Living with the Olympics

As I blogged 4 years ago, I heart the Olympics. I get misty eyed and sentimental at all the athletes working, all the people cheering and smiling and laughing and crying and concentrating and striving unabashed in the eye of the world.

Living in an Olympic city, however, has really bashed up my Olympic lovin’ heart.

Well, first, the good: the design is awesome. I’m not a huge supporter of the mascots, but I rather think the ‘shades of teal and grass green’ palette is lovely, as are the icons and shapes. They work well with the backdrop of our city, without fighting, but rather perking up, the colours already present in a Vancouver February. Good work, design team.

Vancouver has, through neighbourhood houses and other places of outreach as well as live sites and local parties, attempted to include folks without means.

The schools and kids are excited. I’ve been grumping about the marketing of Olympic Crap (TM), but Ripley and Tate are excited to be part of something big. We still won’t get Ripley that Miga he’s been eyeing, but I won’t stand in the way if that’s one use for his birthday money.

The Cultural Olympics is a very cool companion to the Olympics.  

There will be snowboarders. This is always good.

Elderly Canadian Olympic athletes carrying the Olympic torch: ahem.
I have something in my eye.

Now the bad: We’re living in the least affordable city in the English speaking world, and some of this has been blamed on the Olympics.  SROs have gone ‘upscale’. Speculative investors have descended hoping to reap profit.

There have been the barking nuisance lawsuits. After years of not thinking about it, I’ve decided: I think the business people of BC selling Olympic themed every frikkin’ thing should be fine – it’s been breathing down our necks and we’re all sponsors via taxation. If Joe Charismatic decides to sell OLYMPIC NOSE RINGS, and someone wants to remember their time here by buying one, why not, exactly? At least in our province.

We’re paying for the sucker; having the upside be limited to the Corporate Sponsors seems a lot like subsidizing them.

Special everythings for Olympic Committee members. 

Denial of the female Ski Jumpers – hell, I think I most distrust and dislike the IOC because one of our judges said the discrimination against female ski jumpers IS against our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and yet, somehow, we have no jurisdiction over these people running shit in our house.  That’s not right.

Basically, the IOC feel a like money-grubbing bullies on the playground of the world. It’s not right – because that’s not what the *Olympics* are about.

That’s not why I love tuning in and get teary eyed.

I think the reason why the IOC gets to go strongarm on cities and people is because it is protecting investment. And the reason it needs to protect investment is because this event is bloody EXPENSIVE.

30 years after the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the city paid off the stadium it built.  This was the Olympics the mayor of the Montreal said would be auto-financing and pay itself off. Depending on who you listen to and what you include as Olympic expenses (some infrastructure was expidited due to Olympics, but may have eventually happened on its own), Vancouver’s Olympic overruns range between Gaglicious and Barftastic. I’ll most likely be thinking about my grandkids before we have Vancouver anywhere close to paid off. $900-million for security alone. Gulp.

But just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. The athletes who work so hard are physical artists, and they also subsidize the games, with hours of work for which they make very little compensation. Many make no compensation. I remember being a teen and learning that many Olympic athletes work at Home Depot – and my heart broke that these people doing such extraordinary things worked jobs for which *I* was qualified. It seemed, seems, wrong.

The athletes aren’t there for the money. Any government who does the math knows there’s no immediate payoff, and is taking a huge gamble on the ROI re: advertising budget over a longer window. Will our kids someday go to Turino because the Olympics put it on the map? Will Turino (Torino?) still be paying off their infrastructure? 

The corporate sponsors, on the other hand, are in it for the immediate payback. Just looking around my son’s school today at the official clothing says someone’s getting paid. Well, hmm.

So, here’s the thing. No grumping without a solution.

These games would be a truckload cheaper if they weren’t a movable show. If they went some where – say, summers in Greece, and winters in what, the Alps? – and there they stayed. Where local governments could pay off the ovals and stadiums with the money they make every four years. Sure, they might want to switch up the courses: no probs, Bobs; ongoing investment would be worth it with ongoing tourism. During non-Olympic years, hosting people for training, for other events, for tourism would become your bread and butter: you’d have resort towns designed for the crowds.

So yes: those towns might be the Disneyland of Sports, but Whatever! The IOC would have a place to land. They could get all their CEO jollies in one place, in a big ole Coke and McDonalds sponsorship lovefest. 

There would be many people who couldn’t attend from other places in the world - but cities and countries that wanted to make Olympic parties of their own still could. AND SHOULD. There is no reason why we couldn’t have (financially athlete/athletics) supportive events and sales in Olympic years, locally. A big part of everyone’s excitement is the release after the run up:  Olympic sponsors always get their marketing going in Olympic years, and cities just need to get behind that energy.

And what about world-wide torch runs? Hmm? Have that torch circle the globe. It’d be like doing the wave, globally. All sorts of money and excitement making events, sponsorship, and celebration could happen in such an idea. Whoo-hoo!


  1. I’ve thought for a long time that there should be one location for the Olympics rather than the competition every 4 years. The Olympic bid costs a fortune for each city that tries out, and only one of them gets the Olympics. The biggest cost for putting forward a bid is the cost of the perks/gifts/bribes that each city hands out to IOC members. One ex-committee member quit because he was disgusted by how much was being given and how much that affected which city was chosen.
    So, no more IOC bribery. Which might mean that the IOC would be made up of people who cared for sport more than people who cared for wealth.
    One thing I do like is the opening ceremonies. I know how proud I felt to be a Canadian when the 1988 Calgary games began. I’ll feel the same way tonight, I’m sure. Moreso since I know some of the dudes working that big show. But I’d be proud of a cermony put on by the world for the world too. We need a little less individual patriotism country by country and more patriotism as world citizens.

    Captcha: slimness succeeded Not sure I like that one.

  2. I was wondering just that today, Arwen, why they don’t just site the Olympics somewhere and let the facilities get good use. I read a piece in the times recently about how all the facilities built for the Beijing Olympics are just going empty these days-I mean, what a waste, even if debt weren’t an issue. It’s a waste of resources all around (and that doesn’t even count the issues w/the bids).

    That said, I love the way the Opening Ceremonies show off teh host country’s culture and history–the opening ceremony (which I just watched this morning) was awesome. But you know, even with a perma-host-physical site, they could have rotating honorary hosts, too (which might give smaller countries a chance to show off a bit, too: what if the Caribbean countries got to collectively host and display their world via an opening ceremony some time?)

  3. I thought the same as Susan. With honorary hosts rotating, we could learn a lot about all kinds of places we don;t hear about because they’re too small and/or poor to do it on their own.

    Why doesn’t it happen? Because it makes more money as a Movable Feast. Not necessarily for the host cities, but for the IOC and their remoras.

    reCaptcha: idahoans out (But what did they DO?!)

  4. Yeah! The idea of having opening ceremony honorary hosts is brilliant!

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