated for Emmy Awards for the “Outstanding directing for a Variety/Music/Comedy” (Toohey & Veal, 2012, p. 145). Not only is the American Olympic Committee wanting to bring home the most medals but we are also trying to get people to produce/direct/write the best Opening Ceremony. It is a scary thought to see that everything has a price tag as it relates to the Olympic Games; even broadcasters are entangled in this understanding for presenting the information over television. The addition of many large personalities to the NBC Universal commentators for the broadcast of the Games, like Ryan Seacrest and Apollo Ohno, suggest that NBC is looking to cash in on the best possible income for the Games (Moraes, 2012, para. 2). After all, having former Olympians run correspondence for the games, including commentary, on an event that they participated would hopefully introduce more viewers to the games therefore increasing the revenue for the company.

The Olympic Games. Just writing/reading these words should bring some information to your brain. Rather it be the five Olympic Rings or being able to call out Olympians by name, the Olympic Games have been a way for the world to connect and ideally to unite. The cognitive recognition of what the Olympic Games is speaks to the icon it has become. Through this essay, a discussion on how the Olympic Games could be seen as a mirror to the world for how they are recognized was presented. Upon conclusion, my opinion was given stating that the Games are not a mirror to the world but instead a way in which corporations continue to gain money. It is upsetting and unnerving to think that countries simply want the medals to be recognized as the best but at the same time, the athletes that they represent need to be valued for who they are from the beginning: human beings. This concept is what I conclude with. Until the Olympic Games can take in the personal factor of understanding the athletes and not using them for means of endorsement, basically objectifying them, the Olympic Games will continue to not be a mirror to the world.


Achbar, M. & Simpson, B (Producers). Achbar, M. (Director). 2003. The Corporation. Canada. Big Picture Media Corporation.

Botella, M. (1995). “The Keys to success of the Barcelona Olympic Games”, in Miquel de Moragas & Miquel Botella, The Keys to Success: the social, sporting, economic and communications impact of Barcelona’92. Barcelona: Servei de Publicacions de la UAB, pp. 18-42.

Booth, D. (2005). Lobbying orgies: Olympic city bids in the post-Los Angeles era. Sociology of Sport. 3. pp. 201-225.

Borden, M. (2005). Mexico ’68. An analysis of the Tlatelolco massacre and its legacy. Retrieved February 15, 2015 from

Carney, S. & Fox, R. (2002). Thirty years, no peace: Kenny Davis reflects on the monumental losses at the 1972 Olympic Games. Paint Lick Reflections. 1(3). pp. 11-14.

Cashman, R. (2002). Impact of the Games on Olympic host cities: University lecture on the Olympics. Centre d’Estudis Olímpics (UAB).

International Olympic Committee. (2013). Olympic charter. Retrieved February 15, 2015 from

International Olympic Committee Media Relations. (2014). IOC awards Olympic Games broadcast rights to NBCUniversal through to 2032. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from

Moraes, L. (2012). NBC announces Ryan Seacrest’s role in Olympics coverage. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from

Muchinsky, P. (2012). Psychology applied to work: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (10th ed.). Summerfield, NC: Hypergraphic Press.

Newton, P. (2012). Olympics worth the price tag? The Montreal Legacy. Retrieved February 15, 2015 from

Prometheus, in Greek mythology. (2013). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1.

Tomlinson, A. (2005). The commercialization of the Olympics: Cities, Corporations, and the Olympic commodity. Sociology of Sport. 3. pp. 179-200. 

Toohey, K., & Veal, A. (2007). The Olympic Games: A social science perspective (2nd ed.). Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK: CABI.

Young, D. (2005). From Olympia 776 BC to Athens 2004: the origin and authenticity of the modern Olympic Games. Sociology of Sport. 3. pp. 3-18.


About Matthew C

First generation college graduate with Psychology degree. Focused on Peace & Social Justice issues.
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