While I am on the subject of the Olympics, I have to admit, I have not been very interested in the London Games.
I am not sure why that is. Even with the Beijing Games, I was not as into it as I was before, but I still watched. This year, though, I only watch when it happens to be on, mostly at the gym.
Maybe it was the weirdness in the bidding process. Maybe it is all the drama that has happened during these games.
(More links to come, I am sure, as the Olympic coverage continues.) Maybe it is nostalgia. Maybe it is just me – my lack of a TV or my horrifying realization that I am older than the average Olympic athlete and could never do what they do. (But if I did, I would be like Jack Oliver, 77 kg weightlifter for the British team, according to this website.)
It could well be my growing cynicism over the crass commercialism of the games and the lip service they give to world peace. (See the above article about express lanes for corporate sponsors.) Or take a look at the USOC, the organization that supports American athletes, builds training facilities, and puts together hosting bids. You have probably seen their “Raise Our Flag” commercials urging you to “buy a stitch” of an American flag in order to support Team USA. As of the moment I am writing this post, 29,257 stitches have been donated at $12 a piece. That is $351,084 raised! Admirable, right? It seems that way, until you realize that amount is less than half of the 2011 salary ($742,367) for Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC. You are not donating hard enough, people!
What if Bruce Wayne had taken a similar approach when he set up Batman, Inc.? I am sure that citizens of Gotham would be willing to donate money if it meant better training and equipment for the Bat Family. Or better yet, just have Bruce outfit and train GCPD itself. And think of all the costs associated with the travel, recruiting, training, starter equipment, and so on for all those Batman franchisees around the world. I wonder if Batman has franchising fees? Does he provide hero insurance or even health insurance? How about retirement plans? Now what if he asked regular citizens to pay for everything, including his own salary and expenses?
I guess my point is this: I understand and admire the goals of the USOC and Batman, Inc. But the difference is in execution. Obviously, one organization must deal with harsh realities while the other is fictional and has unlimited funds, but putting managerial compensation ahead of ground-level re-investment (athlete compensation has not increased in over a decade according to the above article) seems a poor choice of how to use funds donated to your cause.
Maybe we should conduct the Olympics more in line with the ancient tradition. Held in the same neutral location every time, and only for olive wreaths as prizes. Think of the story Herodotus told of Xerxes interrogating an Arcadian at Thermopylae:
He inquired why there were so few Greek men defending Thermopylae. The answer was, “All other men are participating in the Olympic Games.”
And when asked “What is the prize for the winner?”, “An olive-wreath,” came the answer.
Then Tigranes, one of his generals, uttered a most noble saying: “Good heavens! Mardonius, what kind of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight? Men who do not compete for possessions, but for honour.”
That is something I would watch!