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Another day, another Olympic scandal

Hosting the Olympics has become one gigantic international grift machine.

FILE - The Olympic rings are set up in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 at Trocadero plaza that overlooks the Eiffel Tower, a day after the official announcement that the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be in the French capital. French investigators searched the headquarters of Paris Olympic organizers on Tuesday in a probe into suspected corruption, according to the national financial prosecutor's office. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
French investigators searched the headquarters of Paris Olympic organizers on Tuesday in a probe into suspected corruption, according to the national financial prosecutor's office. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Tuesday morning, French financial prosecutors raided offices across the country that are associated with the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.

French media reported that investigators were seeking documents and records over concerns about the misappropriation of public funds, an unfair contract awarding system and other general corruption.

You don’t need to be a gold medal winner in crime prevention to feel pretty confident that all of the above — and probably a lot more — will be discovered.

Legally, maybe the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee deserves a presumption of innocence but that doesn’t extend to the global court of public opinion. The rest of us have learned — via Olympic scandal after Olympic scandal — that when it comes to the Games a significant measure of fraud is as guaranteed as the water in the swimming pool being wet.

That includes the 2016 Olympics when the water in Rio de Janeiro actually turned green … which kind of spoke to the whole corruption thing because without it they wouldn't have staged an Olympics in Rio to begin with.

That’s the thing about the Olympics, it drags nearly everything and nearly everyone down with it, often to the detriment of the actual Games.

This time it’s the French, at least allegedly, and if so then they deserve the same scorn as the political despots and authoritarians.

France doesn’t get a pass just because everyone loves a good crepe and they are going to float the opening ceremonies down the Seine right past the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Until this stops — and it won’t until the entire staging enterprise is reformed — then it’s another black eye for the already pummeled Olympics.

“We are aware that there has been a search by police of the Paris 2024 headquarters today,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement. “We have been informed by Paris 2024, that they are cooperating fully with the authorities in this matter and we would refer you to them for further information.”

This is the old “full cooperation” promise. The IOC has these statements ready, just cut and paste from the last time, update the year and city and then feign surprise and later outrage.

The IOC is forever pretending they can get past this stuff. One more anti-corruption committee ought to do it, correct?

The bid processes for Russia (2014 Winter) and Brazil (2016 Summer) were overwhelmed with bribery accusations. China won the 2022 Winter Games because (other than Kazakhstan) every other country on earth refused to even bid because the process was so obviously crooked. The IOC is hoping Sweden doesn’t pull its application for the 2030 Winter Games because at this point, it might be the only option.

Japan succumbed to scandal for the 2020 (or 2021) Summer Games following a bribery arrest after an advertising executive was charged with accepting payments from other companies.

Along the way billions and billions were spent, often on white elephant facilities. Some cities are capable of handling the ever growing size of the Games — Tokyo, for example — but even Japan took a financial bath because COVID restrictions cost them ticket and tourism dollars.

The countries change but the basics remain the same. This is almost never a good idea.

The governments of the world lean on public money to first bend the bid process to their benefit and then award their preferred contractors the rights to build overly opulent and mostly useless facilities. A slice of the profits from the construction, security, advertising and other industries then, often enough, find its way back to government officials.

For a few weeks, Simone Biles does some flips or Michael Phelps breaks some records and everyone declares it a success.

It’s a gigantic international grift machine.

Today it’s the French. Before them, it was the Chinese and Japanese and Russians and Brazilians and yes, the Americans. This thing knows no boundaries. Some countries do it to try to hide that they are enslaving the Uyghurs. Others just for the circles of cash.

Give the French credit for having their own financial police conduct an investigation into their fellow countrymen. We weren’t getting that from Russia, where Vladimir Putin bragged about spending an absurd $55 billion to host the Sochi Winter Games — a total that may or may not have included that sophisticated doping operation that helped them win the most medals.

You can like the Olympics, but you should hate all of this.

The powerful and political are counting on regular people getting so beaten down that they eventually shrug and figure it’s the cost of doing business. Inevitably, though, it's a cost borne by the average citizen. This is someone’s money getting scooped up and recycled.

So, sure, that Opening Ceremony in Paris will be cool, no doubt. It’s still a one-off television show. They could stage the actual events nearly anywhere.

The IOC needs to find a way to have a permanent summer home and a permanent winter home — or maybe a rotation of four cities. It cuts down on costs, on construction, on nefarious bids and mostly on the temptation to steal that has proven, thus far, almost impossible for any government anywhere to avoid.

Let the athletes and the athletics take back center stage. Leave the office raids and corruption investigations to something else.