Monday, August 22, 2011


The United States Olympic Committee has announced that there will be no United States city competing for the 2020 Olympics.  Apparently there's some high level pissing match over money that's blocking the process.

My reaction:  It's about darned time.

I like sports as much as the next guy, and you see the best athletes in the world come together every couple of years in the Summer and Winter Olympics. I think the ideal of young athletes from around the globe coming together to compete on an even plane is wonderful.  Unless of course you count the professional athletes screwing up basketball and hockey, but that's a rant for another time.  Or the athletes that dope the heck out of themselves with the full support and cooperation of some of the the best bio-chemists on the planet, but I digress.

But you also see the country, state, and city that are hosting it spend years of time and billions of dollars getting ready, running the darn thing, and then figuring out what to do with all of the venues they created for the games.  Seriously, does Chicago need more swimming pools and stadiums?

The Olympic ideal of young people and nations coming together peacefully without regard to politics fell apart in 1936 and has never come back.  The rampant nationalism of the Cold War continues to this day as the U.S., Russia, and China hiss and spit at each other every 2 years.  Instead of natural talents being nurtured and displayed to show how humanity can come together to peacefully compete, we get academies for gymnastics, figure skating, and whatever other events countries want to stake their national pride on.  Instead of talented teenagers being plucked from academic sports programs and sent to compete, we get battalions of five-year-olds doing nothing but figure out how to put one more spin into their ice skating jump when they turn 16.

The United States needs to rethink whether or not it wants to continue to make NBC rich by participating in the Olympics at all.  Yes, we don't directly subsidize the USOC through tax dollars, but any time one of our cities gets delusions of grandeur about hosting the games, we end up spending our treasure and prestige to 'convince'* the IOC to honor us with their presence.  From a hardnosed financial and national policy perspective, we need to ask what we're getting out of it.  The answer, as far as I can tell, is less than nothing.

We don't get credit for running a good set of games once the torch goes out.  No country that opposes us in the real international arena gives an inch because we were gracious hosts to their athletes.  No third-world oil baron decides to buy American equipment or services because he liked the way the stadium at the Olympics was built.

The United States needs to wake up and realize that the Olympics are a vanity project at best, and a money pit at worst.  Our time and treasure would be better spent on something that produces better results than a few metallic trinkets on ribbons and a really neat track and field stadium.

*convince:  (konvins), noun, see "bribe"


Ruth said...

I enjoy watching the sports coverage of the Olympics, even sports that otherwise don't interest me at all, but the coverage has deteriorated to the point where its almost not worth watching (the fast forward button sure gets one heck of a workout).

And I've never understood why the competition to host the thing when all it does is screw with the local economy for the years of prep in return for a massive influx, and then left with a bunch of buildings that cost money to tear down.

Old NFO said...

All good points as usual... And we're STILL paying for the stuff in Atlanta, and that was, what/ 1996???

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