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Column: This time… Dédé the Sardine and the big Olympic fish | Athletics

Dede the Sardine was a big Olympic fish.

“I am a master of the universe,” said Dédé a few years before his death in 2016 at the ripe age of 97. Dédé was born André Guelfi. His friends from the International Olympic Committee called it the Sardine, in tribute to their friend who made his fortune in sardines.

Back ashore, Guelfi was an advisor to legendary sports godfather and IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who in 1980 discovered how to use television and corporate sponsorship to resuscitate the dying Olympics in the multimedia giant. thriving now hospitalized and unvaccinated for COVID-19 in Tokyo.

“The CIOs are truly the masters of the universe,” chuckled Sardine. “When we ask for something, anything, we get it. “

And they did. The Moroccan-born French businessman and Formula 1 driver for decades has helped the 91-member IOC weather its storms of scandal, greed and doom. Like his friend Samaranch, Guelfi was vaccinated with a phonograph needle and didn’t care what you said about him or his sometimes stinky, always colorful escapades aboard the multi-billion dollar Olympic gravy train. The only requirement was that you spell their names correctly and that the story appeared on the first page, above the fold.

Guelfi was smarter than those of us who covered the six Olympics I wrote about in the newspaper days. He knew that the boxcars reporting of global criminal investigations and the hearings in the US Congress on charges of corruption, embezzlement, embezzlement and racketeering from the IOC would derail as the athletes took center stage. scene.

Sport is the pinnacle of glorious distractions. That was Sardine’s calculation – because the 3.2 billion fans who watch the Olympic show on TV still prefer heroes over villains. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Everything else doesn’t make sense.

So far.

COVID-19 may be the only villain the Olympic pageantry can’t whitewash. The coronavirus has buried more than 4.5 million people worldwide, including 15,000 in Japan. Only the Tokyo mass graves are at full capacity. The government has ordered the liberation of the stadiums, the silenced spectators and the reception tents of emptied companies. Yet the “masters of the universe” demand that Japan’s $ 25 billion performance – the most expensive in Olympic history – continue.

The reason, of course, is the money.

The postponement of the Games from 2020 to 2021 left them gargling in red ink. The IOC derives nearly 75 percent of its income from the sale of broadcasting rights. Estimates suggest he would lose between $ 3 billion and $ 4 billion if the games were canceled. And have a thought for the 126 million people of Japan, 83% of them unvaccinated and paying around $ 19 billion from the locked-in extravagance bill and have no way of getting more than 820 back. million dollars in ticket sales.

“How to prevent people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a major problem,” Japan’s Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said. According to Japanese Olympic coronavirus protocols, anyone caught having fun risks being arrested and, if they are a foreigner, being deported.

The arrival of IOC President Thomas Bach at Narita Airport in Tokyo coincided with the onset of a fifth wave of COVID-19 and the announcement by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of a state of six-week emergency due to the increase in the number of cases. Bach was taken past anti-Olympic protesters to the lavish Okura Hotel for a three-day self-quarantine, an in-room dining menu that advises a $ 40 plus tax serving of soy milk and sea urchin skin with starchy soy sauce, and a lobby of sympathetic Japanese officials would be too timid to officially ask for a few dollars more than the IOC’s $ 1.3 billion investment in the Tokyo Games.

The unease left Bach looking for a big televised move to distract from the number of COVID-19 victims, ultimately becoming the frontrunner to win the 2021 Olympic gold medal in cognitive dissonance for his sprint to Hiroshima. It was there that a 15 kiloton nuclear explosion in 1945 killed more than 135,000 people and triggered the greatest untreated human trauma before the coronavirus. The pilgrimage of the IOC Vice-President, John Coates, to meet the 64,000 radioactive ghosts of Nagasaki is chosen to recover the money.

Never mind that civic organizations in both cities said the fissile waterfall “dishonored” what had happened in their communities. The indignation was palpable. They sent Bach a petition signed by over 40,000 people, all begging him to call off the events. But the IOC is only inspired by Mount Olympus, where the modern-day Muse Otter likely ordered Bach to heed the wisdom he offered to another distressed Greek life organization in the film Animal House. :

“This situation absolutely requires some futile and stupid gesture to be made on the part of someone.”

This is what the Greek gods – who inspired the games and whose mythologies the IOC enthusiastically embraces – called pride. It was a crime and the judges of ancient Greece did not hesitate to condemn. Sometimes the sanction was left in the hands of a higher authority. “After Hubris,” wrote a Greek poet, “comes Nemesis,” the goddess of justice appointed by Zeus to visit Earth in the form of a goose. Even Croesus couldn’t buy Nemesis.

But the IOC has better cash flow than Lydia’s King and Tokyo is just another goose to pluck. The next stop of the fellowship is Beijing 2022, followed by Paris 2024. Once the masters of the universe leave the city, whatever financial woes, political chaos or medical calamities left for them are of no consequence. , as was the case in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Salt Lake City and all other host cities.

The Sardine once bitterly joked that the IOC’s interest in changing his behavior rarely went beyond ordering anything other than a giant shrimp cocktail from the room service menu. I suggest they taste the Okura vinegar-steeped $ 30 seaweed bowl.


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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion