The day Oslo pulled its bid was one of those times all Olympics fans with a conscience had to look inside themselves and ask: should we really support this thing? This thing that takes taxpayer money that could do the taxpayers more good elsewhere, brings draconian rules upon the citizens of the city hosting it(I think there were a couple of horror stories in London), and lately costs so much the only countries willing to host it are the oppressive dictatorships that don’t care if their people don’t like it. When it’s in a better country, one where the people are willing and able to come out and say what the Hell, might as well enjoy the party we’re paying for, such as happened in both Vancouver and London, things are better, but then they land in a country like modern-day Russia, and if we watch, we do so with our guilt weighing us down.
We knew, on that day, that in 2022 we’d be in the latter situation, now that the choices were down to China and Kazakhstan. But then we had new IOC president Thomas Bach getting on it, starting to talk the talk about getting the costs down, trying to make it so the cities benefit more and suffer less, and he does genuinely seem to want to do some of it, unsurprisingly, because if things continue the way they’re going eventually the Games are going to run out of cities willing to host them, and he is no doubt aware that lately they’ve developed image issues that can ultimately do them serious damage. There is, perhaps, the lingering hope that if we can just get through 2022, things will actually improve for the hosts to come. Although it’s harder when the 2016 Olympics are now in the news for the wrong reasons too, and when their story had already been pretty ugly.
But Almaty would’ve been less bad than Beijing, especially in terms of human rights issues, although that’s very much relatively speaking. And when one reads about the fact that another Olympics in Beijing literally means people will die because of the way they will go about holding them there, well. And yet 44 members of the IOC voted for it, and only 40 voted against. It may be a narrow margin, but that’s not going to make much difference to those who will suffer and die as a result.
Will someone tell those rich, snobbish IOC members during their damn aristocratic coffee breaks that maybe they should look within themselves too? One wonders if it would be any use, of course, but still. Even if Mr. Bach really wants to save this mess, will enough people go with what he tries so that he can?
In this world where it seems everything on the news and most reality TV and really the world around us in general is ugly and petty and depressing and often warning of dire times ahead for the majority of the world’s people, the Olympics ought to be a relief. There is little as joyful as watching the men and women who have dedicated their lives to what they do fulfilling their life’s purpose, winning great victories and spinning great stories that we can remember when we need to remember the good things about the world. But when they have this level of nastiness behind them, we come to today, another day when we have to ask: should we support this?
(It does not help matters that given how most figure skating competitions in China have gone, it’s a safe bet that at the Olympics there, too, the ice will be of slipshod quality, and the results will be a skating competition most will want to forget.)