This year’s Olympic Games have been full of actions that have been contrary to the spirit of maximum effort and a desire to win, as well as full of corruption on the side of judges. These scandals and controversies are demonstration of the fact that our corrupt world influences all aspects of our lives. I would like to take a look at three of the scandals of this year’s Olympic Games to demonstrate how they show the corruption of sport and life on a larger scale, since we cannot compartmentalize different aspects of our lives. If we are moral individuals, that morality will be demonstrated in all areas of our lives. If not, they will seep into everything we do. And so it is with sports as well.
I’m not very good at playing badminton, but at the same time I am the sort of person who plays very competitively no matter what I do, despite the fact that my God-given athletic talent is modest at best. This appears to be in short supply in badminton, where four doubles teams from Asia (one from China, the top ranked team in the world, two from South Korea, and one from Indonesia) were all expelled from the Olympics for trying to throw matches where they had already qualified out of the group stage and wanted to ensure an easier opponent in the quarterfinals of badminton . The scandal and its repercussions have been so severe that it will probably prompt a revision of the structure of the sport, to ensure competitive play, which one would normally take for granted.
While the eight Asian women have been disciplined for their lack of competitive effort for trying to throw matches, the Japanese women’s soccer team has not been disciplined for playing for a scoreless draw to ensure a more favorable location for their next match, since they did not play deliberately to lose, and openly and honestly expressed their strategy . It is a fairly common tactic for weaker teams to play for the draw, but not stronger teams like Japan, and the fact that the strategy ensures that they will play a tough Brazilian squad is clearly not ideal either. In this case, though, the question has been about soccer’s widely scattered venues, which encourage teams to try to manage their results in order to avoid burdensome travel that could affect player health. Still, many people (myself included) dislike it when teams or individuals play it safe and do not play to win, even if winning may lead to a more difficult result later on. After all, winning is a habit, and if you want to win and are confident that you can win, you will seek out challenges.
Of course, sometimes wanting to win itself leads to corruption. Such is the case with yet another boxing scandal in this year’s Olympics, this time involving an Azerbaijani boxer. Now, Azerbaijan’s boxing federation has come under some scrutiny for apparently attempting to bribe the corrupt amateur boxing federation for a couple of gold medals. And now a referee has been thrown out of the Olympics for blatant corruption in trying to fix a boxing fight by refusing to count six knockdowns against Azerbaijani boxer Magomed Abdulhamidov, which led him to win the three round bout when he should have been counted out by Technical Knockout. The Japanese boxer won the match on appeal, when the extent of the corruption was obvious to all . Because boxing in general is so corrupt, the fight has led to renewed calls to remove it as an Olympic sport, because the judging has been so corrupt as to be unjust now for decades.
Why is this so? We live in a corrupt and unjust world, and we cannot be so naive as to expect that the general corruption of our societies will avoid seeping into other aspects of our lives. The reason why godly and upright people demand purity in life is because corruption in one’s personal life will tend to seep in to official corruption. And likewise, corruption in sports, whether that is bribery or throwing matches out of strategic machinations, springs from the larger corruption that are present in our societies as a whole. We cannot expect our sporting world to be exempt from the moral laxity and evils that are present in our larger worlds, as much as we use sports as an escape from the sordid nature of life in general. There is nowhere where we can escape from moral questions or where we can avoid wrestling with moral dilemmas that force us to examine who we are and what level of injustice and corruption we are prepared to accept and enjoy in our entertainment.
It may seem as if the corruption of this present age is so deep-set and so great that there is no hope of reformation or revival, but if we spent nearly as much effort and expense dealing with the problems of corruption within ourselves as we spend seeking to escape it through corrupt entertainment, we would certainly be able to make some headway. We can only expect honest sports and decent entertainment when we have become honest and decent people ourselves. We can only produce works and institutions that are honorable to the extent that we are honorable ourselves, and the same is true of others. If we are corrupt and wicked, that is precisely the sort of arts and entertainment (including sports) that we will create, because our creations cannot be any more noble than their creators. Clearly, we all have a lot of work to do.