Editorial—The Closing Ceremonies

The 2020 Olympics have finally started in Japan.  These Olympics enjoy widespread condemnation from the citizens of Japan, with some 83% not wanting them to be held, and 10,000 volunteers of the 80,000 total having quit before the games even started.

Tokyo has declared that there will be no live audiences for the events as only 22% of the population is currently vaccinated and international travel to Japan is banned from most countries.

Yet the games continue.  They continue because the contract signed between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the host city of Tokyo gives final rights to decide if the games go on or not solely to the IOC.  And, at least in my opinion, the IOC has long lost any sense of their original mandate as a spectacle to unite the world, and instead have become focussed on the finances of owning such a spectacle.  After all, how can you say you’re uniting the nations of the world when the very nation you’re performing in doesn’t want you there?

But for the IOC, it doesn’t matter if half the athletes refuse to go for fear of COVID, or if the events are lackluster because there are no crowds.  For them, what matters are the broadcast rights.  Broadcast rights that make up 80% of their revenues.  Broadcast rights purchased by companies like our own CBC.  And I don’t say this lightly, but maybe this Olympics, being held in opposition to the very people hosting it, is a sign that it’s time for the IOC to come to an end as well, ideally by media agencies simply refusing to pay for the rights in future.

I don’t say this lightly.  I enjoy the spectacle, I enjoy watching the Olympics, and no doubt the athletes enjoy being able to participate on a well-viewed world stage, but there are other global sporting events, and all it takes is for the various media agencies to make a conscious decision to devote, together, their considerable resources to one of those other events.   Or even, amongst themselves, to come up with a new one.

And maybe if they do, they’ll go back to what made the games special—their rarity.  I used to be rabid Olympics watcher.  I’d track the events, wake up at odd hours in hopes that I’d catch a broadcast of amateur wrestling or even just something other than swimming.  But I don’t feel that same fervor anymore.  I haven’t since the IOC decided they needed a more stable revenue stream and moved to the separate years for the winter and summer games.  An Olympics year used to be special.  If you missed it, it would be a while before you got to see them again.  That gave it something.  Now, I find I’m not too concerned if I miss one of the opening or closing ceremonies.  I don’t find myself drawn to trying to see when or if an event I like will be broadcast, because I know that there’ll be another Olympics not too far away.   It’s like that old country song, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?

So maybe if we simply ended the Olympics for a while, I might find myself hoping they come back.  Because right now, it’s rather the opposite.   Enjoy the read!