Not the Olympics

Saturday 21 July 2012 8:01 AM

Modern Olympic Movement pioneer Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s mind would be exercised by more than in-flight gender discrimination between athletes. Were he to return from the grave now, he'd be perplexed at best (dismayed at worst) to learn that handsomely remunerated professional sportspeople are even participating. Though not opposed to games athletes receiving some financial recompense for income lost whilst competing, his vision was premised on the capacity of athletic competition to promote understanding and harmony between cultures, when played between amateurs for whom competing itself was chief among rewards. 

De Coubertin may scarcely recognise the 21st century’s take on the Olympic dream. When complex political machinations precede the selection of every host city and nation, when the hosts are judged and judge themselves by their own medal tally and the glamour of the opening ceremony, when the city’s poor are temporarily abolished to impress the tourists, when only the First World can dish up enough glitz to adorn the flat screens of the West, when nations like our’s invest billions scaling the heights of their jingoistic pride, when television networks jostle for the promised windfall, and when a place on the podium is worth the risk of performance-enhancing drugs … When it’s come to all this, the Baron himself would likely fly economy.