Should the Olympics be held?


This story is taken from the July 22 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email on American politics to readers around the world. Click here to read previous editions and subscribe.
The Tokyo Olympics, a year late, stripped of the crowds and now contested by many in the host city, are already one of the strangest in history. Japan’s hopes of using the Games to project an image of modernity and power in Asia are dashed. Even before the torch was lit on Friday, the Covid Games are already a symbol of a world choked by the pandemic and its relentless ability to crush dreams.

It’s one thing to swim, jump, sprint, and ride in empty arenas. But there are now questions about the sporting integrity of the Olympics as more athletes arrive in Tokyo, test positive and have to withdraw. The IOC’s preparedness and health protocols are already under review.

An argument to continue is that athletes, many in disciplines that need their quadrennial spotlights, have been training for years and deserve their chance. But it’s also clear that business considerations drive decisions. This is where the United States comes in. The Olympics are an extremely lucrative exercise. US television station NBC has another 11 years to manage a rights deal worth more than $ 7 billion. Many American companies contribute to the financial success of the Games through sponsorships and invest significant sums.

This Olympic year already seems a bit off in the United States, as the Summer Games typically coincide with a presidential election – and often have a political overhang. The 1984 and 1996 Games, on American soil, gave Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton the opportunity to bask in patriotic glory before being re-elected. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott of the Moscow Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and, months later, lost his job. In 2008, President George W. Bush wondered if he should visit Beijing on human rights concerns, at the end make the trip. Business expert Mitt Romney saved the 2002 Winter Games financial disaster, but in 2012 his poorly received comments about London as a Republican presidential candidate became an electoral issue.
The Olympics are often heralded by media critics on the venues, the doping scandals, corruption and hypocrisy that often surround the Games. But that is generally forgotten once sports icons like American swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles put their names in national fashion.
Maybe the five-track circus can work its magic again.

Dishonor Roll

At this point, it might be easier to keep a list of Donald Trump’s close associates who have not been in trouble with the law.

Another of the ex-president’s pals, billionaire investor Tom Barrack, found himself behind bars after being accused of illegal foreign lobbying on behalf of the UAE to influence Trump’s foreign policy.
Barrack, who was chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, denies the accusations. But he joins a long line of indicted Trump associates. Some – like Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos – have spent time in jail. Others – like Roger Stone, a longtime master of the dark arts of political campaigning, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn – took advantage of Trump’s presidential pardon to bail them out. But Barrack, and possibly Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded not guilty to tax evasion, will not be granted such powers if they need them since Trump is now a private citizen. A list of members of Trump’s business, campaign or administration who have been charged with crimes has 11 names and is a memorial to one of the most corrupt administrations in American political history.

Remember when the former president said he would pick “only the best and most serious people” to staff his operation?


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