Monday, 2 January 2012

how to waste money on the Olympics

I absolutely love the Olympics - it is the pinnacle of the sporting world. Naturally the London Games are going to cost more than any previous Olympiad - prices rise, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world and Britain support the US in its military campaigns thus the countries becomes a target for terrorism etc. The original budget from bid time has been blown out of the water, but revised versions seem to be on the right track. Recent added expenses have been even more security to appease the Yanks (if you want to protect your athletes even further Barack, feel free to pick up the bill) and even more on the bloody ceremonies.

Much has been invested in drawing additional tourists to Britain before, during and after the Games, and so should be the case. The non-sporting public have a right to benefit from the Games too, from the improvement of infrastructure to a sharp boost to the economy. But London is already known as one of the premier arts and theatre destinations in the world - so what benefit at all will spending £40 million more on the pointless opening ceremony bring? It can't increase ticket sales - applications for opening ceremony tickets were massively oversubscribed too.

The biggest false headline and waste of money going on at the moment is the fixation with keeping the Olympics free from match-fixing/sporting corruption. It is incredibly naive of officials to think that because they are hosting the biggest sporting extravaganza in the world, that people will suddenly want to bet on it. At a conservative guess, a standard Saturday football round will attract more betting interest than the whole fortnight of the Games. Very few Olympic sports have any history of betting - so if punters have no interest, then neither will be the bookies, specifically, the black market bookies who are the root of all this paranoia. In terms of betting, football is far and above the biggest betting sport at the Games. Beyond that, you have a bit of interest in basketball, followed by handball, with volleyball and water polo trailing a long way behind. Other sports have the very occasional availability for betting - athletics, swimming and cycling. I nearly forgot tennis, which has its own Integrity Unit anyway. Football has had issues at the Games before, most likely as a result of so many meaningless ranking matches at the end - but it is questionable whether it should even be at the Olympics in the first place. It is there to extend the global appeal to South America, who place huge emphasis on team sports, very little on the individual ones like athletics + I am, and many others are, firmly of the belief any sport which does not have the Olympics as the pinnacle of that sport should not be there. The hybrid selection of older players amongst a youth team doesn't really cut it now does it?

Is it cynical to suggest that the Olympics minister knows there is little hope of eradicating doping (the side of evil always has more money to play with, and if tests for new substances take days, weeks or months) then it's a far better idea to throw up a smokescreen and suggest that Britain/LOCOG are doing something right? If they are banking on Britain's great record in convicting match-fixers (eg Salman Butt & co), then perhaps they should remember it wasn't the ICC, Interpol or the Metropolitan Police who caught them red-handed, it was a now defunct newspaper!

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