Monday, 28 May 2012

Be Very, Very Careful What You Wish For

Citizens of Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul have just received some horrible news. According to the Associated Press those cities have been short-listed to host the 2020 Olympic games. If they value their municipal and national budgets along with their peace of mind the citizens of Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul should immediately follow Rome’s example and respectfully withdraw from this ridiculous contest.
The London Olympic Logo

Take my word for it. We live in London which in 2005 won the exceedingly dubious prize of hosting the Olympic Games this year. And we have been paying for it ever since. Transport, never one of London’s finer points, has become impossible. Unlike Paris, London does not have a system of grand, wide boulevards that can speed traffic along. No, the streets here are narrow and crooked and crowded at the best of times. Add the Olympic buses and large trucks and you have the makings of complete grid-lock.

The Goal ....vs. .....
Roads that are not dug up are being closed so that oleaginous Olympic officials can ooze their way quickly to their favourite watering holes while the rest of us are being told of the joys of walking to work or perhaps not going to work at all. One suspects that the  real reason for London’s Olympic bid was to find an excuse to upgrade infrastructure that has not been touched since Queen Victoria was a young girl. All the inconvenience to the hapless residents of London is being excused as ‘essential for the Olympics.’ Roads, water mains, gas lines, electricity grid, and the metro system have all been torn up for the last several years in a frantic attempt to finish them before the excuse of ‘The Games’ passes its sell-by date.
.....  The Current Reality
Citizens of Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid should hang onto their wallets very tightly when officials start talking about the cost of the games. When London was awarded the games in 2005 the cost was supposed to be a mere £2.4 billion. The most recent figure is closer to £11 billion – almost five times overbudget.  

In Theory This Will Finish In Time
Japan and Spain can afford to be a bit blasé about bidding for the games. After all they have hosted both the summer and winter games before. For Turkey, however, this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to show all those doubters in the rest of the world that Turkey has arrived and should definitely sit at the High Table of major nations. Turkish amour propre  demands no less. No bid will be too large – not where prestige and ‘image’ are concerned. The prime minister who champions building a canal to lighten the load on the 20-mile Bosphorus Strait will certainly dig very deep to buy these Olympics. Anyone suggesting that perhaps the Turkish budget could do without the extra strain of hosting this folly will be castigated as milli hain – national traitor. I have no doubt whatsoever that Turkey could physically host these games. There will be no arguments over location of venues. Whole neighbourhoods will be levelled and roads torn up if necessary. Istanbul is a fascinating city that remains a major tourist destination. The Olympics would simply be icing on the cake. Yes, there might be the odd security issue or question about freedom of the press. But these will be buried under a mountain of pretty pictures of the Bosphorus and the Covered Market filled with tourists loading up on knock-off  Louis Vuitton handbags..

Despite all the hullabaloo and hype about the Olympics, which have come to resemble the trashy Eurovision contest, one really does have to ask if the whole thing is worth it. Have the Games gotten so big, so pompous, so political and so incredibly commercial that they have lost their original meaning? Isn’t it time to slim them down and perhaps leave events like Beach Volleyball to the beach at Ipanema where it will be followed by hordes of hormone-challenged young men?

But isn’t it really time to stop this foolish, degrading and very, very expensive competition among global cities to host the games? Why don’t the powers-that-be take the truly brave and radical step of selecting one permanent location for the Games? Think of all the money that would be saved. None of the venues or Olympic villages would be left to rot after the games. The opportunity for the type of corruption that dominates the world football organization would be removed forever. Committee members would have nothing to sell. Transparency, economy and plain common sense would win.

OK, you say. But where? Probably can not be in the United States, Russia or China. Neutral Switzerland, already over-loaded with international organizations, might be an idea. But the weather could be a problem. And do the Swiss really want hordes of foreigners (especially those without large bank accounts in Zurich) descending on their pristine mountains every four years? Probably not.

Bring The Games Home to Athens

Why not Athens? Yes, Athens. The Games started there. The infrastructure from the 2004 Games is in place. The weather is no problem. And the time zone is not too bad for television.
After being ridiculed and roughed up in the world press for the last several years, such a decision would give the Greeks something to cheer about – something that would actually add to their economic fortunes. And by the time all this comes to pass, the economy might even be sorted out.

It is definitely time to Save The Olympics. And bringing them permanently back home would be a good place to start.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Hi David,
Never a truer word said . . . . just the thought that the games might come here makes me shiver . . . . Well written . . Elaine