Perhaps you’ve heard: Russia was banned from competing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But loopholes exist in the system. So as we blog, there are almost 200 Russian athletes competing in South Korea under the Olympic Flag as generic “Olympic Athletes,” instead of competing for Russia as Russians.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko didn’t like that. So what did he do? He made is own Winter Olympic Games! Here’s what Mutko had to say courtesy of the Russian News Agency TASS:
“In order to preserve our potential in winter sports, support athletes and give them a chance to fulfill themselves, an order [of the Russian government] was signed that determines five sports: skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, short track and speed skating in which almost all [Russian athletes] that were not admitted [to the Games] will compete…The competitions on these sports will be held right after the Olympic Games, during several weeks.”
He went on to say that a prize fund has been established that will pay out similarly to the Olympic Games. If it’s anything like 2014, that means all medalists in these new, alternative games, should expect to walk away with something similar to a Mercedes Benz.
A lot of people out there probably see this as a sad attempt at undermining the real Olympics. Putin & Friends will be able to point at the results of the Russian Fake Olympics and say “look, your games were missing out on some real competition.” But ultimately, no one is going to care about those results and this whole thing will get swept under the rug in a weeks time.
I’m here to say that we should pay attention to the Russian Fake Olympics. It has the potential to be FANTASTIC.
My hope is that these banned athletes have continued their regimented, state sponsored doping program, but since they have nothing to lose, have done so a bit more recklessly. I hope these athletes are teeming with PEDs. I hope their urine is radioactive; I want it burning holes through plastic containers. I hope the women look like men, and the men look like shaved bears. I hope the athletes give no-holds-barred interviews where they say things like “I’d like to thank God and also my daily injections of EPO and HGH, without which my testosterone and red blood cell levels would be that of mere mortals.” I hope that Donald Trump attends. I hope he stays there forever.
Any sports fan understands the extent that the very idea of doping has tarnished their sport. And all sports have incidents that have brought the “yeah but..” on the tip of our tongues to come rattling out of our skulls. Baseball and the home run record chase. Cycling and the Tour de France. Football and Ray Lewis’s Deer Antler treatment. And every season of professional track and field ever.
For track fans, there are the people who get caught and either surprise us or affirm our beliefs. And then there are the people everyone likes to speculate about. Maybe this person. Definitely that person, and so on.
What the Russian Fake Olympics gives us, if played out in my dream scenario of doped-to-the-gills athletes, is a look into the world where two very different sporting leagues exist. The clean league and the dirty league. Instead of the pretense of clean sport, where people try to skirt the rules and get a bunch of people worked up about it, we get both. Sport without any of the posturing.
The Fake Olympics now become the Las Vegas of the sporting world: it’s big, it’s ostentatious, it’s not for everyone. We let the cheaters “cheat” without any of the pearl clutching that happens after a stellar performance in the Real Olympics. And the Real Olympics go on with more certainty, maybe a little less fun, perhaps a little slower.
All of this isn’t possible, though, if it doesn’t exist the way that Russia is doing it. They’re paying out “similar prizes” to that of the Real Olympics. This means the incentives for both are equal, it’s just a matter of deciding which world you want to compete in: clean or dirty.
So, choose any side you want. I, for one, will be rooting for the Fake Russian Olympics to be a success. In a perfect world they catch some sort of mainstream appeal. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, let ’em do whatever they want, in their own Olympic Games.