STUART HUGHES: Sports promote a better society
In London, the USA is poised to shatter world records but apparently can’t help starting a little early. With just two-and-a-half weeks until game time, team red white and blue has more female athletes than male for the first time.
This shouldn’t be surprising to students of Olympic history. The Games have always outpaced society in positive societal progression but what makes the Olympic progression so notable is it has occurred with no governmental interventiuon of any kind. Since the U.S. first participated in the Olympic games, the government has not spent one penny supporting an Olympic athlete, unlike other countries who entirely subsidize their athletes.
With no affirmative action, monetary incentives or government programs, the Olympics has integrated women before women had the vote and African Americans well before the end of Jim Crow in the South.
It begs the question, what if the government organized the Olympics like our markets? Would we be better off as a country if Olympians had standardized training regulations, diets and lifestyles? Would Michael Phelps still hold 14 gold medals if this were the case? And how would we stack up against international competition? Last time around in 2006, the USA raked in 25 gold medals, narrowly behind the top grosser Germany.
This year, nearly 300 American Olympians are returning to the games, and bringing lots of star power back to London. Why is our Olympic standing far higher than our education and economic status in the world? America is behind 11 countries in GDP, 49 countries in life expectancy and number 9 in economic freedom.
The Olympics has formed regulatory bodies to ensure fair competition, performs effective oversight on itself and is by no means a free-for-all, lawless body of individuals. It is, after all, the Olympics. These are the best our country has to offer.I can’t help but draw political conclusions from the Olympics, especially in the midst of an election year, but I’m certainly not peddling a candidate. I’m just a sports fan who wishes our country ran like the NFL, where performance equals play time. This is because race, gender, and creed have always taken a backseat to ability in sports and the government could learn a lot from the Olympics. Of course change, even in sports, hasn’t been immediate but progress, especially world changing progress, always taken time and it’s worth noting change has always occurred faster in sports than in government.
Competition in the market as well as in athletics is beneficial to a country and a business and sports have always had a way of throwing people together in the same boat regardless of prejudices. Coaches figured out long before the government that people are individuals and progress stems from competition. Perhaps we can learn from the success of the Olympics where a limited government approach has been so successful.