Dear Folks in Charge of Those Five Colorful Rings,
I’m writing to you because, well, I’m concerned.
Let me start by pointing out that my first dream was to one day step up on that middle podium, a gold-medal around my neck. The national anthem would blare in the background while excited fans showered me with colorful bouquets. That I was a decidedly mediocre ice skater did not deter me in the least. When that dream died, rather early in retrospect, I continued to watch those Olympic competitors with awe and not a little bit of envy.
Now, I feel badly saying this, but your rings have lost some of their luster. I’m hoping you can fix it, so I can continue to be astounded by the breathtaking skills these athletes display.
The first issue is almost too depressing to talk about: cheating! How could you let gold-medal-favored singles skater Kamila Valieva compete after she failed a drug test back in December? The fifteen-year-old Russian was found with a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs in her system. One was a heart medication that could increase her endurance.
I know what you’re thinking. “Valieva is just a child. It’s not her fault.” While you’re right, we still can’t ignore cheating. That the adults in her sphere had no compunction against doping a child is despicable. The excuse given—that she drank from a water glass her grandfather used after taking trimetazidine—is laughable, and not in a funny way. That the drug can cause lowered blood pressure, vomiting, nausea, indigestion, headaches, and liver dysfunction points out that the girl is being abused. Anybody who participated in her doping needs to be arrested and punished and never allowed near children ever again.
And speaking of children…it’s time to put an age limit on all Olympic sports. I can hear a lot of you moaning about how good 14-and-15-year-olds are at flipping through space, but I ask you, if they are mature enough to survive the pressures of the world stage, why do we always see them nervously clutching stuffed animals as they wait for their scores? Answer: They’re just kids.
I have spent much of my life in the sports world, as both a sports reporter and an amateur official in football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. I have seen more helicopter sports parents then I care to remember, and during my time skating I saw quite clearly what their kids were forced to give up. While I was going to high school football games and summer camp and taking music lessons and roaming free in the woods with my dog, these children were prisoners. They skated 365 days a year. They were on strict diets and were tutored so school didn’t get in the way of training. They were like caged animals, constantly under the supervision of adults who hoped to ride their skating costumes to fame and fortune.
The thing is, none of them ever got that far. Their dreams ended without Olympic glory, has-beens as teenagers. Here’s what I know after spending 20 years teaching in high school. Those years are when we find out what we like to do, what we’re good at, and what someone might pay us to do. For athletes focused so narrowly on one prize, other skills are often left to deteriorate. When the Olympic dream fades, they don’t have much left.
With that in mind, let’s say that only those 18 and older can compete on the international stage. Since the athletes would be adults, the blame when doping surfaces would fall squarely on their shoulders. The age limit would also allow them to grow and mature, which in turn might help stem some of the mental health issues that have been popping up in athletes of late.
Finally, we need to think hard about what countries get to host the games. In 2013, six cities bid on the 2022 Winter Olympics. By 2015, four cities had dropped out, leaving just Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan, countries that rate poorly when it comes to human-rights issues. That the IOC allowed the games to go on in China when over a million Uyghur Muslims are said to corralled in prison camps and forced to perform slave labor is an abomination.
But I have the answer! In the future, let’s not limit that games to one country. Let’s spread the competitions worldwide. That way, no country has to foot the ridiculously bloated bill attached to hosting the competitions. And let’s use existing facilities, so we don’t end up with abandoned places like the Hellinikon Baseball Stadium in Athens—which is currently being used to house refugees—and all those deserted venues in Sochi, Russia. Spreading the locations around the world would limit local costs and congestion. And, though the TV networks might complain, with modern technology the Games could be covered and broadcast from pretty much anywhere.
I really believe you can make these fixes, so we fans can continue being thrilled by the phenomenal athletes you bring into our living rooms every two years. But please make the changes quickly, because if you don’t, that Olympic dream may soon be nothing but a long-lost memory.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
February 2, 2022
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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