One summer day in 1996, my wife and I met an American couple from Atlanta, Georgia, in a beautiful valley in Jasper National Park. What had brought them here, we asked. "We wanted to get as far away as possible from the Olympics," they said. We could sympathize with their plight, and they'd certainly chosen a great hideout. They were also ahead of their time. Twenty years later, on the eve of Rio 2016, I hope the tide is turning against the Olympics -- and against that other Big Sports monster, FIFA. Let's start with the ostensible inspiration for the Olympic "movement," the first two of its fundamental principles: 1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. 2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity. That's the theory. In practice, the Olympics have consistently undercut their own principles. There's little joy in the effort of doping oneself into better performance, especially when found out. When whole countries' athletes are banned from performance because of doping, as Russia's have been, the educational value is hard to find. The "universal fundamental ethical principle" appears to be "don't get caught." After two world wars and many small ones, the Olympics have clearly failed to encourage humanity's harmonious development. The 1968 Olympics, for example, were preceded by the Tlatelolco massacre, when, 10 days before the games, Mexican Army soldiers killed as many as 300 protesting students. American Olympics fans were far more upset by the Black Power salutes by two American athletes on the podium that year. Since then, the Olympics have been sabotaged by terrorism (1972, 1996), boycotts (1976, 1980, 1984) and far too many doping scandals and general misbehaviour. Wikipedia offers a concise, but depressingly long, summary. Gladiators, athletes, what's the difference? You might say nothing has changed since ancient times, when the original Greek Olympics were marred by corruption, or the days of imperial Rome when the bodies of dead gladiators were pitched into a hole near the Coliseum. If it keeps the proles happy and entertained, who cares what happens to the poor bloody athletes? Well, governments ought to care. Bidding for the games is now like kissing Medusa with your eyes open: One glimpse of that lovely head full of snakes, and you're dead. Remember Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau claiming that the 1976 Olympics could no more run a deficit than a man could get pregnant? He inspired Aislin's classic cartoon, "Allo, Morgentaler?" And Quebec went on paying for 30 long years. Again and again, Olympic hosts (and FIFA World Cup hosts as well) have run up staggering bills to construct -- for a few weeks' use -- structures that will take generations to pay for, with little likelihood of attracting post-Olympic or FIFA events. Greece is currently struggling to contain an endless flood of Syrian immigrants. The Greeks borrowed billions for the 2004 Olympics, not to mention billions more from the European Union for other projects, and since the 2008 crash the whole country has been running on fumes. Relatively rich countries like Vladimir Putin's Russia can stage an Olympics now, but only the most desperate or crooked governments are still interested. Oil-rich Qatar is one such government. Qatar wangled its way to getting the 2022 FIFA World Cup and has been abusing and exploiting countless imported labourers to build soccer stadiums. It seemed like a good idea at the time Rio 2016 must have looked like a great idea once upon a time, but now it may end Brazil's 30 years of democracy after a long military dictatorship. President Dilma Rousseff is fighting a serious recession while being impeached by politicians themselves charged with corruption. Meanwhile, Zika virus is scaring away potential visitors, and whoever replaces Rousseff will have to offer free tickets to fill the empty stands with supporters drenched in mosquito repellent. And after the Olympics, the deluge: a political and public health catastrophe crippling a nation of 200 million. Comparatively speaking, Vancouver's 2010 Winter Games got off lightly. But as every Olympics becomes more expensive than the last, only countries run by insecure fools or tyrants are even interested in bidding for them. Big Sports have become grotesque parasites on every country, from the richest to the poorest. The idea of just playing a game for the fun of the moment, with no reward but the play itself, is dead. Now parents drive their kids to pre-dawn hockey practice -- a very expensive lottery ticket that just might win the kids NHL glory, millions of dollars, and lethal concussions. Just say no It doesn't have to be this way. Some grown-up country like Canada just has to say, "We quit," and the whole system would start to implode. Instead of funding athletes for the Olympics or professional sports, we could fund amateur athletics for kids and adults alike. Keep the organized competition on a provincial level, or maybe hold a low-key Canada Games every four or five years. Forget the international competitions, which by definition will be crooked. A key requirement for provincial and national games: accept one commercial endorsement and you're out for life, just as if you'd been doped up. It wouldn't be a popular move. The Greeks sacked Troy for the loot and the glory, and those motivations are still just as powerful and irrational. The Romans didn't care how many dead gladiators were dumped into the pit beside the Coliseum, and we don't care yet about the damage our own gladiators do to themselves and each other just to entertain us. But at some point even the most glory-hungry young concussed athlete will come off the ice, or off the pitch, or off the track, and leave the medal in the dirt. Where it belongs.