OPINION: This may be a controversial thing to say, especially with what's happening in Sochi right now, but I'm about to make the argument to scrap the Olympics.
Not just the winter ones, either, but also the Summer Games.
Granted, it's a radical point of view, but when I ask myself the question of what really is the point of the Olympics in the 21st century, I can't think of a decent answer.
When Baron Pierre de Coubertin brought back the concept of the Olympics in 1896 in Athens, organised sport was still in its infancy and for many of the events there was no such thing as world championships and international fixtures. In general the world was made up of countries that knew little of each other.
So it was a sensible idea to hold a sporting festival in a city around the world every four years, so that the locals could get to see great events, the sports were given a structure to base themselves around and everyone around the world got to understand a bit about different cultures.
But 118 years later we have world championships, countless sports channels and millionaire athletes, so why bother with the Olympics any more?
Stories of corruption are never far away from the bidding process from any Games and they're held in countries where billions is usually spent on building white elephants and the homeless are shipped out, because ultimately it's all about making one city look fantastic to the others.
The Olympics have become more of a political and PR event than a sporting one and they're also something that the multinational companies now have a tight grip on.
Long gone is the amateur ethos of the Olympics, now it's all about money and winning medals, so much so that countries judge their global status on how many golds they get. Never mind a decent public health system, a silver in the luge means more.
This thinking doesn't just happen in the obvious places like Russia and China, but also New Zealand. High Performance Sport New Zealand invests millions of dollars of taxpayer money into Olympic sports that people have minimal interest in outside of the Games.
The desperation for Olympic medals has created overinflated levels of interest in a number of sports. Few people care about small bore pistol shooting, but a gold medal in that is worth as much as Usain Bolt's.
Why should I sit down and watch three hours of the Nordic combined over the next fortnight when I would never bring myself to look at it any other time?
It should be world cups, world championships, or in the case of golf and tennis, majors, which determine who's the best in each sport, not the Olympics.
So it's time to move on from these bloated, over commercialised, over politicised Olympic Games and let all the sports stand on their own two feet.
Will this ever happen? Of course not. As long as governments are willing to get into huge debt for their own egos the Olympics will survive and you can't help but wonder what de Coubertin would have made of it all.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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