Monday, February 20, 2006

The Fun of The Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Gamers are very exciting, aren't they? The Canadian hockey team has been doing very poorly though, still, their defeats so far have been off-set by Cindy Klassen's silver medal win in the 1,00 metre... what? You've stopped reading? Why? Don't you care about how well our athletes are doing? Doesn't their performance in Turin somehow reflect on our national pride? Given the amount of coverage devoted to the games by our national media, you'd think the war in Afghanistan was over, the bird-flu in Europe cured, and the victims of the mud-slide in the Philippines recovered. Are you suggesting that the news about a tyrant who is about the be re-elected in Uganda is more important, or that Osama bin Laden is accusing, fairly accurately, as it appears, the Americans of perpetrating the same crimes on the people of Iraq as did Saddam Hussein should be discussed in the news? Well, all these stories are having a very hard time squeezing Gretzky off the front pages, or supplanting the deliriously ecstatic news about Canada's silver medal in the two-man bobsled because… well… I really don’t know.
I like watching the games – it’s all very diverting entertainment, like watching the PGA or international rugby. But it’s not really news, or if it is news, it’s entertainment or sports news, and shouldn’t be on the front pages of the papers or running as the lead stories on radio and TV.
Other than being entertaining to watch, and a lot of fun for the athletes, the point of these sporting events completely escapes me. Yes, there was a time when the Olympic Games had a political purpose in that the very apolitical nature of the games made them important. But those quaint old days are long behind us. Now the games represent sponsorship opportunities for the winning athletes and the corporations that back them, and humbling ignominy for the losers. And that’s about it. The public is exhorted to fork out stacks of money for clothing like the athletes wear, and even larger stacks of money for Olympic Games venues – Quebeckers – and by extension, all Canadians - are still paying for the dome that was built for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
And what for? A quick tour of the Internet will show you what has happened to other Olympic venues, and the amazing amount of corruption that has been associated with the biding procedures over the years. The money seems to be there for these peculiar sporting events, but not for things like health care, education, housing and job training, to say nothing of protecting the environment. The British Columbia government’s commitment to the 2010 Winter Games is $600 million, including $139 million in contingency funding; let’s call is a billion and be done with it. Overall spending for the Turin Games is expected to be more than US$3.6 billion.
I hope the athletes appreciate it – it seems a lot of taxpayer money to host a party and some sporting events..
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