The Olympics are a hypocritical waste of time and money

A man takes a selfie outside Japan's national stadium. Picture: Getty Images
A man takes a selfie outside Japan's national stadium. Picture: Getty Images

So, the Tokyo Olympics are going ahead - despite COVID-19 and the limitations it imposes, despite the cost. Cue the purple-prose paens and pumped-up patriotic puffery.

Bah humbug, I say, much to the horror and amused contempt of my workmates.

Yes, I am and always have been one of those "unAustralian types" with no interest in sport. I'm not against amateur and professional sport and willingly concede they have many worthwhile elements: I simply don't care about them.

But I am against the Olympic Games. "Faster, higher, stronger" seems more like "Costlier, dirtier, more hypocritical."

This quadrennial quagmire of quackery is questionable at best - more like an egregious and unconscionable waste on a global scale.

And this year, COVID-19 cases have already broken out in the Olympic village. Let's hope the virus doesn't accompany the victims when they return home.

The original idea was that the modern Olympics were for amateurs, a high-minded but nonsensical notion. It meant those who competed were generally those who could afford to participate, either because they had the money and time or they were sponsored - privately or by a government - so they could train. So much for "amateurism".

Eventually the pretence began to crumble: money talked, as it inevitably does, and the Olympics became just another big international moneyspinner and political plaything.

Between 2012 and 2016, Australia spent $340 million funding Olympic atheltes. At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Australia won 29 medals - eight gold, 11 silver, 10 bronze. That's almost $12 million a medal: while not denigrating the winners' achievement, we can ask, is it value for money for the country? Australian Olympic Committee predictions before 2016 had us winning 37 medals in total (13 gold). This year they've scrapped predictions. I wonder why?

Either police drug cheating seriously and comprehensively or just accept that such shenanigans are going to happen and let the best dopers win. Russia has been banned from these Olympics for doping - there that's "Olympic ideal" at work - but it's highly unlikely they are the only culprits.

We also have the world championships - do we really need both events? Or either? Sporting competitions should be more objective than, say, artistic ones so how many do we need to show off the "best"?

If we really must continue the Olympics, don't have countries waste vast amounts of money and time on mostly failed bids to secure them that could be put to better use. Either permanently place them in Athens for the obvious historical reason or have an international committee decide future host cities. The latter would inevitably be a rigamorole but at least there might be certainty and a lot of resources could be saved.

The original games were held during an Olympic Truce if there was a war on but the modern Oympics had a more troubled first century including two World Wars during which the event was cancelled. More recently, the International Olympic Committee vowed to build a peaceful and better world through sport and "the Olympic ideal". Or - here's a thought - maybe the UN and countries could simply work towards building that better and peaceful world.

This story Do we really need the Olympic Games? first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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