I like watching the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics. Canada is a winter country, and we know our winter sports. This is where Canadians shine.
However, I’m becoming somewhat jaded because of the irony behind the cost of the Olympics and find myself feeling a little guilty whenever I watch them.
The amount of money spent getting the cities and venues ready is mind boggling. Vancouver spent about $7 billion. Russia spent an astonishing $50 billion. And yet upwards of 60% of the potable water in Russia is not safe to drink. Close to 13% of Russians live below the poverty line while about 4% of Canadians do.
There is more behind the billions of dollars spent on the Olympics than just the numbers, but when countries spend this kind of money on them, and there are people who can’t get clean drinking water, who desperately need social supports and services, and children who go hungry, what does it say about our priorities? If we can find that kind of money for sports, can we not find some for programs and supports to help lift people out of poverty? That is what seems so ironic and shameful.
Some will argue that the Games brought in billions of dollars in tourist and spin-off revenue. I won’t argue that. But, who benefited? Was it just a few mega-corporations? How much of that revenue filtered down to the our most vulnerable? Were the economic benefits short term or long lasting? How many of those jobs are still in existence today? How better off, economically and socially, is a country because of hosting the Olympics?
I get it that countries need to unite and celebrate as a nation, and the Olympics has a way of doing just that. Seeing our athletes standing on the podium fills us with pride. We celebrate with them as all their hard work, commitment, and sacrifice pay off in Olympic hardware.
But wouldn’t it add to our Olympic glory, though, if the poor, the homeless, and the vulnerable could stand on their own podium of success as well? Could we not celebrate the spirit of competition and the spirit of compassion? Maybe the IOC could even make that a condition to hosting the Olympics.
What do you think? Are the Olympics becoming to expensive with little return? Should the IOC add some conditions to hosting the Games? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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