September 28, 2007

Why I Hate The Olympics

If you know me, you’ll know I’m not a sports fan, so the Olympics is of practically zero interest to me: I won’t watch it on TV, I won’t go to London to see something live, all it will do is keep me out of London for two weeks wherever possible. But I’m not bitter or angry about it for that reason. I’m not one of those people that goes “They’re spending my taxes on something I don’t want! How dare they!”, even if I did get increasingly pissed off by the (predominatly London-based) media’s overwhelmingly positive attitude towards London’s bid in comparison to thier universal derision of Manchester’s.

You see, even though I don’t care about sport, it’s a big thing for a lot of people, and this is a chance for us to host the biggest sporting event in the world, featuring the top athletes at the peak of thier careers gathered together for an amazing event. It’s a big, impressive, and worthwhile thing. Afterall, sport is one of the pillars of our society: the sports and the arts account for the majority of our recreational activity, and have done since Roman times and earlier.

Some of you may see where this is going.

Because the Arts are another pillar of our society, so you have to wonder, what’s the Arts-world equivalent of the Olympics, what’s that big event that brings people of together from all over the world to celebrate it. Well for a start it’s not a moving event, it’s stuck in one place. So we can’t bid to get it over here then? Well actually, it already is. The biggest Arts festival in the world is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sounds like marketing gumpf, you’ve probably heard it a million times, but let it sink in for a second the biggest arts festival in the world – and that’s not even including the Book Festival, Film Festival and International Festival that all overlap it.

But here’s the problem. Every year, ticket prices for Fringe shows go up. Every year, accommodation costs for people that want to stay there rise, as landlords rent thier properties out for 3-5 times the normal rate. The performers arn’t getting rich either. Most make a loss as the venue charge increasingly higher sums of money to rent increasingly delapidated performance rooms to people wanting to put on a show. Slowly but surely attending the festival, either as a punter or a performer, is being priced out of the range of more and more people every year. Meanwhile the goverment spend nearly half a million quid on an Olympics logo while doing nothing for the Fringe.

The Olympics are costing us 2 billion pounds. And that’s the conservative estimate. Figures of closer to 9 billion are what many are claiming to be the true cost. And for that we get something that will only be used for two weeks ever. Sure, it’ll include redevelopment work that will benefit people in the area and there’ll be a load of new sporting venues that will sit empty until being sold off after the event but still.
Imagine what even one billion invested in Edinburgh for the benefit of the festivals would bring. Better transport links, more accommodation, purpose build venues, renovation of existing venues. And while some of this would serve a lesser purpose 11 months of the year, at least it’ll be used on an annual basis, and for twice as long as the Olympic stuff to boot.

And that’s why I really hate the Olympics at the moment, because we’re pissing billions up against the wall to get the biggest sporting event in the world in our country just one time, while we already have the biggest arts event in the country every single year, and we’re losing it and doing nothing about it. It makes me feel ill, to be honest. Lets make the most of what we have before we go looking for something else eh?

- 10 comments by 2 or more people

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  1. Mathew Mannion

    Forgive my ignorance, but how is “They’re spending my taxes on something that isn’t the thing they should be spending taxes on” different from “They’re spending my taxes on something I don’t want!”?

    28 Sep 2007, 09:25

  2. I disagree with complaints of cost. It’s very easy to look at the initial cost of development at, to put a small figure on it, £100. However, what benefits will come from extra money brought into the country? Let’s put this at about £30 – not even factoring in future generated revenue, which might constitute another £40-50 on top of that. In this case, things like the Olympic Village have a future use, for example as accommodation, so you longer-term might save a tenner here. The infrastructure improvements would save businesses maybe another £10. Suddenly I’ve pulled £90 of benefits from a £100 investment whilst being conservative and without even trying to consider other things.

    It’s easy to be drawn into the “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO MUCH MONEY SO SOON” headlights without considering the hidden long-term financial benefits, which often substantially cover the costs.

    28 Sep 2007, 12:26

  3. Mat – the difference is one of arguing from a logical rather than a personal viewpoint: if the government decided to spend our taxes on giving you an all expenses paid around-the-world cruise, I imagine you’d be happy. But there’s no way you could ever argue that it’s how our taxes should be spent.

    Luke – I know some of it will be clawed back, but however you rhyme or scan it, investing money into something designed to cater for sporting events and accommodation and transport for a far higher number of people that will be there outside of that two weeks, is going to result in a lot of stuff left redundant. But as I’ve pointed out, it’s probably worthwhile as the Olympics is such a big and awesome thing to host. But what I’m doing is trying to compare like-for-like, the world’s biggest sporting event with the world’s biggest arts event. The same arguements over return on investment and the lack of use of stuff out of season apply to both equally. The difference being The Fringe is 4 weeks annually, the Olympics is 2 weeks once, ever. And the government are spending billions on the Olympics, they spend £34,000 yearly on the Fringe. The amount invested in the Olympics is equivalent to nearly sixty-thousand Fringes, even at the lowest estimates.

    My problems lie in that gulf. If someone suggested spending a billion on the Olympics and a billion on the Fringe I’d be happy. And I’m sure, if London hosted the largest Arts festival in the world, and faced problems keeping it open to everyone, while Edinburgh won a bid to host the Olympics and would be getting all the investment, you’d be reading variations on this blog entry with the words changed around in every single newspaper bar The Scotsman.

    28 Sep 2007, 16:39

  4. You argue your case well Dean. I like that in a blogger. :)

    A lot of it I would blame on the fact that the Fringe is an annual event whereas the Olympics are, certainly in London’s case, are a once in half-a-lifetime thing. Now sure even 50 fringes doesn’t come close to the cost of one Olympics, but the Olympics are an opportunity for a massive development which any annual event doesn’t offer.

    The other problem with the Olympics is that, like most sports in general, it’s quite specialised and therefore would require purpose-built venues; arts events can survive in a lot of “unusual” places without the need for massive short-term investment. I wouldn’t, however, begrudge some parts of Edinburgh being redeveloped or even rebuilt with the Fringe in mind, as they would be reused in the long term for other events as well as providing a “higher quality” venue for future events.

    I still think a lot of the general negativity about the cost of the Olympics is purely at the short-term size of the figure, which is far easier to put to the layman than indirect benefits.

    02 Oct 2007, 17:54

  5. corneilius

    Hi There,

    I have an Olympics Satire Song by the name “Olympics Schmolimpricks!” which you might like, and it can be heard here : it draws a link between drug taking in Sports, in the Military and in boardrooms, and the use of advertising as propaganda…....

    or paste this link

    to go to the music page

    There is also a video on youtube here

    The song draws a link between drug use in the military, in sports and in business board rooms, all for the purpose of ‘achievement’, making the connection between advertising, sports, news, war and propaganda.

    I have been told that “it’s a bit sharp!” .... good, and so it should.

    I have number of other satirical songs, based around rewriting ‘pop’ tunes by adopting the melody and twisting the lyrics (usually the original lyrics were not that great, but the nature of a catchy melody is that it stays in ones mind… annoying at the best of times…...

    “I don’t like Geldof!” rewritten as “I don’t like Mondays!”

    “Streets with no name” rewritten as “Thieves with no shame!” ( can’t sing it though the melody is too pathetic….whiny)..

    “Hotel California!” rewritten as “Dark desert Highway!( in Iraq)”

    Am currently working on “Waterloo” rewritten as “Portaloo” following a tumble in one of these hideous devices…. at a festival.

    Hope you enjoy the music, and if you do, please spread it ‘round…..

    Kindest regards


    do what you love, it’s your gift to universe

    06 Jul 2008, 17:47

  6. homeopathy

    Even I don’t like the Olympic games but when anyone from my country won medal, I like it very much.

    14 Sep 2009, 04:56

  7. lucky

    im fed up of this london olympic,its the royal wedding all over again,i dont like sports so why strangle me with the olympics,oh not forgetting the old ladys jubilee rot,im fed up of being british in this tory scud country

    01 Jan 2012, 06:16

  8. lucky

    surely there are folk who hate olympics like me,i have other interests and why the hell should i pay tax for this event i dont want,thank god i dont live in tory london,im sure sick cameron will be in the front seats paid for by us,also the out of date german stock royals,come on uk please wake up,im more english than these german royals

    01 Jan 2012, 06:21

  9. homer

    like god, money is purely an illusion to excuse men from doing something useful.

    16 Jan 2012, 09:45

  10. richard

    I have no interest in sport whatsoever, leaves me utterly cold.

    I did read a couple of years ago at all the disruption this charade had initiated, small local activities jeopardised, modest local facilities demolished or somehow gone and ditto allottments of long standing all to make silly ‘white elephant’ venues for the sport centric zealots. Its always a handy agenda for the politicians, tho it does fck all for me. I can never forget my revulsion at the image of Tessa Sanderson freaking out at the news London ‘had got it’ ... oh dear…......

    30 Mar 2012, 08:03

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