Are the Winter olympics Inherently Racist/Classist?

Where the Rich and Elite Meet to Compete

By Paul Farhi (Whasingotn Post)

Never mind the usual puffery about what this month's Winter Olympics are all about. Sure, there's the beauty of sports, the spirit of friendly competition, the dedication of great athletes and all that. But the Winter Games are about a few other things as well: elitism, exclusion and the triumph of the world's sporting haves over its have nots.

What the Winter Games are not is a truly international sporting competition that brings the best of the world together to compete, as the promotional blather would have you believe. Unlike the widely attended Summer Olympics, the winter version is almost exclusively the preserve of a narrow, generally wealthy, predominantly Caucasian collection of athletes and nations. In fact, I'd suggest that the name of the Winter Games, which start Friday, be changed. They could be more accurately branded "The European and North American Expensive Sports Festival."

Feb 16, 06 4:34 pm

For the record: I think os, it is not international, and to me (besides hockey) all the events seem like glorified figure skating or a version of the x-games.

Feb 16, 06 4:35 pm
A Center for Ants?

except that's not the intent. whether you like it or not, economic status is the greatest pre-determining factor of success in almost any venture. whether academic, professional, or athletic, addressing this by attacking the olympics is a moot point.

Feb 16, 06 5:10 pm

To succeed in a winter in winter sports one must usually come from a country where there is indeed winter, meaning northern country, wich are usually richer than southern countries.

that's all there is to it

Feb 16, 06 5:19 pm


Feb 16, 06 7:16 pm

hey anyone seen that movie
'fire,ice and dynamite'..its hilarious.

and there's this another flick abt an ice-sled team of jamaicans who take part in the winter sports and win it..forgot the name.

Feb 16, 06 7:24 pm

cool runnings

Feb 16, 06 7:29 pm

cool runnings.

love john candy (yes i remember him when he was still with sctv, along with everyone else who was funny in the 80's [except for SNL, of course] )

sad that he died, but hey he go to buy a hocky team with wayne gretzy, an how many comedians get to do that?

as for the question, no i think racism requires an intent that simply is not part of the olympics at all. the idea is slightly silly really. it's like saying basketball is racist cuz there is only one chinese dude in the NBA...

Feb 16, 06 7:35 pm

wups lars beat me to it.

Feb 16, 06 7:36 pm


: involved in the constitution or essential character of something : belonging by nature or habit

obviously the olympics aren't inherently least not as i
read it...classist, potentially yes. the winter olympics is fairly
inherently expensive..the summer obviously has quite a few more
sports that can be participated in for far less money.

i think, though, that the argument doesn't hold water...the winter
olympics is inherently about sports that are on ice or snow
essentially. the need for ice or snow to participate in the sport
does make it exclusionary as many countries don't have the climate
to support it...but warmer climates could send their athletes to
other countries to train..and many do.

Feb 16, 06 8:15 pm

yes, we really should institute a snow-quota system or something similar so everyone will have a chance to compete in the olympics. and then there is the unfair advantage the canadians have over the japanese cuz the snow at whistler is just plain BETTER than the snow at hakuba.

i don't want to be a climat-ist, but...

Feb 16, 06 8:25 pm
vado retro

i believe ze japanese, koreans and chinese all field pretty strong winter olympics. it will always be elitist until they let snowmobiling while drinking in as an event...

Feb 16, 06 9:06 pm
A Center for Ants?

The NBA.

how does race figure in there, melquiades?

(i'm not touching this one, just positing the question)

Feb 16, 06 9:11 pm
"To succeed in winter sports one must usually come from a country where there is indeed winter, meaning northern country, wich are usually richer than southern countries"

That's a little like saying that to succeed in the marathon in the summer games, one must come from an equitorial african state, which are usually poorer than northern countries...therefore it's an advantage to be poor

I think there's a flaw in your logic here ... I agree with jump when he says "racism requires an intent that simply is not part of the olympics at all"

Feb 16, 06 9:35 pm

The NBA doesnt have its own olympics. It is different, everyone here talks about one single sport. The winter olympics is an event to which only a few coutnries can compete. It is an elitist event, just face it.

The racist part I would agree is not so important. It is the elitist aspect of the games that really bugs me.

I personally think that baseball and other sports that are not practiced by a majority of countries around the wrold should not be part of the olympics (summer or winter) either.

I want to hear from people in non-winter nations. Are these authors correct, or is it a fuss about nothing?

Feb 16, 06 10:19 pm

I think my title is rougher than what I actually feel, I dont think they are "inherently" racist, but.....

Feb 16, 06 10:21 pm


why on earth does it bug you that it is elitist, how does it make it less interesting? why do you fall for the easy complaceny of analyzing things on their fairness to everyone, you actually bought what your kindergarten teacher told you. (and I'm sure you're special in your own way just like everyone else)

Feb 16, 06 11:04 pm

so ... you think Bode Miller is an "elitist" ... didn't he grow up in a house without indoor plumbing or electricity ? I don't really like the guy, but it doesn't seem to me ol' Bode was kept from competing in the olympics because of his economic disadvantaged status

Feb 16, 06 11:06 pm

Yes. Because historically there hasn't been much winter in Africa. And historically, there haven't been many Africans in Snowy, frozen climates.
What is this, another fucking social program?

Feb 16, 06 11:18 pm

I think its more 'class' and 'location' than race. The sports in the winter olympics are the such that you can't practice on the cheap. The equipment is expensive and so is the use of practice slopes/tracks/etc.

I was watching some sport (the one where the dudes slide down some track on their backs at 80 mph) and the broadcaster was talking about one athelete who when to congress to get them to build a new track for the team to practice on. If you have to have your sport subsidized by the government (or have the ability to get the government to listen to your request for equipment) you are probably hella rich and important and your sport is hella expensive to participate in.

Not to mention-their ain't no ice in Africa. Where the heck are you going to practice? Half of countries in the world can't even think about being serious contenders in the winter games. No Ice, No winter, no prospects.

Feb 16, 06 11:37 pm

hm, well i grew up in canada and was skating perty regular since i was about four, did hockey outside til my toes froze and played in leagues til high school. i was ok, but never good enough to be professional.

It was kinda expensive i guess but my gear was 2nd hand and things like that were much cheaper back then (helmets? what for? face plates? are you kidding?) but i sure never felt like i was part of an elite society for being priveleged enough to hit a rubber puck around in the freezing outdoors. but even if my parents did have the cash to send me to hockey camp i seriously doubt i would have been the next bobby orr (does that date me?). what i am saying is that money don't make athletes.

the people at the olympics worked friggin hard to get there and aren't there because they are part of some kinda fraternity. that south africa doesn't do skiing very well is too bad, but i am pretty sure canada ain't gonna win the beach volleyball world cup anytime soon either...

sure its supposed to be a world event and just cuz the southern countries ain't got the funds to clone super athletes don't mean they shouldn' participate or that the venue is evil.

i understand where you are coming from, but i am thinking you are being a wee bit too sensitive...

now THIS is hockey.

Feb 17, 06 2:27 am

digger you misread my point, all i was saying was that countries with a cold climate have obviously a better chance at succeeding in winter sport, so it is in no way an racism issue

Feb 17, 06 5:02 am
brian buchalski

it seems that the analysis here might be a bit off the here's my two cents: i suspect the tension and/or discomfort that the original post is aiming for is the disparity between the winter & summer olympyics. on the surface, their respective names seem to imply some kind of balance but closer inspection reveals that there are drastically different scales of accessibility and participation in these two events. so, for me, the questions become: why even have a winter & summer olympics? is this a fair way to split the games? why not some use some other factor the seasonal climate? why not the day & night olympics? or how about the indoor & outdoor olympics? real & virtual olympics? whatever, i don't know. but given our ability to condition the environment it would seem possible to hold a single olympic games during the fall or spring at a location near enough mountains to accomodate just about every event. anyhow, that's just my thoughts on the matter and i have to admit that i somewhat troubled by some of the things that melquiades brought up with this thread and although i do feel it's a bit extreme to call the winter games racist there is definitely something esoteric about them.

Feb 17, 06 9:45 am

by saying that the games are inherently racist, you must make the logical jump to the idea that there is a process of exclusion of members of races other than caucasian. this is not the case.

what exists is a collection of olympians who are primarily caucasian and asian. it is my belief that this is due mostly to the basic demographics of cold-weather nations and not due to racist practices, implicit or explicit.

bryant gumbel had a simliar take. this is a hot-button topic and is great for ratings and circulation.

Feb 17, 06 9:56 am

oh, and baseball is played on six continents.

Feb 17, 06 9:58 am

i'm just realizing...this guy is trying to say that north america
and europe are the only one's that's just
silly..i think if he had kept his argument to how the games
basically exclude australia, africa and south america..i may
agree. but ASIA? russia seems to do pretty well..(or is he
saying that is part of europe)...and china and japan and korea...

i think this guy is setting up an argument for the games being
exclusionary by being exclusionary in his own view of the games.

also, the winter olympics favors countries that have winter...
couldn't the same be said for the summer olympics? big(gest)
example: Norway. this county is leading he medals here in
the winter olympics, but barely shows up in the summer olympics.
should it then be said that the summer olympics should be changed
so that norway can participate more equitably? after all they're
being discriminated against due to their climate.

i understand that his argument is trying to say that you don't
see alot of black people in the winter olympics..but every other
race is on display. when looking at the summer olympics that
seems, at first glance, to display the talents of a lot larger
contingent of black people does he ask the same questions
about whether or not the summer olympics are inherently rascist?

Feb 17, 06 11:26 am

sorry, everything else is just a seasonal exercise/workout..
btw, thats allianz arena event right there.

Feb 17, 06 12:24 pm
brian buchalski

and orhan gets the gold...again

Feb 17, 06 1:14 pm

Well if you are really good, and your family really loves you, then you can do what Plushenko did. Yeah, I think it's more classist than anything, but hey, it's just sports.

Feb 17, 06 1:22 pm

my impression after watching the winter olympics of figure skating on nbc is that any elitism or classism in these winter games is offset by the sheer discipline instilled by training in a not-so-rich country.

not all skaters are like this, but it seems that the average american figure skater wannabe is chauffered around suburbia in an SUV his/her entire life by mom, who has ditched her career so that mom and dad can live vicariously through little judy or johnny. sure, there's a lot of practices but mom & dad are paying for it all and there's always your nice fluffy laura ashley bed in daddy's drywall mcmansion in an exurb of atlanta to rest your tired little bones after you place 14th at the state semifinals and mom tells you you're special.

i'm not saying that all snowboarders are like this, but maybe you're a stoner snowboarder, liberated from responsibility by the selfsame safety net. you move to some out-of-the-way snowbound locale, get a job, like, you know, teaching get high and try to satisfy your addiction to danger and thrill-seeking while blissfully contributing absolutely nada to the world at large.

contrast that with, say, a chinese or russian skater who is drilled into submission sacrificing day in and day out in order to master techniques and skills. your family doesn't have enough money to support you and the government doesn't either. but something inside you or outside you spurs you on. it's called hunger, both physical and metaphorical. bad performances, bad practices, falls, losses, errors in judging all rate as mere speedbumps on your road to greatness. and in the end you go from scrounging food to scoring gold like plushenko [sic] or getting up after having been dropped eight feet onto your kneecaps and kicking ass like the chinese skater zhang.

i dunno, i like the whole human drama thing, that's why i watch.

Feb 17, 06 2:53 pm
Ringo Starr

Does this answer the question ?

Feb 18, 06 7:40 pm

no ringo, it doesnt.

Feb 18, 06 7:55 pm

Yay! Good for Shani for winning the gold medal today. I especially like the part about how he gained his speed by "fleeing from classmates after telling bad jokes." If that's true.

It is kinda sad though, that he was the first African-American EVER to win an individual gold medal at the winter olympics. I mean, yikes.

Feb 18, 06 9:10 pm
vado retro

why isnt snowball fighting an olympic sport?

Feb 18, 06 11:02 pm

omg, vado, that's the best idea ever!

Feb 19, 06 2:14 am
sporadic supernova

if snowball fighting is an olympic sport ...

then Palestine will kick ass..!!!

Feb 19, 06 2:25 am

I'm glad someody mentioned Shani Davis. Also I'm glad to see that he won a medal. Saw him smoke some Euro-goober on the ice for 9 of 10 laps on Friday, or Sat. He kinda silenced few South Africans 'round here.

Feb 19, 06 2:31 am
vado retro

it was freakin ten degrees yesterday and i saw some kids out shooting hoops. technically basketball is a winter sport...

Feb 19, 06 8:01 am

Vado I third the snow ball fight competition. It would make more sense than freaking ice dancing. That has to be the silliest "sport"- I have ever seen. Figure Skating should go too. I think that the few interesting competitions (Hockey and speed skating) should be taken to the summer olympics, and the rest of the winter olympics cancelled.

Feb 19, 06 2:02 pm

wow ... what a grump ....

that fact that you find something silly doesn't mean other fully-functioning adults should not enjoy something they appreciate ...

if you don't want to watch, don't watch !

Feb 19, 06 2:11 pm

This is a sport? At best a hobby.

Feb 19, 06 2:19 pm

And comb, I'm no grump, Im just having a little fun...

Feb 19, 06 2:20 pm

could'a fooled me ... oh, you did !

Feb 19, 06 2:24 pm

if you are looking for something that is classist/elitist about the winter games you should look more at the ability to attend the games. I just returned from Torino, living in Paris now on study abroad, and found out how expensive it is to go to the olympics. I only went for a few days and spent ridiculous amount of money getting there, finding a hotel, and getting into a venue.

I am sure that the expenses related to visiting a summer games are very high as well. simple economics of the olympics is that if the city isnt gaining from the olympics than fewer cities will want to host them.

that being said i think that the winter olympics are definitely more for people who are absolutely insane. With the exception of speed skating, figure skating, and curling the sports force the athletes to risk life and limb to compete. i think the sports require huge amounts of skill and a large amount of athleticism but also need to have a few screws loose to compete.

Feb 19, 06 5:43 pm

when they had the olympiads in los angeles i watched part of the marathon because they went in front of my apartment. that day i had a big hang over from the night before. traffic was pretty bad too. i couldn't score until the next day. fuck it..

Feb 19, 06 7:51 pm

mexico city, 1968
best sportsmen ever as far as i am concerned. and most of you radicals weren't even born then. vado is right when he mentioned something about lack of history reading around here.

Feb 19, 06 9:32 pm

here is a better shot. these guys truly inspired me in my teenage years, like they did millions around the world. great americans..

Feb 19, 06 9:42 pm
Feb 19, 06 10:02 pm

^^those guys may just land on a chewing gum commercial^^

Feb 19, 06 10:04 pm

thats what i see in todays' sports..

Feb 19, 06 10:06 pm

nice on abra. while i did not see that, i was only one at the time, i as old enough for it to resonate in my childhood.

how's this for an olympiad of today?

Feb 20, 06 10:56 am

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