I can predict that this will not be a popular post. If you are a fan of sport, look away now.
I am not a sports fan. I don’t follow football, (soccer) unlike most men in England. I find Cricket to be terminally dull, and as for Golf and Tennis, don’t get me started on those. Watching Snooker or Darts on TV is a popular pastime here. Why? Some people will watch anything claiming to be sport. Wrestling, Boxing, Gymnastics, Bowls, Banger Racing, even the tedious Formula One, all have their devoted followers, and loyal fans.
When old sports get a little tired, new ones come along at an alarming rate. Beach Volleyball, BMX Biking, Iron Man Trials, and even weightlifting ridiculous things like lorry tyres, or pulling trucks along with their teeth. Windsurfing, Power Boat Racing, Dune Buggy Racing, and Dog-Sled Racing. It never ends. As if just Swimming alone was not enough to send me to sleep, we have to have Synchronised Swimming, Water Polo, Diving, and Open Water Swimming.
The ordinary TV channels are already swamped with the stuff, so they have to have dedicated sports channels as well. The top sports men and women are revered like modern gods. They are used in advertising, as spokespersons for good causes, and even give advice on nutrition, cooking, and diet. They endorse products, sell sports kit of their own design, and their lives are scrutinised by the media; promoted as ideal examples of human kind, something we should all aspire to be.
Then every four years, we get the Olympics. A political mash-up of the New World Order, posing as a celebration of everything good about sport. At one time, that might have been the way of it. But that one time was a long time ago. For as long as I can recall, it has been about medal tables, some nations being better than others, and the supremacy of certain countries in particular sports. Professionals are now allowed to participate, and even the amateurs are either employed by their countries to train, or sponsored with so much money that they never have to do anything except perfect their sport.
There are some also-rans of course. Tiny countries that send small teams, and large countries that send even smaller teams. Success in the Olympics drives even the poorest and unsuited to compete. But it is never about those who never even get a medal. It is always about whether or not the USA will get more medals than China, or Russia. Will former Soviet Republics outdo the Russians who once ruled over them, and will divided countries like Korea, Pakistan, and India achieve a medal victory over the other. There is the long-running argument about performance-enhancing drugs, allowing the IOC to try to ban some competitors, even whole nations. Then there is the corruption evident in the IOC itself.
I wonder that this farce is allowed to continue.
And what of the much-vaunted ‘Olympic Legacy’? Countries that cannot really afford to stage these games clamour to do so. They cite increased revenue from tourism, the prestige of hosting the games, and all the marvellous sports facilities that will be left behind, for the long-term benefit of the local people to use. This may well be the case in some affluent countries. The UK managed to stage the 2012 games without going bankrupt, and many of the facilities built for the games are still used, four years later. But should a place like Rio, with much of its population living in relative poverty in shanty towns even contemplate the expense of this? To any sensible person, the answer is a resounding ‘No’.
The next fiasco is in Tokyo, in 2020. The Japanese can probably afford it.