Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I've Become An Olympic Fence-Sitter

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 15:  (L-R) Meng Wang o...
I'm not an Olympic hater.  I'm not one of those in-your-face protesters who hates anything to do with business or government or hunting seals, or whatever.  Okay, I don't like seeing seal hunts.

In fact, I love the winter Olympics most of all because of events like speed skating and ski jumping.  They are fun to watch.  I have not missed watching at least ONE event from just about every Olympic games, summer or winter, since the 80's.  I'm not even resentful that I couldn't get tickets to the Vancouver Olympics.  I tried, but it wasn't meant to be.  I figure, meh, I can see the events better on TV anyway.

But I have been left with a bad taste in my mouth about the Vancouver Olympics taking place in only a couple of weeks here on the wetcoast of BC.  One expects to hear a certain amount of controversy when it comes to any event of this magnitude taking place;  people being evicted from their cheaper apartments downtown so the owners can rent them out at exorbitant prices to people coming for the games, road closures, lawsuits because of "Olympic-looking" logos.  There are always going to be people who are unhappy and there are always going to be unfair circumstances for some for an event this big.  But some of the moves that this government has made are just plain stupid.

Like having millions of dollars to replace a roof on a stadium while alternately firing 800 teachers because they have to make cutbacks.  Like telling everyone on the waiting list for elective surgery that they'll have to wait longer because of the games.  Huh?

It seems that since the Los Angeles Olympics in the summer of '84, the whole thing has become more about protecting the sponsors and wine-ing and dining the corporate CEO's and elected officials than it is about the athletes themselves.  In fact, I have heard nearly squat about the athletes, now that I think of it.  Every now and then maybe some sponsor features an athlete in their commercials, but that's about it for exposing the people that this event should REALLY be featuring.

Is it really only about money?

If this is the case, I think we should go back to basics.  Put the games in the same place each time, whether it's Athens, Greece or Nagano, Japan.  Sure, have your sponsors, but don't force every city or country that "wins" the Olympics to put out millions and maybe billions of dollars to build stadiums and Olympic villages and transportation systems, for only one event.  It has become financially silly.  They call these structures "legacies".  Okay.  But if we are left with enormous bills and government cutbacks because of them, that's a legacy too, isn't it?  And a much more depressing one.

As it turns out, there are many locals who are starting to feel the way I do.  We want to be happy for the games, but we're left with a sense that somehow the reality is not as good as the hype.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be watching my favourite events.  I'll be rooting very enthusiastically for the athletes that represent my country.

But I think I'm a little less of an Olympic Games supporter than I used to be.
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