Sunday, February 14, 2010

Winter Games – why I’m watching.

I’ve always taken an interest in the Olympics and more so this time because the games are on home soil. Sure the games are contrived, elitist, corrupt, generally meaningless and don’t get me started on the IOC, but I still watch.

I’m no athlete, I have never skied, I don’t skate very well, haven’t played hockey in forty years (at least) but I’m still fascinated by the Olympic Games, Winter and Summer.

Getting the games, preparing for the games and presenting the games are all hugely expensive; often leaving communities with debt that lasts for generations. Look at Montreal, the Games of Montreal were in the summer of 1976, the debt was finally paid off late in 2006 (they think), Vancouver could be worse.

So why bother, is it the legacy? Well Montreal got the “Big O”, (or owe) underused, expensive to maintain and it never worked as advertised. There were other facilities yes, but most cater to a small portion of the population just as the Vancouver games facilities will. The Vancouver facilities are sure to be underused because they are less than an hour flight time to Calgary, the site of the 1988 winter games. These are world class training facilities very close together, a recipe for underuse.

These games produced infrastructural legacies like the Sea-to-Sky highway improvements, transit improvements, and others, but all likely would have happened eventually because that’s how governments here work. The games just diverted huge sums of money to different parts of the economy now and away from other parts, created distorted housing prices (more than they already are) and when the games are done the inevitable let down will feel deeper because the Canadian economy as a whole is already in a precarious state due to the Great Recession. Yet I still will watch even though I know this is a government boondoggle, but why?

No matter what you think, the fact is the Olympic Games are a cultural event followed by millions, even billions of people around the planet. The shared experience of the games demonstrates to all those watching the power of individual effort, the single human man or woman overcoming the nerve racking fear of the stage and focusing entirely on the task at hand with one objective. This demonstration of individual heroics is rare in daily life. That’s why we watch sports, go to movies, the theater, the opera and the concert, we need the affirmation that individuals can do great things whether it’s real or contrived. The Olympic Games brings these heroics up a notch because these are the best of the best and they compete for trinkets (medals) on behalf of the tribe (country). That’s why I watch, Go Canada Go!

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