The Olympic Legacy

Days of saturation of the media with the royal pregnancy [1] non-story was, for some reason, followed by a spike in news about the Olympics. I think there is some event happening. Not sure. People are talking about whether the Olympics was a successful.

If you’re going to spend £9 000 000 000 on something, you should be 100% sure that there will be no need for discussion about its efficacy afterwards. If you spend that much money and afterwards no-one is quite sure whether it was a good idea then it was a bad idea.

Standard arguments show up: it was “good for the economy”, it was “good for sport”, it “inspired people”, it “created jobs”, it was the right thing to do during an otherwise “dark time” etc etc.

This discussion, like many pubic discussions, is misleading. In fact all this is making me wonder what we’re being distracted from. Is there a report being release that we’re supposed to ignore? It’s a misleading discussion because it very precisely defines the context in such a way as to ignore some of the most important factors. In asking if the Olympics was a success you have to first ask “what was it designed to do?” Everyone believes that it had something to do with sport, about inspiring us to do more of it. Perhaps it had something to do with national pride.

Actually the purpose of the Olympics is very simple: it was designed to create a market for marketing, broadcasting and financial firms to make money.

It was only incidentally about sport. The Olympics probably was a success. Credit card companies, global entertainment industries, marketers made plenty out of it. They always do. All the other factors, the ones we talk about, the ones the news people refer to, legacy, sport, national pride, they’re all ideas that exist in order to get us to help fund the event. They’re just promotional memes.

Let’s take sport. Surely, if anything is genuinely part of the nature of the Olympics it’s sport. We are told that the Olympics is about participation. We are told vague medical stuff about how important it is to be active. Which is all valid. We are told that sport is a solution. We are told that people need to participate. That people need to participate in sport. How can you disagree with the Olympics?

You have to break this down. What is so relevant about sport? Well if we are interesting in physical activity (which we should be) then why do we happen to be so committed to sports that just happen to be highly branded? I mean a kid could run in circles all day and that would be valid physical exercise. It doesn’t even need to be sport. So, really, what does sport have to do with health specifically? Nothing. We could delete sport tomorrow and the day after people would find something to replace it. Human societies do this all the time. Sport really refers to something immutable. Something that we will likely always happen to do. It doesn’t refer to the sports that happen to be highly monetised. So when people say “its good for sport”, what the hell could that mean? Sport just is. It needs no protection or preservation. If any particular sport needs to be conserved, it’s because no-one is interested in it. It’s not a problem. We can keep thinking up sports for eternity.

Then there’s inclusion. Even if we accept that good health by some weird law of nature requires participation in marketable, branded, highly-monetised sports activities, why spend £9 billion on 1 event catering for only elite athletes? They’re all already included. The media is filled with sports coverage every day. A couple of weeks ago the radio covered the privatisation of the post office for 45 seconds, then did a 35 minute interview with some grounds-keeper about Wimbledon. That morning the BBC interviewed a fucking hawk handler at the Wimbledon grounds.

Firms like those involved have such control over our country that if we want to spend some money to foster inclusion in sports the only way we can be allowed to do it is if the vast majority of the money goes into their pockets and some trickles down to where it’s needed. We can’t do anything without the insurance companies allowing it, we can’t discuss something outside of what the telecoms companies want. If we’re interested in inclusion why not spend the money on real infrastructure? Why not spend that money throughout the country on sports institutions that everyone can use?

Better yet, why not spend the money on something that’s definitely useful? For £9 billion would could have had fusion. We could have created new battery technologies for electric cars and licensed it to the world. We could have built a proper high-speed north-south rail link. We could have cured cancer for fuck’s sake.

[1] It’s funny that during the whole thing an idea that this coverage might be over the top was ignored, then as the furore subsided the BBC began to ask if the coverage was too much… indirectly extending coverage to discuss whether their coverage was too much.

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