In the grand scheme of things, international sporting competitions are pointless. Sure many of us like to watch them and we might feel a pang of pride when the Canadian hockey team destroys a tiny European nation 12-0 or when a bronze medal winner is able to eke out a post competition career, usually as a public speaker. The sports medal tends to act as a type of chain of office, giving the wearer some kind of special power that they would not possess otherwise. I couldn’t imagine a more excruciating experience (beyond watching the race itself) than having to sit through a talk from somebody who was third best at rowing a boat once. When sports figures are constantly referred to as “heroes”, I go looking for the aspirins. Swimming out to pull somebody from a capsized canoe is heroic. Losing a long forgotten race is not.
The headache continues when events such as the Pan Am Games, aka the quasi Olympics, come to town. Regardless of the attempts at hype, they are always met with great indifference. Tickets remain unsold and the cameras have the difficult technical challenge of trying to not let anyone catch a glimpse of the empty seats in the brand new multi million dollar stadia. The ticket sales don’t actually remotely cover the cost of the events, ever. Who really wants to peel off $355 bucks to see the opening ceremony? Or fork out $865 to a scalper website to go watch the equestrian events in Caledon? Do they actually want the shmoes to go or is it once again exclusively limited to the elite and the corporate types? An attempt was made to brand this years Pan Am as “The People’s Games”. If that was amended with “rich”, there may be a shred of accuracy in it.
By rights, attendance should be free. You’ve already footed the bill many times over. A glance at the Pan Am webpage indicates there are only two official funding parties, the federal and provincial government. There are corporate partners and other suppliers of this and that but overall, we all get to pay for the party that no one asked to have. It’s quite a rude imposition, actually. Meanwhile, elsewhere in cash strapped Ontario, hundreds of registered nurses have been let go, disabled people who are able to work somewhat have had a benefit cut and the post secondary education budget has been frozen. Ontario Hydro is for sale to try and raise some cash because the cupboard is said to be bare. Everyone is supposed to chip in to manage the “crisis”. Everyone except those who engineer massive sporting events and their minions.
I wouldn’t dare call the World Cup pointless for fear of reprisals. It’s becoming clear however, after years of rumour and investigation that FIFA, the organization responsible for soccer/football in the world, is likely rotten to the core. The UK Observer put it best in a recent editorial, stating “the world’s most popular global sport was hijacked, corrupted and sold out by a handful of self-serving individuals sponsored by multinational corporations.” That could be applied to every single purveyor of this type of billion dollar circus. Even Prince William has chimed in, stating that FIFA has to get it’s act together. As we know, the Royal Family has never, ever done anybody wrong in history so we must listen to the wise young Prince as a voice of reason and truth. The 1% can be extra vicious when they turn on each other. Thankfully, the Tower of London hasn’t seen a beheading in quite sometime.
But until next year when the Olympics and World Cup do a doubleheader, some eyes will be on Toronto and Hamilton for a local dose of semi global sporting excellence. Can Columbia retain the gold in men’s singles bowling? Will Argentina dominate at handball? Will the USA add to it’s massive equestrian medal count? Stay tuned! At least you will have something fresh to watch during your next 12 hour visit to the ER.