Column: That Time … Dédé the Sardine and the Olympic huge fish

Dédé the Sardine was an Olympic huge fish.

“I’m a master of the universe,” Dédé mentioned just a few years earlier than he handed away in 2016 on the ripened age of 97. Dédé was born André Guelfi. His cronies on the International Olympic Committee known as him the Sardine, a tribute to their pally having made his fortune in pilchards.

Back on shore, Guelfi was a consigliere to fabled sports activities godfather and IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who in 1980 discovered use tv and company sponsorship to resurrect the dying Olympic Games into the affluent multimedia behemoth now hospitalised and unvaccinated for COVID-19 in Tokyo.

“The IOC are truly masters of the universe,” the Sardine glub-glubbed. “When we request something, anything, we get it.”

And they did. The Morocco-born French businessman and Formula One driver for many years helped the 91-member IOC navigate its storms of scandal, avarice and woe. Like his buddy Samaranch, Guelfi was vaccinated with a phonograph needle and didn’t give a hoot what you mentioned about him or his generally pungent, all the time vibrant escapades on board the multibillion-dollar Olympic gravy practice. The solely demand was that you simply spelled their names appropriately and the story appeared on web page one, above the fold.

Guelfi was slicker than these of us who lined the six Olympics I chronicled again within the days of newsprint. He knew reporting on the boxcar a great deal of international prison investigations and US congressional hearings into fees of IOC corruption, embezzlement, malfeasance and racketeering would derail the second the athletes took centre stage.

Sport is the final word in superb distractions. That was the Sardine’s calculation – as a result of the three.2 billion followers who watch the Olympic spectacle on TV all the time choose heroes over villains. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Everything else is meaningless.

Until now.

COVID-19 is probably the one villain Olympic pageantry can’t whitewash. The coronavirus has buried greater than 4.5 million globally, some 15,000 of them in Japan. Only Tokyo’s charnel homes are at full capability. The authorities has ordered the stadiums vacated, the spectators silenced and the company hospitality tents emptied. Yet the “masters of the universe” demand Japan’s $25bn efficiency – the costliest in Olympic historical past – should go on.

The cause, after all, is cash.

Postponing the 2020 Games till 2021 left them gargling purple ink. The IOC receives almost 75 % of its revenue from promoting broadcast rights. Estimates recommend it could lose between $3bn and $4bn if the video games have been cancelled. And spare a thought for Japan’s 126 million folks, 83 % of them unvaccinated and footing some $19bn of the locked-down extravaganza’s tab and with no means to recoup greater than $820m in ticket gross sales.

“How to stop people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a main issue,” mentioned Japan’s Health Minister Norihisa Tamura. According to Japan’s coronavirus Olympic protocols, anybody caught having time faces arrest and, if they’re a foreigner, deportation.

IOC President Thomas Bach’s arrival at Narita Airport in Tokyo coincided with the onset of a fifth wave of COVID-19 and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga saying a six-week state of emergency due to rising caseloads. Bach was whisked previous anti-Olympic protesters to the lavish Okura Hotel for 3 days of self-quarantine, an in-room eating menu that counsels a $40 plus tax portion of soy milk pores and skin and sea urchins with starchy soy sauce, and a foyer of mannerly Japanese officers reportedly too shy to formally ask him for just a few extra bucks past the IOC’s $1.3bn funding within the Tokyo Games.

The discomfort left Bach in search of a grand televised gesture to shift the main target away from the COVID-19 casualty depend, in the end rising because the favorite to win the 2021 Olympic gold medal in cognitive dissonance for his dash to Hiroshima. That is the place a 15-kiloton nuclear blast in 1945 killed greater than 135,000 folks and triggered the best unprocessed human trauma earlier than the coronavirus. IOC Vice President John Coates’s pilgrimage to fulfill Nagasaki’s 64,000 radioactive ghosts is picked to gather the silver.

No matter that civic organisations in each cities mentioned the fissionable stunt “dishonoured” what occurred of their communities. The outrage was palpable. They despatched Bach a petition signed by greater than 40,000 folks, all begging him to scrap the occasions. But the IOC solely takes steerage from Mount Olympus, the place the modern-day Muse Otter possible commanded Bach to heed the knowledge he provided one other distressed Greek Life organisation within the movie Animal House:

“This situation absolutely requires a futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

It is what the Greek Gods – who impressed the video games and whose mythologies the IOC enthusiastically embrace – known as hubris. It was a criminal offense and the judges of Ancient Greece weren’t shy about convicting. Sometimes the penalty was left within the arms of a better authority. “After Hubris,” a Greek poet wrote, “comes Nemesis”, the Goddess of Justice appointed by Zeus to go to Earth within the type of a goose. Not even Croesus was in a position to purchase off Nemesis.

But the IOC has higher money circulate than the king of Lydia and Tokyo is simply one other goose to pluck. The fraternity’s subsequent cease is Beijing 2022, adopted by Paris 2024. Once the masters of the universe depart city, no matter monetary misfortunes, political mayhems or medical calamities left behind are of no consequence to them, as was the case in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Salt Lake City and all different host cities.

The Sardine as soon as bitterly joked that the IOC’s curiosity in altering its behaviour hardly ever went additional than ordering one thing aside from jumbo shrimp cocktail from the room service menu. I recommend they pattern the Okura’s $30 bowl of seaweed seeped in vinegar.

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