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The Old Limping Games

Web posted on August 25, 2016

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

The ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece every four years. There was a truce so that athletes could travel to and from Olympia, and compete in the games. The modern games started with wonderful high ideals. It is truly amazing how far we have drifted from those goals. The games are still held every four years, but have been split into winter and summer games so we have games every two years. The games move around to various cities around the world, and there is no truce.

The current games have become multi billion dollar fiascos when you consider the amount of money spent to bid for the games, construction of the venues and other infrastructure, the cost of security, and a whole bunch of other expenses that only seem to be revealed after the fact. Just take a look at what happened in Russia with the Sochi Games. Then there is the money spent on everything from sponsorships to broadcast rights. There are all sorts of underhanded or questionable deals. The volunteers get treated like slaves while the officials get paid thousands and stay in luxury hotels. Let's not forget the "pharmaceutical industry." With the cost of hosting the games skyrocketing, by the time everything is paid for, everyone involved will be old and limping.

The International Olympic Committee has mutated into a private club of immense power, with no oversight or accountability. Politics has more to do with the selection of a city, than the actual ability to host the events.

It is time to change the entire system. Instead of having cities bid for the games, there should be four or five permanent host sites for both winter and summer games that would rotate hosting the games. Another option would be to have the summer games in Athens every four years, with rotating sites for the winter games. A more responsible and accountable organizing agency needs to be established. Sports that require any type of judging would be excluded from the games. The judging process has been suspect since day one, and that will never change. All athletes should be considered guilty of doping until proven innocent beyond any shadow of doubt. I have a really crazy suggestion, send our best athletes, but they won't know what sports they will be competing in until a random draw on the first day of the games. OK, back to reality. None of these ideas will ever happen, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

I have never been able to figure out how some "sports" are selected. There are many sports that we only hear about every four years. Let's stick to the real sports rather than the pseudo sports. Of course what qualifies as a real sport is a matter of opinion and would be subject to some serious debate. I am sure that some people would consider darts or roller derby as sports worthy of the Olympics. They should stick to sports that fill the stands and get good TV ratings. I think that the most interesting and exciting sport was the rugby 7s. A very refreshing change from many of the team sports.

The television coverage of the games needs to be overhauled as well. The single most irritating thing is the coverage of opening and closing ceremonies. I am absolutely fed up with the yapping of totally useless information as if the "voices" were being paid by the word. After a while they sound like the adults in the "Charlie Brown" cartoons. They must not be allowed to cut away from the stadium to interview athletes. We should be getting the same experience as the people in the stands. The only thing we should be seeing and hearing is what is happening in the stadium.

The entire ceremony must be televised live not tape delayed as the Americans did. They can have all the commercial breaks they want, but they would have to pick up the entire feed and broadcast it on a delay basis. The technology exists to do this as they are already tape delaying it. Not one second should be pre-empted for commercials, and not even good commercials like for the Stupor Bore. I am really tired of the opening and closing ceremonies interrupting the commercials. I figure that if they delayed for all the commercials, the broadcasts would have ended some time around noon the next day. If they cut the on air "talent" by 90% most people would never notice and they would not need as many commercials.

From what little the broadcasters allowed us to see of the opening and closing ceremonies I thought that the Rio organizers put together a better show for a fraction of the cost of the previous two games.

One other thing that really bothers me is the awful looking uniforms that our athletes are forced to wear for the opening and closing ceremonies. This has been happening for years. Many third world athletes looked much better in their uniforms or national costumes. I have to admit that there were several countries uniforms that made ours look almost acceptable. Why so much black in the tropics? Our colours are red and white (maybe we should have a little blue for Quebec in the uniforms). We are stuck with whatever the highest bidder thinks looks good. Pick the best looking, not the highest bidder. The uniforms used for actual competition looked OK.

I find myself less and less interested with each successive set of games. Between the controversies, the over commercialization, and the choices by the broadcasters as to what they want us to see and when they want us to see it, I found myself looking for other stuff to watch.

When they were the successful bidders, the Brazilian economy was in great shape, and very few people knew about the Zika virus. The economy has taken a nose dive and everyone is concerned about Zika. Many of the best athletes stayed away because of the potential dangers related to the virus. Others could not attend because of doping. Unfortunately the games have done almost nothing for the people living in the slums just a few kilometres from the Olympic venues. Based on the number of empty seats at most events, there was very little local interest. Most locals could not afford tickets. For that matter most locals in any country hosting the games can afford tickets. No Olympic Games would be complete without assorted scandals from athletes to officials. Given the circumstances the organizers managed to get the job done without any really serious problems, such as doping or terrorism.

Congratulations to all of our athletes. We had our share of disappointments, and we have some new heroes.

The games now move to Tokyo. It was interesting to see Japanese Prime Minister Abe dressed up as Super Mario at the Rio closing ceremonies. Would it be too much to ask for a visit from Tokyo's most famous fictional part time resident and urban renewal expert?

Just a few bits of unfinished business here. It is nice to know that the government agrees with some of my comments last week about prevention of radicalization. I hope that they are able to come up with something that will make a difference. Time is of the essence. If they can get it right I will agree with them. Until that happens I will remain sceptical. They still need to get on board with strengthening Bill C-51.

I am surprised that I forgot to mention that the second Saturday in August is National Garage Sale Day. I guess I wasn't the only one who didn't get the memo. The weather may have had something to do with it, but it was the worst day for garage sales since April.

Kenny Baker (R2D2 from Star Wars) rest in peace, and may the Force be with you.


Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at news@thefountainpen.com

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.


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