He may not have turned the Rio pool green. But the US swimmer’s frat boy antics have left a nasty yellow streak all over the Games
So, in Ryan Lochte the International Olympic Committee finally has its poster boy. Nothing says “IOC, bitch!” like landing in a host city, extracting personal glory from it, partying it up and then leaving the place more broken and out of pocket than you found it. It’s such an IOC move, dude. You have your fun, you get wrecked, you piss on a gas station, you break its bathroom door, you claim to have been robbed, you blame a bunch of stuff on the crappy Brazilians.
That Lochte flew out of Brazil days before his story about being jumped at a Rio petrol station by assailants disguised as police officers unravelled – and thus can’t really be touched, even by irate Brazilian authorities, for the mess he left behind – is somehow even more perfect. Oh dear, you have a broken bathroom door? You have a bunch of white elephant stadiums no one wanted? I’m definitely giving a major F about this back in the first world!
So far, so Lausanne. The politics of the tall tale Lochte and his swim team bros spun the media about being robbed in Brazil, to disguise their drunken criminal damage, is almost too obvious to state. An economically struggling city, whose people made it vocally clear the Olympics were unwelcome, has spent much of its hosting period being dug at for failing to provide the five-star international tourist experience and immaculate security that today’s modern Olympic tourist demands.
In this sensitive climate, Lochte & Co claiming to have been robbed by gun-toting pretend police officers underscores the idea the host city is a semi-lawless backwater where no one is safe. Even the apology he posted today is so extravagantly preposterous it can only have been written as a dare. “It is traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country,” quoth Lochte of his trauma, “with a language barrier, and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.” Which is one way of describing the security guard telling them to pay for their vandalism.
My only surprise is that Ryan didn’t offer some kind of comic chaser to these antics – maybe claiming, Joker-style, to have been the one to turn the diving pool green in a daring midnight prank. This is, after all, the guy who once declared on camera that he wanted to be the first person ever to piss in the pool at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. If Abe’s sacred memory weren’t safe, I get the feeling that those diving pussies would totally have it coming to them. And their waters.
Against this backdrop, it is difficult not to be struck by the magnanimity of Rio 2016’s spokesman, Mario Andrada, who sighed of the furore now that the US swimmers had been found out: “Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.” (Apparently unsatiated by the exposure of Lochte’s lie, one high-profile US commentator is calling for Andrada to resign, which feels like a rather poor show.)
I hardly presume to say that the antics of Lochte and his more junior swim team buddies is what white privilege looks like, being similarly blessed myself, but there doesn’t seem to be any possible other explanation. And for that reason, we just know Ryan is going to get away with it. To watch the outraged commentators attempting to lay a glove on him is to imagine them doggy-paddling in the wake of his best freestyle time.
Before the Games began, Ryan Lochte’s post-Olympics plans consisted of moving to Los Angeles to become a celebrity. “I see me being a designer,” he mused. “I see me being a model, I see me being a TV star.”
However much some may wish it to be different, I see none of these things being very much affected by his actions in Rio. After all, the self-styled civilised first world is the place where almost innumerable professional idiots have whole lucrative TV shows devoted to the comings and goings of their lives. It’s what sets us apart from the animals, as I understand it.
Isn’t the point about people like Lochte that they get away with it? No matter how satisfying this story may superficially feel to all those who have loathed Lochte’s frat bro persona since for ever, and who feel that this is somehow a comeuppance or him being found out in some cathartic way – it isn’t. It may even be sufficiently publicity-garnering for some to take a punt on the renewing of a version of his critically misunderstood, swiftly cancelled 2013 E! reality show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do?
Or perhaps Ryan will be diagnosed with another, albeit less destructive case of “affluenza” – the defence used by a Texas teenager after he killed four people in a drink-driving accident. My feeling is that Ryan’s “people” should very much clinicalise this little local difficulty in Rio in order to contain it.
In such cases there is not much that cannot be solved by a tearful primetime interview and a strategic stay in some $10,000-a-week Arizona headspa. This unfortunate but high-rating incident could simply be the worthy successor to Tiger Woods’s “sex addiction”.
I can’t deny that it would offer another moment of grim hilarity were Lochte to stumble bro-tastically through a Woods-style presidential press conference in which he explains he had some compulsion or other that he plans to explore with the help of trained experts. It’s like Chazz Michael Michaels explains in the world cinema classic Blades of Glory: it’s a real disease, with doctors and medicine and everything. But I think we all know the sub-clinical reality is that Ryan’s just a big entitled idiotic baby.
Still, when did that ever stop anyone? Our last prime minister spent his university years acting like this, in Oxford University’s infamous Bullingdon Club, along with our current foreign secretary, who certainly won’t have put his own prime ministerial ambitions to bed.
Smashing somewhere up then leaving some money to pay for repairs – but not the hassle or the affront – is textbook Bullingdon. They tended to favour Oxford restaurants; Ryan and chums took their chances with a petrol station that, in a very real sense, was kinda lucky to be peed on by them. It’s how it goes, bro.
After all, Ryan Lochte’s swimming pomp began during the George W Bush years, which – were it even necessary to do so – surely remind us that dumb-sounding selfish frat boys go on to run the world.