The Olympic games hold a place of reverence in the hearts of people around the world. But for the athletes who wreck their bodies and their bank accounts training for years to compete in the Olympics for glory and national pride — especially the ones who hail from Team USA — are the games kind of a sham?
Welcome to Skeptical Sunday, a special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show where Jordan and fact-checker, comedian, and podcast host David C. Smalley break down a topic that you may have never thought about, open things up, and debunk common misconceptions.
On This Week’s Skeptical Sunday, We Discuss:
- In spite of the PR boost nations get whenever their teams win medals and the influx of cash brought in by the games, the United States is one of the few countries that doesn’t spend a dime supporting its Olympic athletes.
- A so-called non-profit, the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee brought in $317 million in revenue in 2018, including $122 million in broadcast revenue, which resulted in $48 million in profit. The CEO made $800,000 in compensation.
- 60% of the athletes who train full-time for years to have a chance at competing in the Olympics do not consider themselves financially stable, often relying on low-paying gig economy jobs to fund their journey.
- For Team USA athletes who win medals, the USOPC pays out $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze. In contrast, Singapore rewards its athletes with $1 million for gold, $500,000 for silver, and $250,000 for bronze.
- In 2012, half of the track and field athletes made less than $15,000 per year, while the track and field CEO earned $1.2 million in 2018. In 2012, US News and World Report found it cost around $100,000 per year to be an athlete in the Olympics.
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Miss our two-part conversation with Jack Garcia, the undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family of Cosa Nostra in New York for nearly three years? Catch up by starting with episode 392: Joaquin “Jack” Garcia | Undercover in the Mafia Part One here!
Resources from This Episode:
- Olympic Games | Wikipedia
- United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee
- US Olympic Committee Tax Return Shows $323 Million in 2018 Revenue | The Sports Examiner
- USOPC Spends $20 Million More on Employees than Athletes in 2019 | The Orange County Register
- Here’s How Much Olympic Athletes Get Paid for Winning Gold Medals | Cosmopolitan
- Lauren Williams | Instagram
- The Bob-Spread: US Men’s Bobsled Team Strips Down for Fundraising Calendar | NBC News, Chicago
- Norwegian Women’s Beach Handball Team Fined for Not Playing in Bikinis | NBC News
- Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in School | Civil Rights Teaching
- US Diplomatic Boycott of the Winter Olympics: What to Know | The New York Times
- The Olympics Backfired on China | Laowhy86
- Laowhy86 | How the Chinese Social Credit Score System Works Part One | Jordan Harbinger
676: The Olympics | Skeptical Sunday
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Hey, special announcement, by the way, I'm going to be doing a live show — like live in person in real life. I'm going to be interviewing Ryan Holiday, author Ryan Holiday. That's going to be in Los Angeles at the Venice West on June 13th. So tickets are available. I'd love to meet you in person. Tickets are available at jordanharbinger.com/tickets — again, jordanharbinger.com/tickets, June 13th at the Venice west in Los Angeles. I'll be interviewing Ryan Holiday and I hope to see you there.
[00:00:32] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger, and this is Skeptical Sunday, a special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show where fact-checker and comedian David C. Smalley and I, we break down the topic that you may have never thought about. We opened things up. We debunk common misconceptions — topics, such as why the Olympics are kind of a sham — that's what we're going to tackle today — expiration dates and why they're nonsense or why tipping makes absolutely no sense. Got a lot more coming up as well.
[00:00:55] Normally, on The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. And we turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We have long-form interviews and conversations with a variety of amazing folks from spies to CEOs, athletes to authors, thinkers, and performers.
[00:01:15] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about it, our starter packs are the place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic. They'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like disinformation, cyber warfare, persuasion and influence, China and North Korea, investing in financial crimes, crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or take a look in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:41] Today, on this edition of Skeptical Sunday — okay, I realized the Olympics have been over forever, for months now. They're not coming back for a couple of years. That is not going to stop me from complaining about them, given the opportunity. And today, I have that opportunity, besides not everything has to be timely, especially our rants about things we all hold dear, such as the Olympics. I used to watch and be a fan of the Olympics up until recently. And the more I learn about it, the less I like what I see, what I read, what I'm hearing. You know, I've never been — when they were in Atlanta in whatever. In the '90s, I was so close. I wanted to go. I've never been able to go. And I wanted to grab tickets and it turns out it's actually really, really hard to go to the Olympics. And it's kind of fraught with — the most nonpolitical event on the globe, supposedly is now fraught with political considerations. So I wanted to talk to you about it because I know you've got some thoughts on the Olympics.
[00:02:32] David C. Smalley: Yeah. The tickets alone — like I think the cheapest tickets are between $2,000 to $3,000. I mean, it's insane.
[00:02:38] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:02:38] David C. Smalley: I looked into a little bit, some of the ticket fraud issues and there were people who were charged $3,200 for some tickets and then never either got to go, or it said it included the opening ceremony and it really didn't. This was after they booked their flights and book their hotel, and then they start trying to get their money back. And they're like, "Sorry. It says no refunds." And trying to sue like a nonprofit that is working through a ticketing agency. Who do you sue the ticketing agency or the USOPC, which is technically a nonprofit? It just so like — I don't know. It's a very shady situation. But I've sort of, I say, sort of boycotted the Olympics for quite some time now. Originally, just based on how poorly they treat the athletes from America. And I don't mean these foreign nations treating Americans poorly. I mean, America—
[00:03:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:29] David C. Smalley: —treating our own athletes, like absolute garbage. And as a kid, you know, you watch these folks on TV and you just look up to them. And you're like, "Wow, they're doing it. And they're out there—
[00:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: They're on your Wheaties box, man.
[00:03:40] David C. Smalley: Yeah. They're like our modern-day heroes. And looking back on it, I'm like, yeah, that guy was getting paid. That one guy got paid by—
[00:03:49] Jordan Harbinger: By Wheaties.
[00:03:50] David C. Smalley: Yeah, not by America, by a long shot. And so I really started diving into it and it was shocking more and more. And then I noticed a couple of things come out saying that like the profits were down or viewership was down 43 percent. People are boycotting, not only because of the past winter Olympics with Beijing but just in general. And I'm like, wait, I'm not the only one with this issue.
[00:04:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, interesting.
[00:04:12] David C. Smalley: I started diving in. And it's like, tons of people have a problem with how poorly our athletes are treated.
[00:04:17] Jordan Harbinger: I would love to get into this because I didn't know until recently that athletes didn't get paid. I figured we had an Olympic program that was funded by tax dollars and things that go to sports. I mean, we have cultural offices and things like that. I assume their training was paid. And once you made Team USA, they fed, maybe housed, and clothed you with sponsored goods and your training was free and it looks like it's kind of the opposite. It's almost like you have to have enough money just laying around to not have to work and to buy expensive stuff.
[00:04:48] David C. Smalley: Absolutely. Let me say, unequivocally athletes do not get paid. There is no salary for athletes. The only way they make money — there's a couple of different ways they make money, but the primary way they can make money is if they win a medal. And America is one of the few countries that has nothing to do with funding its athletes. All of the funding comes from what's called the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which is the USOPC for the rest of this conversation because that's a mouthful. But 60 percent of Olympic athletes do not consider themselves financially stable.
[00:05:22] What does that mean?
[00:05:23] Most of them do jobs like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, things like that just to make ends meet—
[00:05:28] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:05:29] David C. Smalley: But they have to do those kinds of jobs to keep their schedules sort of flexible because of all the training they have to do.
[00:05:34] Jordan Harbinger: I want to be careful not to be like, "Oh my god, it sucks. They work for DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft." Services I use literally every single day. Those are jobs that people need to do, but it is a little weird that somebody who's like, "Gee, I hope to bring home a silver medal or a gold medal," in, I don't know, skating or something like that. He's like, "Here's your crappy Chinese food you ordered because you drank too much and now you're hungry." Like that's not good.
[00:05:56] David C. Smalley: Exactly. And I think that the issue is not that those jobs are bad jobs and I'm with you on that. Those jobs are very important jobs and those people are essential and that's a great thing. And I use those services all that. But the issue is if we want our athletes to go perform well and be good representatives of the country, they need to be training six to eight hours a day, six days a week. They need to be able to focus. They need to not have to worry about where their next light bill is going to come from or how they are going to afford DoorDash if they need a meal, you know?
[00:06:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. No kidding. I don't want our sprinters sprinting from Panda Express to my house as part of their training regimen.
[00:06:32] David C. Smalley: Right. And look, it's not to say that the USOPC doesn't have the money. In 2018 alone, they pulled in $317 million in revenue, 122 million of that was just broadcast revenue.
[00:06:48] Jordan Harbinger: So like NBC buying the rights to put it on TV.
[00:06:51] David C. Smalley: Absolutely or licensing. So anytime you buy a little toy that has the Olympic circles on it, the USOPC gets paid. And in 2018, they raked at enough money to have $48 million in profit.
[00:07:06] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:07:06] David C. Smalley: But they are a nonprofit. So they tend to put that money either into their employees or into programs, which I'll get into in a minute, which seems a little bit shady.
[00:07:16] Jordan Harbinger: Program, sure sounds like paying athletes to train.
[00:07:19] David C. Smalley: You would think.
[00:07:20] Jordan Harbinger: I guess it's not.
[00:07:20] David C. Smalley: No, no, no, And that's where the money comes from. It's sponsorship. It's licensing. It's broadcast rights. So anytime you see the Olympic thing — like, you know, "Toyota, a proud sponsor of—"
[00:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right, yeah.
[00:07:30] David C. Smalley: —whatever, whatever, it's they pay for that time. But they also have to pay for the licensing to use the Olympic logo in their commercials. And so little figurines and people that are jogging around the block will buy a headband that has the Olympic logo on it to support the Olympians. And that money is not going to the Olympians. It's awful.
[00:07:48] Jordan Harbinger: That's crazy. So, who's getting the money? Like where is the money? You mentioned programs and people.
[00:07:53] David C. Smalley: That's a great question. So programs — I'll get into the programs in a sec, but like, so according to the Orange County Register, the USOPC spent $20 million more on employees than athletes in 2019. They spent more than $24 million on legal expenses, just in the last two years with dozens of sex scandals and abuse accusations. The CEO alone made 800,000 in compensation. But the athletes, there's only really three ways to make money direct sponsorships, on their own that they have to go get on their own, usually performance-based and if they're super popular, you know, like Serena Williams or someone they can go out because they have the name.
[00:08:32] Two, prize money, prize money typically happens as they're working up to the Olympics. So you have the side competitions that you enter, you have to pay to enter by the way. You pay this entry fee. And then if you place fourth or fifth, you just don't win any money. But if you win first place, you might win 10 grand here and there for those side competitions. And then number three, winning, like I said, the USOPC does pay if you win a gold medal. Are you ready for these numbers?
[00:08:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:59] David C. Smalley: Strap up.
[00:08:59] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. This is where the big money is, right? Winning a gold or silver medal.
[00:09:02] David C. Smalley: Yeah, you think.
[00:09:03] Jordan Harbinger: You're about to pop this bubble. I can see it in your face.
[00:09:07] David C. Smalley: $37,500 for a gold medal.
[00:09:10] Jordan Harbinger: What?
[00:09:10] David C. Smalley: 22,500 for a silver and 15,000 for bronze. Now, some people may go, "Hey, that's one medal." It's at once every four years, first of all.
[00:09:21] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, good point.
[00:09:21] David C. Smalley: It's day after day after day of working without getting paid for this. So 37,500 for a gold medal. It sounds like a lot. Singapore pays one million dollars for a gold medal.
[00:09:33] Jordan Harbinger: That's more like it.
[00:09:33] David C. Smalley: They paid 500K for silver. They paid 250,000 for bronze. So you're better off being a bronze-level athlete in Singapore than a gold medalist in the United States of America.
[00:09:43] Jordan Harbinger: This is crazy. Because if you think about it every four years, right? So let's say I win four gold medals because I'm the best figure skater or snowboarder that this country has ever seen. I'm now making about as much as I would, probably less than I would if I manage like a reasonably busy Trader Joe's grocery store in the area.
[00:10:03] David C. Smalley: Absolutely.
[00:10:04] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:10:04] David C. Smalley: And to compare it to other countries for gold medal prices, France pays 73,000, Italy pays 201,000, Hungary pays 156,000, the Czech Republic pays 110,000. And the athletes in America just get these really small stipends. So like there are some sort of tiny little stipends here and there that you have to apply for like a scholarship or whatever. It can come from the USOPC or other governing bodies. Like the USA swim team has a swim USA, which is a governing body that sort of helps manage these types of things. One athlete on the US women's row team reported making less than $2,000 a month in stipends during the entire time during the Olympics. A member of the fencing team reported $300 a month for her stipend.
[00:10:50] Jordan Harbinger: This is insane. It's funny. You just reminded me. I have a friend who I met at a party who was on the crewing, so row crewing team or crew team. And she won bronze. And I can't remember when it was, you know, 2012 or whatever it was. And she showed me the medal. She had brought it to the party because she was giving a little bit of a talk or something like that. So she brought the medal to the party and I've never seen a medal. So I was like, I want to see that.
[00:11:13] David C. Smalley: Yeah, yeah.
[00:11:14] Jordan Harbinger: So she busted out, literally, a plastic grocery bag. And I was like, "This is what — why are you keeping it in this?" And she goes, "Well, I do have a case, but it's like kind of annoying to carry it with me in this bag is easier." And I'm like, "You should probably have like a nicer bag for your medal because this thing could rip." And she goes, "Funny. It has ripped before." And I was like, "Doesn't that freak you out? What if you drop it on the ground." She goes, "See that dent. This is from when I was biking with it. And it fell out of the bag and it fell on the ground. And I was like, "Why are you biking with your medal in a thank you, carryout bag?" You know, those white bags that say like, thank you in repeat. And I'm like, "What are you doing with this? This is like a bag you get—" yeah, again from Panda Express or something. And she goes, "I don't have a car." And I said, "Why not?" And she goes, "Well, I can't afford one. I work at a grocery store right now." I said, "So you're on the team that had the best or third best, I guess, in the whole world at rowing. And you can't afford a car and you work at a minimum wage job right now, your medal is being kept in this plastic bag." And it sort of, it made me feel kind of a little bit ashamed because again, there's nothing wrong with having these jobs, but the idea that you can be the best in the world or one of the best in the world at something, and then still have absolutely no compensation from it at all, other than teaching — like her best thing was teaching summer camp, rowing summer camp. That's like how she made enough money to not be super poor for the rest of the year.
[00:12:36] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:12:36] Jordan Harbinger: Because she can't work full even full-time at the grocery store. She's rowing. It just sort of makes you feel a little ashamed to be in a country where we treat our athletes who bring us a lot of glory, kind of crappy, who treat them kind of crappy.
[00:12:48] David C. Smalley: Once you reach that gold medal status, that's essentially — if you don't go out and reach, you know, you said both type status, which most people won't. Basically what they primarily do is go coach at whatever it is that they do. And when we lived in Texas, my daughter was in gymnastics and one of her teachers was a gold medalist.
[00:13:07] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:13:08] David C. Smalley: And she had minimum wage at a gym teaching six-year-olds to tumble. It's not to insult them. It's to say, we should treat them better than that. You know what I mean?
[00:13:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:17] David C. Smalley: In 2012, half of the track and field athletes said they made less than $15,000 a year.
[00:13:24] Jordan Harbinger: This is so unbelievable.
[00:13:25] David C. Smalley: Yet in 2018, the track and field CEO made a salary of $1.2 million.
[00:13:31] Jordan Harbinger: I'm a free-market guy. So I get this in a way, but also we really are forced — we're undervaluing these people and we're doing it not by the market. This is forced. This is forced because we're refusing to value what these people bring to the country. And I'm guessing there's some sort of longstanding lie about how they're going to be great with endorsements afterwards, which isn't true unless you're like Shaun White.
[00:13:54] David C. Smalley: That — but we've also sort of — I hesitate to use the word brainwashed, but we've sort of cultivated this idea in our culture that these people are heroes. You want to believe that and you want to lift them up and you want to congratulate them for that, but then that's sort of the payment. You feed your ego and you get to be this person who is on top of the world representing America, but it's so hard to share that enjoyment with them and celebrate with them when you see what they've had to go through and how bloodied and bruised they are and how much they have to fund their own trips and their own travel and their own equipment, which I can get to in a second.
[00:14:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:36] David C. Smalley: They have to pay for everything like everything that you see they're paying for. It's hard to be happy with them when I'm looking at them going, it's literally the carrot and the stick. And the carrot is a gold medal. And don't you want this shiny prize while this CEO's making $1.2 million while this organization is bringing in 312 million, while these massive sponsors are raking in millions upon millions of dollars in revenue from the ads they're running. And these executives are raking it in while the people that we're actually interested in watching are being treated terribly. And it's hard to be happy for them even when they do well, you know?
[00:15:12] Jordan Harbinger: This is like, when someone says, "I'll pay you an exposure," but it's like that on steroids — although probably shouldn't say that we're talking about the Olympics. Somebody might get a little — calm down Russia. That's not what I mean.
[00:15:23] David C. Smalley: Russia is not even allowed to participate in the Olympics.
[00:15:27] Jordan Harbinger: Sorry, ROC. Sorry, Russian Olympic Committee.
[00:15:30] David C. Smalley: I did watch the cross-country skiing in prep for our conversation. I watched those.
[00:15:34] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:15:34] David C. Smalley: Let me just watch from the beginning. And there's like 44 people that ski for 17 miles. And some of it is uphill. How do you ski uphill, you ask. Well, they're basically running with their sticks and it looks absolutely brutal. And there's 44 of these people just like trudging along in the snow. They get up around this spot and then they slowly start to go down a way and then they get right back uphill and have to go trudging along again. And when it zooms out and I'm seeing them all just got to bob along and I'm like, "You're destroying your bodies and you're doing this all for other people to make a profit while you chase this shiny gold medal," and my heart breaks for them. I don't mock them. I don't make fun of them. They are brutalizing themselves for the chance of being the best at something that once this is over, very few people are going to care about. And how do you take this on to do something else? And it's one of the reasons I pulled my daughter out of gymnastics, because I'm like, "I want you to spend your time doing something else, not wreck your body until you're 16 years old. And then have nothing to show for it—"
[00:16:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:39] David C. Smalley: But the chance to go make somebody else millions of dollars. It's just that blew my mind. I wanted her to work on her mental state and how she could become her own content creator and focus on that and college and generating revenue and understanding business school, as opposed to destroying her body like so many gymnasts.
[00:16:55] Jordan Harbinger: You know who won't tweet mean things about you, even if you fall three times during your routine? The fine products and services that support this show. We'll be right back.
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[00:19:35] Now for the rest of Skeptical Sunday.
[00:19:38] What do they have to pay for it? Like do we, at least — is the USA gymnastics team, or are they at least paying for the coaches for example, or does the athlete also have to pay for that?
[00:19:50] David C. Smalley: That's a great question. So Lauryn Williams is one of the most decorated track and field and bobsledding superstars that we have on our Olympic teams.
[00:19:57] Jordan Harbinger: Quite a combo.
[00:19:58] David C. Smalley: She was the first American woman to win medals in both Summer and Winter Olympics. And she once said that as highly decorated as she was, she would make about $200,000 a year, but she said, "200,000 becomes a less than a hundred thousand really quick with all of our expenses." So what kind of things do they pay for? Well, first of all, every Olympic athlete has to be a part of what's called a club. So a club fee would be like, for example, in the US swimming, if you're not paying your club dues, which for the swim team is $5,800 or so per year.
[00:20:33] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:20:33] David C. Smalley: If you're not paying to be a part of the club, none of your times count you won't register and you won't be ranked in the country in order to even qualify for the Olympics. So like for me, the one hobby I have outside of fact-checking and making people laugh who are drunk in Little Rock, Arkansas. I bowl. One thing I do. I love bowling. Well, if I go out and bowl a 300 during a game, it won't count unless I'm a member of the USBC. So I have to pay my annual dues. I have to pay my weekly dues. Every time I go bowl, I have to pay. If I don't pay and then I break some world record, the world record doesn't count. So you have to pay your dues. So just five grand a year, just for the club fees alone. And then every time they travel. If you're going to go to some sort of qualifying competition in Colorado and you live in New York, you got to buy your own plane tickets. You got to pay for your own hotel. You have to pay to enter the competitions. You have to pay those fees, the entry fees. It's like gambling on yourself—
[00:21:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:21:30] David C. Smalley: —and a chance to win the 10,000, to be the best out of these 37 people. They're all taking your money to pay, and you're all fighting for that number one spot. The vast majority of people leave with nothing. You have to pay for your own coaches. The USOPC does not pay for coaches. There's some coaching available, but if you want a dedicated coach for you, they don't just provide it. You have to pay that it's usually upwards of about a $100 to $200 per hour for coaching.
[00:21:54] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:21:55] David C. Smalley: You typically have to rent your own gym time. There are some USO dedicated practice facilities where you can reserve time, but it's so backed up and it's so full. A lot of times you have to go rent time somewhere else. You got to pay for that. And you got to pay for a dietician. You got to pay for massages. You got to pay for nutritionists. And 20 percent goes to your agent, by the way. And on top of that, not only are you — this money that you are bringing in is going out to all these other places, but you have to buy your own equipment. When you see people holding their rods and their skis and their goggles and the whole uniform, they have to buy those things. But one thing I didn't know about this going into this, which I learned as part of my research is that they actually have to buy their own bobsled.
[00:22:38] Jordan Harbinger: That's ridiculous.
[00:22:39] David C. Smalley: I know they have to buy it. And it's about 30 grand for one of those bobsleds. And you're like, "How, how, how? How can someone live working part-time jobs here and there afford this stuff?" More and more Olympians are going to crowdfunding, going to like GoFundMe and stuff like that. And our men's bobsledding team got really creative with it. They did what's called the Bob spread. They literally posed shirtless and these are good-looking guys who have great bodies. They posed shirtless to raise $75,000 for all of their collective equipment, including the bobsled itself. So they had to sell a bunch of calendars and yeah, they hit their goal. They actually made their goal and then some, but now you have the crowdfunding of these athletes and the USOPC profiting from it and paying their executives millions. It's just brutal.
[00:23:30] Jordan Harbinger: So, okay, they're not getting paid. They have to pay for their own stuff. So there's negative pay, right? It's like, they're going to debt to do this, and often not really — unless they get serious endorsements, they're not coming out the other side. What else do they have to put up with? That can't be the only inconvenience or drag on these poor folks.
[00:23:48] David C. Smalley: Look and you would think — in most situations, when you're funding it — you've heard the old adage, "It costs to be the boss." When you're funding yourself, you're an entrepreneur, you're generating the revenue, you get to say how things go. In fact, it's the opposite. These people are funding themselves in order to essentially be an employee to generate profit for another organization. And they have to go by these ridiculous restrictions.
[00:24:08] I don't know if you heard about the women's volleyball players, especially the beach volleyball. They have the size of their bikini bottoms regulated. They can't be more than six centimeters wide at the hip and no longer than six centimeters long. So if they're constantly like, you know, digging their thong out of their butt crack, it's because the Olympic committee demands that that's what they do. The men's shorts are also controlled, but they are controlled to be a minimum of 10 centimeters above the knee or the top of the kneecap.
[00:24:38] Jordan Harbinger: Huh.
[00:24:39] David C. Smalley: So the men get to wear long shorts. The women have to wear these tiny thongs that are just barely covering themselves. And of course, it's, you know, sexualized.
[00:24:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's weird because obviously there's no function where it's like, "Hey look, you know, when people jump in shorts, they can't get as much air," because if that were the case, then dudes would be digging their thong out of their butt on TV also.
[00:24:58] David C. Smalley: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because you know, guys, especially will do anything to get just a little bit of an edge over someone else. So clearly, it's not a function.
[00:25:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. If you told guys they had to play volleyball with like a fig leaf duct tape to their crotch, they would do that if they thought it would give them an edge athletically.
[00:25:14] David C. Smalley: Absolutely. Anything for the gold medal.
[00:25:16] Jordan Harbinger: That's got to be a crappy feeling though. Like you're one of the best in the world. And they're like, "What we want though is for more people to watch. And in order to do that, you have to show more of your butt on TV." And it's like, "This is the last thing I want to f*cking worry about right now."
[00:25:29] David C. Smalley: It's so demeaning. They even control — like, of course, they can't make political statements, which I kind of understand. And they can't do any sort of protests. You know, like the whole fist on the podium thing from the '70s. They're not allowed to do that, but gymnasts are not allowed to wear bright fingernail Polish, only neutral colors.
[00:25:46] Jordan Harbinger: Why? Do we know? That doesn't make any sense.
[00:25:49] David C. Smalley: They said anything that would be a bright color to be distracting from the uniform.
[00:25:52] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, sure.
[00:25:53] David C. Smalley: These people are training. Like I said, six hours a day, six days a week. There's constant injuries, the USOPC estimates, and I quote, "This a near 100 percent injury rate."
[00:26:05] Jordan Harbinger: So basically you're going to get hurt during the Olympics.
[00:26:07] David C. Smalley: You're going to get hurt. The pay is going to be ridiculously low and basically no social life. So, especially for teenagers, you were talking about sacrificing some of the best times of your life for this grueling physical work that will likely have no payoff whatsoever.
[00:26:21] Jordan Harbinger: Unbelievable. So not necessarily injured during the Olympics, sorry — during your training for the Olympics at some point.
[00:26:27] David C. Smalley: Training or the side competitions, yeah, or, you know, getting ready or working out for the training. There's tons of injuries. Where do you go for that? It's not like we have banging healthcare in this country, right?
[00:26:37] Jordan Harbinger: Right. No, that's a good point. So look, again, I'm usually a free-market guy here. Is this just a function of — and unfortunately, it doesn't sound that way — but is this just a function of, look, these don't generate a lot of cash? Maybe the Olympic committee generates a lot of cash, but look, they've got a ton of employees. They've got to pay those people who need benefits. That's their actual job. They don't get any glory. Or is it that there are sports that rake in tons of cash and they just said, "You know what? We can get away with not paying these people. So that's what we're going to do"? Where does it lie?
[00:27:07] David C. Smalley: That's a great point. It definitely a little bit is tied to how much that sport brings in.
[00:27:11] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:27:11] David C. Smalley: Like for example, people will talk about the NBA versus the WNBA and they say, "Well, men are paid unfairly because the NBA players make more than a WNBA." I'm just as a Galatarian as the next person. But if you look at the profit margins of the NBA versus WNBA, the NBA makes a ton more cash, they can afford to pay more. So if the WNBA players were demanding NBA salaries, the WNBA would literally go out of business. They can not afford that level of salary because they're not bringing that much money into the sport.
[00:27:40] And so you would say that that's the same with Olympics, but even the high-dollar sports are not bringing in that much cash, but I do have a quick list here for the top-earning sports. So as a business decision, I want to know, should we cut some of these out and then start actually paying salaries to the top-earning sports. It's something to be considered if you're going to treat this fairly. So the top-earning sports are six million dollars is what's brought in for the US ski and snowboard team.
[00:28:09] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:28:09] David C. Smalley: 2.1 million for bobsled, 2.1 million for speed skating, 3.9 million for track and field, 3.4 million for the swim team. These are the people we see on the Wheaties boxes, right?
[00:28:21] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:28:21] David C. Smalley: These are the people that you see in the commercials. 2.2 million for gymnastics. I thought that would be much higher.
[00:28:26] Jordan Harbinger: I thought gymnastics would be the top because I feel like—
[00:28:29] David C. Smalley: Yeah, me too.
[00:28:29] Jordan Harbinger: —that's the only thing, anybody watches that I know, or maybe I just know a bunch of gymnastics fans for some reason.
[00:28:34] David C. Smalley: Yeah. For some reason, the skiing and snowboarding, I think, has more, has different types of events where the long jump and the flips and it's just cool to watch them do all the big flips and they're doing it at 40 feet or 60 feet in the air, as opposed to, you know, off of a tumble track. So maybe anything that's more dangerous probably is going to be more eyeballs on it.
[00:28:53] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe they just attract more sponsors because there's more crap you have to buy to go skiing and snowboarding versus gymnastics where apparently you're not even wearing shoes, right? You can't even wear nail polish. So where are you going to sponsor? Like here's the brand of chalk that I used to do flips.
[00:29:04] David C. Smalley: That's right. That's a great point, man. You can't put a whole lot of sponsorships on that Jersey.
[00:29:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:08] David C. Smalley: But you and I could just go skiing. You know what I mean?
[00:29:10] Jordan Harbinger: That's right.
[00:29:10] David C. Smalley: We can go for this stuff and just go skiing. We're not going to go on a balance beam anytime soon.
[00:29:14] Jordan Harbinger: No, that's a good point. No iron crosses for me.
[00:29:17] David C. Smalley: On the flip side, the Golf Federation that participates in the Olympics, $26,000 is all they're bringing. The roller sports, $50,000—
[00:29:26] Jordan Harbinger: What are roller sports? Is there rollerblading in the Olympics?
[00:29:29] David C. Smalley: It's not rollerblading. I think there are — I don't know.
[00:29:34] Jordan Harbinger: We literally don't even know what sport that is. I guess that's why it doesn't earn a lot.
[00:29:37] David C. Smalley: There was going to be some sort of skating — yeah, I know, it doesn't earn. The team handball, I know what handball looks like. I've never seen handball in the Olympics. It brings in 81,000. Tennis only brings in 90 grand.
[00:29:49] Jordan Harbinger: That surprises me.
[00:29:50] David C. Smalley: But US badminton brings in more than tennis. Badminton is 131,000 and then synchronized swimming is 156,000.
[00:29:57] Jordan Harbinger: I'm surprised that synchronized swimming even brings in that. I mean that's six times or whatever, more than golf. That's shocking. I don't understand these economics.
[00:30:05] David C. Smalley: Yeah. I don't either.
[00:30:06] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:30:06] David C. Smalley: So when you think about that money coming in the millions of dollars that do come in, how are you going to divide that up among the people?
[00:30:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I don't know.
[00:30:13] David C. Smalley: So here's what the USOPC says they do. This is their claim. $33.2 million was split on direct-to-athlete payments.
[00:30:22] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:30:23] David C. Smalley: Now that sounds like I've been lying to you this entire time.
[00:30:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That sounds like they're getting paid. Yeah, okay.
[00:30:27] David C. Smalley: 33.2 million direct to athlete — here's how they classify direct-to-athlete payments, 14.3 million to 1,479 athletes, which averages out to $9,600 per person.
[00:30:41] Jordan Harbinger: I didn't realize there were so many athletes, I guess that's the problem.
[00:30:44] David C. Smalley: Yeah, that is part of the problem.
[00:30:45] Jordan Harbinger: If you'd ask me how many athletes I think there are, I would say under 200.
[00:30:49] David C. Smalley: Yeah. I would have guessed a little higher than that, but well, under 1,479.
[00:30:53] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, sorry for televised sports under 200. Of course, we're not talking about the roller sports that we couldn't even identify and golf that I didn't even really realize was the Olympics. Look, I'm not thinking archery. I'm thinking of like the ones — sorry, I guess in the top-earning sports. But even if it's 600 or 500, whatever, it's not 1,479, which that surprises me. That's so much more than I thought.
[00:31:17] David C. Smalley: Right. Which is why it's only — even if they did do it, it would only be $9,600 each. And I promise you not every athlete is even getting $9,600. They also classify part of that money as 7.6 million toward health insurance. Of course, they have deductibles and other things that are out-of-pocket expenses for the athletes. Four million in medal support, I could not find what even that means.
[00:31:39] Jordan Harbinger: Medal support.
[00:31:40] David C. Smalley: I do not know what that means. 5.3 million in medal bonuses. And that was a long from the Pyeongchang Winter Games and then two million on tuition and career assistance.
[00:31:51] Jordan Harbinger: That's a little sus.
[00:31:52] David C. Smalley: I agree. So those are not direct-to-athlete payments. So the numbers that they — and then if you even pull up the financial form that they released, that's where I'm literally copying and pasting into my notes from that form. That's all they say. There's no further explanation. There's no three or four deep dive pages to explain what health insurance coverage they get. That's all it says 7.6 million health insurance. That's all it says. Medal support, that's it. There's no explanation for what medal support is. So maybe we would have to, you know, talk to someone at the Olympics and see what kind of answer we can get. But yeah, the money is being spread so weirdly that it's hard to even track. Yet, we know those executives are cashing in, making either near a million or over a million-dollar salary per year.
[00:32:35] Jordan Harbinger: I know a lot of people boycotted the Olympics this year or said, "You know, I'm not going to watch it. I'm not going to go there. It's in China." People were calling it the genocide Olympics. Because of China's treatment of the Uyghurs. That had to put a dent in the money available for everything from direct-to-athlete payments to everything else about the Olympics this year.
[00:32:53] David C. Smalley: Absolutely. When I mentioned at the top of this, that the viewership was down 43 percent, I actually saw that on a YouTube channel by Laowhy86.
[00:33:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:03] David C. Smalley: He talks about viewership being down 43 percent because people are calling it the genocide Olympics. And it's mostly due to China and their treatment of the Uyghurs as well as the seven forced labor camps, seven forced labor camps that are within 12 miles—
[00:33:17] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:33:18] David C. Smalley: —the Olympic games. He actually shows a map and shows where all of these are, which by the way, that's an entirely different topic for another Skeptical Sunday. I definitely want to get into that and address that at some point. We could tie tons of projects or tons of products back to those camps, whether iPhones or diamond rings or tennis shoes or whatever. There's all kinds of things we could address and go, you know, "Are we being proactive by actively supporting humanitarian causes and recycling and doing things that we think are good, but where's that money going? And where's that product coming from?"
[00:33:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:49] David C. Smalley: Not to ruin everything for everybody but at some point we need to address that.
[00:33:52] Jordan Harbinger: No, I like that. I want to do that. I want to ruin everything for everyone. That's the whole point of this particular segment of The Jordan Harbinger Show. We've got our work cut out for us.
[00:33:59] David C. Smalley: But those athletes, he shows in the video athletes from these most recent winter games posting videos of their apartments, completely flooding like water pouring down from their light sockets. And it's kind of like when China built those two quick hospitals, remember during the spike of COVID.
[00:34:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah.
[00:34:17] David C. Smalley: They put them up like so fast, it made our heads spin. It was like, "Wow," we were praising them. But then immediately there were plumbing issues. Walls were crumbling. There were issues because they rushed it and use cheap materials. The same thing is happening for these temporary barracks they built for the Olympics athletes. It's bad. I mean, literally water pouring from electrical outlets.
[00:34:36] Jordan Harbinger: I saw that. The Finnish — I can't remember — Finnish athlete was like, "The whole thing is flooded. Here's photos," and they made her delete those.
[00:34:44] David C. Smalley: Yeah. So everybody that was there was forced to download a certain app to do all of their postings. And China's removed well over 41,000 posts.
[00:34:54] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:34:54] David C. Smalley: Anything that said anything negatively about the Olympics, they were deleting and they've banned over 800 users across multiple platforms, just for telling the truth about the conditions in Beijing. And he even shows evidence of warnings to not eat the food provided. Like this is coming from official committee members in the United States saying, "Do not eat the food provided." Because they are not only concerned about American athletes being malnourished, they're concerned that it — and this is the quote, "It may contain banned substances." So they were concerned something about what was going on was making our committee concerned that China may intentionally put banned substances in the food that they're serving so that our athletes would test positive for substances. Substance that they weren't allowed to have.
[00:35:39] Jordan Harbinger: That would not really surprise me given how bad Beijing wants to look — or I should say Xi Jinping wants to look—
[00:35:46] David C. Smalley: Absolutely.
[00:35:46] Jordan Harbinger: —compared to the United States and the rest of the world. Plus, I saw photos of the food and it looks horrendous. It looked disgusting. It was like Fyre Fest.
[00:35:53] David C. Smalley: So disgusting. I mean, it's bad. Now—
[00:35:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:56] David C. Smalley: And what I've seen, I've seen pictures, different pictures from what the Chinese athletes are fed from, what other foreign athletes are fed. And that's an interesting issue because is it true? Are the Chinese athletes being forced to eat the same crap everybody else was having to eat—
[00:36:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:36:09] David C. Smalley: —but they were just showing different pictures because, you know, they don't want any trouble from their government or are they actually being fed better food. And now that's a whole new issue to address, right?
[00:36:18] Jordan Harbinger: That's totally different. It wouldn't surprise me if they were eating better food, but it also wouldn't surprise me if they were eating the same crap and just weren't allowed to say anything about it.
[00:36:26] David C. Smalley: They were being sent photos to share, you know, or whatever—
[00:36:28] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:36:29] David C. Smalley: —which sounds super conspiratorial but when you see what's been going on with Beijing and with Xi — you know, like you said, it wouldn't be surprising at all.
[00:36:37] Jordan Harbinger: Propaganda looks like that. Yeah.
[00:36:38] David C. Smalley: Absolutely.
[00:36:39] Jordan Harbinger: And it's not uncommon from North Korea, China, and frankly often from the United States, we have our own version of propaganda, but usually it doesn't involve telling an athlete to post a picture of food and say that it's good or bad.
[00:36:49] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:36:49] Jordan Harbinger: It's a little bit too micromanaged. We don't have that kind of infrastructure in place quite yet.
[00:36:54] David C. Smalley: Llik Laowhy86 says — and I encourage people to go watch his video. There's tons more info there — but he talks about how it completely backfired on China. They wanted to sort of show how superior they were and how amazing they were. And some of the concept drawings would show like the ski jump, right amongst these beautiful mountains and snowy hilltops, but instead they're right next to these factories with like smoke coming out everywhere. And what he's saying is like, they were kind of proud of this. They're saying, "Look, we're not poor. We have all of these industrial workers and plants and factories," and like, we're supposed to be impressed by that. But the concept drawings looked like it was going to be this beautiful scenery and nature, and it's just not the case.
[00:37:35] So my whole take on this is until America starts helping with the funding, paying a fair wage to athletes until ensuring their proper care overseas, and fair play like the whole issue with the doping from the ROC, I think we should all remain very skeptical of the Olympics.
[00:37:52] Jordan Harbinger: David, thank you very much. No more, no more Olympic plans for me.
[00:37:55] David C. Smalley: I'm out too. Thanks for having me, man.
[00:37:59] Jordan Harbinger: As usual, I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a preview with a former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family in New York for nearly three years, resulting in the arrest and conviction of 35 mobsters — and get this, he's not even Italian. Here's a bite.
[00:38:19] Jack Garcia: Jordan, I've done everything. I mean, I have posed as a money launderer, I've worked as a drug dealer. I have worked as a transporter for drug deals. I worked as a warehouse guy, the whole gamut. My career was 24 out of 26 years was solely dedicated working undercover. If I wasn't working for the FBI, I would have been investigated by the FBI.
[00:38:41] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:38:42] Jack Garcia: I walk in, I'm in the bar and there's a barmaid there, good-looking young lady. She's serving me. "What would you like?" Usually, my drink was, "Give me a Ketel one martini with 3 olives, a glass of water on the side." I finished the drink, the guys come in. I'm going to go. Go in my pocket, take out the big wad of money, that knot with the rubber band on it. Bam! Give her a hundred dollars. You're not a guy who takes out a little leather wallet and he's going through the change, or he's doing that.
[00:39:11] Now can imagine four gangsters sitting around going, "Let's split it up. I had the soup. You had the sandwich and french fries. What about the tip?" Sometimes we get into a bidding war that goes, "Hey, your money's no good here." "What are you doing? You're embarrassing me over here." "What do you mean? You paid a lot." "Let me get this. Forget about it." "You pay for it." if I would have gone in there and became a guy who had never a penny, never went into his wallet and never picked up the tab, never had a dime, never kicked up money, never give tribute payment, I'd be on my ass. They'll throw me out.
[00:39:43] If you're with the mob, I say, "Hey, Jordan, you're on record with us. That means we protect you. Nobody could shake him down. We could shake you down but you're on record with us."
[00:39:53] Jordan Harbinger: For more including tricks wise guys use to know who's legit and who's not, mob culture, and the rules that govern the always upward flow of money, and how Jack became so trusted by the highest levels of the organization that they offered him the chance to become a made man, check out episode 392 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Jack Garcia.
[00:40:15] Another one in the can. Thank y'all for listening. Many of you did get back to me with positive feedback and suggestions for Skeptical Sunday. That's where a lot of these ideas come from. So please do keep those coming. As I mentioned pretty much every week, these episodes probably aren't something we're going to do every single week, but we'll see what shakes out. It really does depend on a lot of different factors around here.
[00:40:33] Now, I have no life. I have two kids, so I'm just creating shows and changing diapers all day long. Topic suggestions for future episodes of Skeptical Sunday are always welcome. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your thoughts.
[00:40:45] A link to the show notes for the episode can be email@example.com. Transcripts are in the show notes. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. Or just connect with me right there on LinkedIn. I love chatting with you there. You can find David Smalley at @davidcsmalley on all social media platforms, at davidcsmalley.com, or better yet on his podcast, The David C Smalley Show. Links to all of that in the show notes as well.
[00:41:08] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Our advice and opinions, they're our own. And yeah, I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer, so do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. Remember, we rise by lifting others, share the show with those you love. And if you found this episode useful, please share it with somebody else who needs to hear it. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:41:40] Don't forget, I'm going to be interviewing author Ryan Holiday live in person in Los Angeles at the Venice West on June 13th. I'd love to see you there in person. Tickets are available at jordanharbinger.com/tickets. That's jordanharbinger.com/tickets. Again, June 13th at Los Angeles at the Venice West, that's me and Ryan Holiday live onstage. Hope to see you there.
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