Today, the Athens Games... tomorrow, Addis Ababa?Finally, the Athens Games have arrived. Forget about a terrorist attack; I was starting to worry that the host country’s own incompetence might stop one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
But it hasn’t, and there’ll be more than 10,000 athletes, representing over 200 countries, competing for 16 days to bring us sheer joy. There will be a lot of good stories to go along with this event ― like the Iraqi soccer team being airlifted by the Aussies to participate in Athens. Back in their war-torn country, as soon as the news spread that the home boys would play in the Olympics, machine guns were fired into the air (naturally). For a moment, there was a common denominator in Iraq, canceling out everything that’s wrong in that country.
But try as we might, there will be bad stories as well. Some started even before the Games began. With an unprecedented security budget, Greece has, potentially, become the point where the world’s terrorists are pitted against the rest of the world. Some lunatic might very well try to make a political statement by killing innocent people.
On a less grave note, we might see national anthems getting booed. If the Asian Cup was any indicator, China and Japan might provide enough fodder for the press in this department. Then, of course, we’ll have weeping North Korean athletes, shedding tears and praising their dear leader for their fortunes, if any of them happen to win a medal. We’ll also have athletes who didn’t know better and decided to take the wrong way to fame and glory. Without doubt, some designer drugs will go undetected, and so will cheaters, who may even clinch a medal and make a mockery of the Games.
All that aside, one thing is for sure: Greece has provided a case study for the International Olympic Committee, to which it should pay serious attention. Though the interlocking Olympic rings stand for the five continents, Africa, the undisputed problem child of the world, has yet to host an Olympics. Considering that the European continent alone has already hosted the summer games 15 times (out of 26), it is certainly time to argue for a drastic change in how the games are awarded.
Instead of always giving more advanced countries the nod, the IOC should devise a policy ensuring that more countries such as Greece, with a little help (okay, lots of help), can have the opportunity to host such a world-scale event.
However the Athens Games play out, Greece will benefit in the long run. The bill will be huge, but with the new infrastructure resulting from the Games, there will be a system in place on which this tiny nation can build something. Anything. Ask the Greeks how many kilometers of fiber-optic cable they have buried to prepare for the Olympics. Without the Olympics, who knows when the Greeks would have been able to boast of an information system that’s on an equal footing with the rest of the world. Nowadays, when the Internet is essential to being part of the advancing half of the world, this is a huge step.
The Olympics are more than a mere sports event. Given that, they should be awarded more often to those nations that have trouble keeping up with the rest of the world.
by Brian Lee