I’ve been on record for a few years now, lighting up the sentiment that it’s time to re-focus the Olympic Games back to sports. Amateur sports. That’s what these events were originally supposed to be about. But the International Olympic Committee seems to have forgotten that and lost their way.
When you have people like IOC past president Juan Samaranch apparently insisting he be addressed as “Your Excellency”… when you watch cities spend tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of time just competing to possibly “get” the Games… when you have opening and closing ceremonies costing hundreds of millions of dollars… when those same ceremonies have virtually nothing to do with sports… and when you have countries like China literally painting their grass green (to hide their dead, brown, smog-infested lawns)… then I suggest to you we’ve come to the point where the tail’s wagging the dog.
Even in the just-staged opening ceremonies for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (being held in 2021 due to the Covid delay), the intent was to tone down the festivities. But one scribe wrote, “It was an odd, sometimes awkward, and tonally dissonant four-hour presentation that tried to balance the weight of the ongoing pandemic with the joy and elation that usually accompanies the world's most prestigious athletic competition. There were fireworks, but no big audience to cheer for them.”
OK, and this is wrong?
“They had to start this thing somehow,” opined another writer. Sure, they did have to start it somehow. But what’s wrong with a muted, restrained opening? “Nowhere near as bombastic as ceremonies from London or Beijing, but still struggling to find the right tone, the Tokyo opener will be less remembered for its spectacle and more for the pandemic environment in which it aired.”
And that’s just fine by me.
(BTW, how interesting that “bombastic” is used to describe something that’s supposed to be fun.)
Another reporter asked, "What's the point of all the risk, all the testing and quarantining and masks, if this is the best emotion and spectacle we can muster?”
Oh, I see. So the “best we can muster” should include spending outlandish sums of legal tender just to attract the IOC? And then even more cash to entertain the masses with acts that have nothing to do with sports?
"There is no way around it,” wrote yet another commentator, “we are in the middle of a pandemic. These games are controversial, especially here, with many of the Japanese people worried about inviting in the world as the virus has spread. But Olympic officials have pressed on, out of tradition to honor the work and dedication of these athletes and yes, in aspiration that somehow sports still has the power to connect us and to heal us."
Yup, sports does have that power. Still.
So, how about if the Olympics were to focus on that, not on all the other ballyhoo.
Oh, and at the risk of being labelled Oscar the Grouch, let me remind you that I’ve staged business conferences for clients in far off locales with budgets north of a million bucks. Nope, I’m not against pageantry. Just against spending huge amounts of dough for song and dance when it should be directed to athletic endeavour. That’s all.
Let the Games begin!