Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Olympic Hypocrisy

by Bill Holmes

The latest blast of hypocrisy blowing in from Washington DC concerns the vital issue of where the USA Olympic Team uniforms are manufactured.  Based on the uproar this is much more important than almost any other issue facing congress and our government.  Deficits and unemployment pale in comparison.

There's a reason this is vitally important to our elected representatives.  It is because it will get great attention on all the news programs, newspapers, magazines and every internet outlet.  It's also easy and at least at first blush seems like an obvious “well duh”.  Our elected officials can get on their soap boxes and profess their indignation and patriotism.

Let's delve a little deeper.  First of all, the US Olympic Team is not the US Government Olympic Team.  It is the corporate and public Olympic Team representing the USA.  All funds for the entire Olympic program come from private sources.  That may be a corporate sponsor, sales and licensing of USA Olympic products or individual donations.  The United States government does not contribute any funds to our Olympic program.  Every other team that participates in the Olympics gets government funding.  Truth be told, I have contributed more to our Olympic effort than Congress since I've bought some licensed/logo stuff and also sent them a few extra dollars.  Most of the merchandise the US Olympic Committee (USOC) sells is made outside this country and I'm fine with that.  If they can buy a hat from China or a shirt from Honduras for $5, sell it for $20 and use the $15 profit to send athletes to London that's better than buying the items in the USA for $10 and only having $10 profit.  Now if the Committee can find the merchandise domestically for $5 or even $5.25 they should buy it.  The USOC is not buying the team uniforms from the Ralph Lauren Company, Ralph is an Olympic sponsor and is providing the uniforms as is Nike.  As such, they get to decide where they are made.  Granted it's probably not a great public relations move but it is also not a national crisis.

The sponsors of USOC is a who's who of international companies.  Coke, GE, McDonalds, Nike, P&G, Ralph Lauren... All fine American companies.  Oh wait, Panasonic, Samsung, BMW, Omega... are also sponsors of the USA team. I don't think they're USA corporations.  So, it appears that in our global economy we may have some cross-pollination among countries and corporations.  Wanna make a bet?  I think Nike, a US company, may be providing uniforms for some foreign teams.  I know McDonalds is providing nutritious burgers and fries washed down by a Coke to all the countries in the Olympic Village.

Next, let's look at those making the public statements about this situation.  Harry Reid, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi have led the pack as they usually do when hypocrisy and indignation are called for.  Those three are the poster children for what is wrong with Congress.  How many of Nancy's designer shoes are made in the USA?  Does Harry have any suits or ties in his closet made in the USA?  Does John only use USA made golf equipment when he plays with Obama and Biden?  It's possible that the botox Nancy likes so much may be manufactured in China.  This is an issue that gets tremendous knee jerk response.  It is the bread and butter fodder for politicians, talk radio, cable news and comedians.  This kind of story makes Rush Limbaugh's job easy.  He can rant for a few days.  Letterman and Leno have a few easy jokes for the monologue.  For the politicians it diverts attention from the terrible job they're doing on the real issues.

Letterman and Leno certainly have the right to make jokes about this.  Rush can rant all he wants.  That's freedom of speech.  The real news outlets (are there any left?) should be delving a little deeper to provide the full story.  Unless and until Congress and the US government provide funding for the USOC they don't get to have a say about the uniforms or anything else.  The Olympics have been used as a pawn for politicians for years.  They stick their noses into USOC business, criticize when they make a mistake yet wave the flags and brag when the US team wins medals.  They use the athletes they don't fund for political purposes.  Remember when Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of the Russian invasion of --- wait for it --- Afghanistan.  He deprived our athletes the chance to compete, for probably their only time, in the Olympics.  Four or more years of preparation down the drain for the athletes because Russia invaded a country we would invade 20 years later.  I don't know of any of those US athletes who contributed to the Russian invasion.  The US government didn't fund that 1980 team either.

When I started this blog I intended to write about congressional hypocrisy and false indignation in general.  The USOC uniform dustup was only suppose to be one example.  I got a little sidetracked as often happens.  I've been pissed at our government's involvement, but lack of funding, in our Olympic teams for years.  The Olympics should be for the athletes and free of politics.  I know that's idealistic but I will never forgive Jimmy Carter for that 1980 boycott.  Now that we've been in Afghanistan for a decade it only reinforces my feelings even more.

I'll write about the other hypocrisy soon either here or at The Viewpoint.

Comments and discussion always welcomed and encouraged.


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