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Tokyo a good reason to rethink the Olympics

What if they put on the Olympic Games and no one came? Or cared?

The former is certainly the case, as the stands are empty in Tokyo, the result of a pandemic that already pushed back the event by a year. As for the latter, there certainly appears to be far less hype about these Games.

That could be the result of pandemic restrictions, or that people are really otherwise occupied, also a reality prompted by the COVID-19 crisis. In these parts, the time difference certainly plays a part. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve had our fill of the Olympic spectacle that has much more to do with money, corruption and the worst kinds of nationalism than it does about sport.

In an increasingly fractured society with myriad distractions, the Olympics just ain’t what they used to be.

That’s not a bad thing, particularly if it puts an end to the Games … or at least the worst aspect of what they’ve become.

The Olympics are in essence founded on corruption, each event designed to separate taxpayers from their money to enrich a few and providing no real benefit in return.

We’ve all seen enough examples of Olympic costs to know the numbers trotted out in advance are no more than fairytales. Promised tourism dollars, even if they materialize, are a one-time deal, while the debt payments go on for years.

The Tokyo Olympics are set to be the most expensive Olympics on record. According to officials, the budget is $15.4 billion, but Japanese government auditors have said total spending tops $20 billion, almost three times the original forecast of $7.4 billion.

Since the 1960s, 19 Olympic Games have gone over budget. An Oxford University study found  the Olympics have the highest average cost overrun of any mega-event at 156 per cent. The average cost overrun for a Summer Games is 213 per cent, with the 1976 Games in Montreal having the highest overrun at 720 per cent. The average for Winter Games is 142 per cent.

Even those Games purported to have made money employ creative accounting, forgetting to add in much of the infrastructure and operational costs, such as security, for example, that are covered by governments as a matter of course.

Given that the Olympic ideals have long vanished, if they ever existed, perhaps it’s time to look at doing away with the Games.

In the interest of removing the corrupt system of bribes, kickbacks and expense-account padding associated with choosing a site, if the Olympics are to continue they should do so from permanent locations, one each for the summer and winter flavours; no more junkets to determine which city will have the chance to raid the public purse and make a mess of its infrastructure in exchange for a few weeks of ego-boosting satisfaction for a handful of politicians and other hangers-on.

Worst still, as some countries turn their backs on hosting the Games for those very reasons, the International Olympic Committee has shamefully turned to autocratic nations such as China (2008 and 2022) and Russia (2014) that should have been precluded from consideration. In the end, it’s all about the money – a good reason to boycott the 2022 Games in order to counter the greed.

With so much money on the line, not to mention the status of those involved with the IOC and the various national committees, don’t look for changes any time soon. Instead, expect to hear nonstop platitudes about athletic competition and international glory.

Their struggle to maintain their perqs would be a spectacle worth watching.

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