I’m pro-Olympics - with a twist, which means I love the sport, but hate the politics.
When you consider that since 2002 not one Olympic host region, including Vancouver and London in 2012 has or will have a return on investment that could be deemed economically or socially satisfying, it’s fair to say the Olympic business model is broken.
Consequently, when you also consider all the good that sport brings to the lives of young people and society, it’s worth making a strong effort to fix the Olympics.
The problem is complex, but fortunately the fix is relatively simple.
To start, let the people making all the money pay for the repairs.
Let’s take a look at how we got to where we are today. In order to understand what went wrong you have to approach it intellectually and not emotionally. Why intellectually? Well, you’ve listened to the IOC’s very slick message for decades, which means you have deep-seated beliefs that have been ingrained since childhood.
It’s time to grow up.
The IOC sells their package based primarily on emotion. It’s not called “Spirit” for nothing. They start with patriotism and run the gamut from regional pride to physical gold medal superiority. Everything they do is based on manipulating your emotions. The Torch Run for example is pure play emotion.
The IOC never promotes their offering on an intellectual level, because if they did, people would demand clarity and answers.
Whether you are anti or pro Olympics, the fix I’m suggesting is designed to satisfy both camps. It’s hard to believe it’s possible to appease everyone with one solution because most people think these two groups are pretty far apart in ideology, and in many respects they are, but there is also a common thread – the health of our host community.
If you are anti Olympics and believe the only way to save our community is to throw the baby out with the bath water you are naive. Protest all you want, the Olympics is not going away. Protesters would like our community to believe the “easy fix” is to kill the Games, but it’s a very naive expectation.
Because the IOC is an institution, you can no more kill the Olympics than you can kill taxes, but you can change it.
In the other camp, if you are pro Olympics and believe you can continue to give the Olympics unconditional support and look the other way, you are also naive. Social media has given society a new voice, and that voice allows us to easily discuss Olympic problems on a global public platform. Ignoring the downside of the Olympic brand devalues the brand. If the IOC doesn’t improve their business model, a gold medal will soon have considerably less value, both from an endorsement perspective, as a well as national pride. In fact it’s already happening.
On reckoning day when the 2010 invoice arrives, those of us keeping track are going to insist those unconditionally and irresponsibly supporting the Olympics pick up the tab. Susan Heyes, the shopkeeper on Cambie who just won a $600,000 settlement in her battle over the Canada Line construction disruption, set a precedent that demonstrates civic infrastructure projects can’t just waltz in and destroy a community with impunity.
In order to fix the Olympics here’s the most important thing you have to understand;
The IOC promotes an “us or them” mantra. But it’s not so black and white. There is a middle ground.
The Olympics are not going away, which means the only solution is to manage it effectively for the collective benefit of our entire community.
Pro and anti Olympics proponents are, for the most part extremist, and as we all know, extremist dogmas have a negative impact on a community.
Bullies taunt you into a fight because they are bigger and know they can physically and emotionally beat you down. Olympic bullying works on two levels. 1.) Out of frustration and anger, anti Olympic protestors foolishly attack the IOC head on, and 2.) Pro Olympic groupies, because they are scared to fall out of favor with society, follow unconditionally.
Anti or pro, if you want a solution you have to build a bridge between “us and them” because going head to head with such a powerful competitor, or following like lemmings over a cliff produces the same results - failure.
Olympic organizations are experts at creating chaos, because when anarchy and pandemonium ensue it is extremely difficult to see the root of the problem.
The biggest concern in Canada regarding the 2010 Olympics revolves around First Nations issues. It’s no secret a large number of Aboriginals feel slighted by VANOC. Many people, anti or pro, consider, and correctly so, that Fist Nation participation in the 2010 Games is little more than window dressing. Many Aboriginals also believe Native leaders sold them out, and it is this group who will inevitably go on the Olympic warpath.
From day one after winning the 2010 Olympic bid, the Aboriginal issue has kept Canadian politicians and the IOC awake at night. It is well documented Aboriginal issues have long term power to derail an Olympic event, even more than terrorist concerns or the recession.
So, if tension is already present and growing on the Aboriginal front, why would a high profile Vancouver newspaper incite trouble by taunting Aboriginals? It is not only morally reprehensible it is also economically costly for our Olympic host region.
Ironically, cost is the primary argument protesters use as a reason to kill the Games.