Let Sha’Carri Richardson Run! Olympics need to realize it is 2021, not 1896

Photo Credit: Getty Images

According to history, the first Olympics took place in Athens in 1896. Of course, the Games were a much smaller event at the time and there was no New York-based NBC effectively serving as the five-ring circus’ biggest television partner.

Apparently, if one were to travel to International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, the calendars in its offices are still stuck on 1896 instead of 2021.

Sha’Carri Richardson was all set to take over the world by storm at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. She had won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon and did so while battling through adversity because of the death of her biological mother. Her grandmother was in the bleachers in Eugene to cheer her on.

But because of a positive test for THC (weed), she will be unable to participate in her signature event at this year’s Games even though there is a possibility she could be named to the 4 x 100 relay team.

To her credit, Richardson was gracious and admitted what she did in an interview with The Today Show on NBC. Remember – she found out about what happened with her mother during an interview with a reporter.

To her credit, Richardson has handled herself with nothing but grace throughout this whole process that one can only imagine how taxing it has been on her mental health. First, coping with the loss of her mother now having to deal with the loss of her Olympic dreams for Tokyo. And as the Naomi Osaka saga at the French Open showed us, mental health is as every bit as important as physical health for athletes – and everyone.

But apparently, the Olympics does not think so – as the four major Grand Slam tournaments showed us in the Osaka situation. The only thing that World Athletics (the international body over the sport of track and field) and the International Olympic Committee is showing is that both are run by a bunch of old dinosaur bean counters who probably still watch television in black and white.

First – weed is not a performance enhancer except for deep, dark and sometimes interesting thoughts. Second – she was smoking in Oregon. Finding a dispensary in Oregon is like finding a bodega in NYC that sells MTA MetroCards. Third – several states in the United States as well as Washington, D.C. (the country whose television partner all but bankrolls the Olympics, by the way) have not only legalized cannabis, but their economies have been all the better because of it (Colorado and Washington state for starters).

So effectively, Richardson is being disqualified from an Olympics because of something unrelated to her athletic performance. Which has to make one believe that her being kicked out of the Tokyo Games has absolutely nothing to do with her athletic performance.

Two Namibian runners ineligible for the 400 meters by World Athletics? FINA banning the Soul Cap swim caps? Yeah – the anti-Blackness coming from Olympics-affiliated and European-based governing sports bodies is glaring and it is obvious.

But wait … there’s more.

Black women and men are dominating the discipline of track and field. Similar to how tennis’ big wigs are uncomfortable about the faces of tennis being the sisters Williams and now Osaka, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff, it makes us wonder how uncomfortable track and field’s empty suits are that Black women and men are winning major track and field events.

Our guess – very uncomfortable.

And we will be really honest – it has us worried that the Olympics and its affiliated organizations may try some kangaroo court-type judging gymnastics to screw over Simone Biles or Jordan Chiles.

Richardson getting a ban from the Tokyo Olympics is even more galling when considering Russia’s Olympians not too long ago were involved in an actual doping scandal where Russians cheated to win events – and medals. Russia has had plenty of medal stripped from its Olympians over the years because of cheating. How was Russia punished?

Russian Olympians were still allowed to participate in Olympics – just not under the banner of the Russian flag. So – Russia was effectively suspended from the Olympics, but not Russians who may or may not have been involved in cheating.

It is beyond clear when looking at how Russia was punished in juxtaposition to how Richardson is being punished for using weed to cope with a loss in family who the Olympics wants to have a velvet glove for and an iron fist for.

Every four years, some people will watch only a few Olympic events. Others watch the entirety of the Games from start to finish – as we sometimes do. Richardson was sure to be one of those that would even draw the attention of the most casual of fans given track and field is one of the Olympics’ signature events.

Apparently, not even Olympics-affiliated organizations want people to watch the Olympics. We can only hope once the news broke that someone within NBC gave someone at the International Olympic Committee the most abrasive and expletive-filled tongue-lashing of tongue-lashings.

Another irony is how Olympic-affiliated organizations are punishing Richardson for weed yet the Olympics are adding events such as skateboarding and e-sports to its list of events to connect with youth around the world. A youth that, by the way, is more open to the idea of marijuana legalization than its elders may have been.

Instead of worrying about how Richardson chooses to protect her mental health, the Olympics needs to worry more about why cities and countries around the world no longer see the Games as something they need to “validate” their cities.

New York City – essentially the world’s capital due to it being home to the United Nations – has never hosted an Olympic Games. That should tell you everything. Gotham is not any less of a city than Los Angeles (which in 2028 will host its third Olympics). NYC last bid for the 2012 Olympics and because of uncertainty as to where its Olympic stadium would be (plus Vancouver winning the 2010 Winter Olympics), it lost out to London.

Cities and countries are now smartening up and effectively calling out Lausanne an its outdated business model. The Olympics are a massive undertaking for any city and country that hopes to take them on. The homeless get displaced. Olympic big wigs get to roll into cities and stay in the swankiest of hotels without having to pay taxes. Host cities become overpoliced. Host cities are left with white elephant venues that are no longer used for anything once the flame gets extinguished from the Olympic cauldron.

And this is not even considering how almost every Olympics are ridden with cost overruns related to Olympic prep. And this is also not considering that most Olympics lose money because of those exorbitant costs. And the IOC gets off scot-free without having to pay even one dime down to make up for the costs.

When the bidding process for the 2024 Olympics took place, Boston was originally named the US representative over Los Angeles. Needless to say – Bostonians are a smart bunch. They know what comes with an Olympics as well as what follows an Olympics and the backlash was so widespread that Boston shut down its bid to force the USOC’s hand and make the right decision to award the nod to Los Angeles.

Would-be Olympic cities saw that Sochi (in Russia) effectively built an entire new town for its Olympics and it was a redux of what Montreal in 1976 did for its “Big Owe.” It took three decades for Montreal to pay off its Olympic debts and the Olympic movement was effectively saved by a Los Angeles 1984 Olympics that made money. History has repeated itself – Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 were financial and logistical disasters, cities are turned off from bidding and the IOC is once again looking to an LA games to save itself from itself.

Also – the fact that the first city to host a Summer and Winter Games being Beijing with all of its questionable governmental practices also says everything one needs to know re: Olympics.

The IOC is having such a hard time convincing cities to bid for Olympics that when the 2024 process took place, it awarded both cities vying for the Games (Paris and LA) the next two Olympics – Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028. There was also no formal bidding process for the 2032 Olympics as those Games were recently awarded to Brisbane, Australia (the first Summer Olympics to be held Down Under since Sydney in 2000).

And then there is the big kahuna – the fact that this year’s Olympics in Tokyo are still being held despite the coronavirus pandemic and the emergence of the new delta variant of coronavirus. The Japanese are no longer keen on holding the Olympics, but because of NBC money and because Shinzo Abe is not exactly the best of prime ministers, the Games will begin even amidst newfound speculation that they may be held in either empty stadia or stadia with limited attendance.

So, yeah. Richardson getting a bit of blaze on to protect her mental should be the least of the Olympics’ problems. The “rules are rules” people reacting to this are really telling on themselves because anyone with common sense can tell that the Olympics’ rules on drug testing for the green are outdated.

What do you do with outdated rules and regulations? You change them to reflect the attitudes of today’s society. It is that simple. Maybe some of these Olympic suits need to blaze themselves to lighten up and not be so uptight about outdated rules and regulations – if they are not already doing so.

And Richardson is not perfect. She has tweeted out questionable things in the past, most notably about Black LGBTQ musician Lil Nas X. Is this a flaw of hers – it is and hopefully this will be addressed between Richardson and the LGBTQ community as a greater conversation of homophobia within the Black community fueled by the unrealistic expectations of hyper-masculinity (thanks to hip-hop and sports) placed on Black men.

But that is a conversation we will eventually have. This conversation is about a young queen-in-training that is enthralling sports fans with her story, her realness, her charisma, her talent. And all of that for these Olympics were taken away because she dared to protect her mental just like Osaka dared to protect her mental by not participating in press conferences after French Open matches.

It is a joke. It is an embarrassment. It is a sign that if “basura” were an Olympic sport, some old white men in suits in Lausanne would win gold, silver and bronze and it is a greater reflection on how the Olympics continues to further its own road to permanent obsolescence.

Let. Sha’Carri. Run.

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