Perhaps the most widely engaged-in event around the Olympics is “Games bashing”. Followed closely by piling-on. One could argue that no single event anywhere attracts the depth and breadth of global pontification and criticism that an Olympic Games foments.
Of course, many of the politicians, sport bureaucrats, captains of industry…and even some of the athletes themselves, who work tirelessly to leverage their self-important roles for their own non-Olympic agendae, make it pathetically easy for anyone to make the Olympics a target.
Not surprisingly, the issue most often debated is: “Are the Olympics worth it?” And just like when a destination pursues an event, the primary measuring stick is economic.
Certainly, as with any event, financial prudence is crucial and essential in order to sustain the intended experience. But if financial ROI is the only lens through which an event is evaluated we are not looking at the entire spectrum of event legacies – actual and potential – when human beings gather. In doing so, we are not telling the full story of how events can make a difference.
I confess that I am a huge fan of the concept and published ideals of the Olympic movement. Yes…they exist. From the IOC:
“The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
Nowhere does it say the Olympics are about creating wealth or economic benefit. This is a creation of the aforementioned politicians, sport bureaucrats and captains of industry that hijacks the conversation away from what the Olympics is supposed to be all about: using sport to remind us to celebrate and preserve what’s good and right about being human.
If you look past all of the warnings and criticisms, the scandals and falls-from-grace that typically precede an Olympic Games, and look at participant behavior at the Games, you just might feel better about humankind. For every story of athletic achievement at an Olympic Games, there are countless, often unpublished, stories of human kindness and ministry that will endure beyond the competition and touch lives well beyond the Games’ balance sheet. These legacies are only possible when people gather together. This is the event conversation that needs a greater voice…and not just around the Olympics…at all events.
At a time when the world is struggling with secular violence, racism and a sickening rise of xenophobia, Rio 2016 has been a badly needed time-out to implore us to celebrate and showcase what’s possible with humanity. Events can do that better than anything else.
And God knows we all could use more than a little of that in 2016.