At first, I wasn’t going to write about it. After all, when 10,000 of the world’s most voracious journalists had finished gnawing on the bones of the Beijing Games, there wasn’t much that hadn’t been written, talked about or filmed. Still, I thought there were a few things Whistlerites could learn from the most recent Olympic show.
Can anyone say “over the top”? OK, so the Summer Games are much, much bigger in scope than their winter cousin. In fact, it’s fair to say that the 2010 edition will be a far more modest affair — in every category. Indeed, speaking strictly in terms of competition, more than half the world will be absent. Kenyans? Forget about it — they don’t do winter (at least not our version of winter). Jamaicans? No way — other than their bobsled incursion in 1988, these fleet-footed sprinters just aren’t comfortable when the thermometer dips below zero. Same goes for the Brazilians and Mexicans and Moroccans and Algerians and just about anybody else living south of the Tropic of Cancer. Even Australia (that great summer sporting power) struggles to put together a competitive team for the Winter Games.
In terms of global spectacle, the summer version is truly unique. And that brings on a whole freight of weighty issues. To see how the leaders of the world’s most populous country chose to spend their hard-earned billions to showcase China’s emerging power really made me wonder about the future.
Are the Summer Games sustainable in the way they seem to balloon in cost at every quadrennial? Will the modern version of this classic sports fest eventually implode under its own weight? Is it really about sport anymore? Only time will tell…
Safe to say, though, that the North-of-Cancer Games will be less of a big-money extravaganza than what we saw in Beijing. Nonetheless, there are a few important lessons for Whistlerites here — as well as an opportunity to correct a longstanding Olympic inequity that is both unreasonable and unpardonable. For once again both the IOC and the Chinese forgot to acknowledge the most important members in the Olympic family.
Picture this: for the last 10 or 15 — or even 20 — years, you’ve completely invested in the sports dreams of your son or daughter. Whether swimming or skiing or badminton or luge, the buck has stopped at your front door. You’re the one that’s gotten up at 4 in the morning to drive your kid to practice; you’re the one who’s frozen your butt off on the side of the hill “volunteering” your time as a gatekeeper or a referee; you’re the one who has driven halfway across the country yet again to make sure your child gets to compete in this special race or attend this necessary training camp; and finally, you’re the one who’s shelled out $10,000-$15,000 (in after-tax semolians) every year to make sure that your athlete has a chance of “moving up the ladder” with better coaches or finer facilities or a more competitive environment.