Make Love Not War?
This week’s headlines brought a story to warm the cockles of any capitalist’s heart. It’s so bizarre it’s probably a hoax. An Olympic athlete has opened a brothel to raise money to fund his bid to make it to the Olympics in 2012. Up until now, his parents have been providing a big part of the cost but he wants to ease the burden on them.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s funny. Plus, I thought you just had to be very good to make the Olympic team. Apparently you need a lot of capital as well.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee has told him he can’t do that and if he doesn’t stop they will ‘take legal action.’
They claim that “Based on the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect, we would place your actions as totally inconsistent with these values.”
The athlete claims that prostitution is legal in New Zealand (he’s right, they even have a trade union called the Prostitutes’ Collective) and that no one is being coerced or manipulated and that it’s really no different than if he had a lemonade stand. He might also have challenged the NZOC’s comment that his brothel was inconsistent with the value of ‘excellence.’ The article I read didn’t say.
I probably spent a lot more time thinking about this issue that I should have. But that’s because I was a little put off by the hypocrisy of the Olympic people. I did some research.
First, what are these Olympic principles? I looked up the Olympic Charter and it looks like the lawyers are going to have a good time. It contains phrases such as “Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” Let’s see them define that!
Further, “the goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Call me cynical, but they don’t seem to have made much progress on that one.
My point is not to debate whether raising money for an Olympic bid with a brothel is right or wrong. My issue is that if the Olympic Committee doesn’t want this sort of thing to happen, it shouldn’t let the Olympics be all about money, which unfortunately is the way it is now.
A couple of other points. First, the athlete in question is competing in tae kwon do. One might ask where that sport fits on the continuum of ‘universal fundamental ethical principles,” “peace,” and “dignity.”
This is tae kwon do:
In Korea, where the sport originated, ‘tae kwon do’ means “the way of foot and fist” or “the way of kicking and punching,” depending on who you talk to.
So if funding a visit to the Olympics to celebrate kicking and punching with brothel proceeds is inappropriate, what is acceptable?
If you have a look at the Olympics’ Official Sponsors, you’ll see names like McDonalds and Coca Cola. I guess high fat food and high sugar drinks are OK. Less high profile, but equally up there in terms of fostering peace and human dignity is Smith & Wesson. They are supplying Walther SP22 M4 pistols (i.e., handguns) to the National Junior Olympics Shooting Championship. Admittedly, it’s not the real Olympics, but in patting itself on the back, S&W calls the Junior Olympics ‘an essential element for young shooters seeking an introduction to Olympic Shooting.’
So there you have it. Unhealthy food that kills millions a year is OK. Handguns, which cause untold misery and damage are OK. Sex between consenting adults is not OK.
It’s probably just as well that the NZOC is making an issue of this now, however. It would be a lot worse if the guy went to the Olympics and got a gold medal and only then did his funding sources become public. He may have to join the queue of Olympians forced to give up their medals. After all, who knows what sort of performance enhancing drugs a brothel operator might have access to?
Worse, even if he slips by that scrutiny, what if, as an Olympic gold medal winner he gets a set-for-life advertising contract with McDonalds, Coke or Smith & Wesson? Wouldn’t it be an embarrassment if only later they found out that he had gotten to the Olympics because of brothel money?
After all, it could hurt their brand.