Big sports events like the Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Game are a financial boon to host cities, bringing short term incremental revenue to the area and enabling longer term infrastructure such as roads and buildings that remain for years after the event concludes. Perhaps the most magnified of these examples is the Olympics, Winter or Summer. So I was saddened to read the following from Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor as he covers the Olympics from Vancouver,:
“The underground train stations are pristine. Police officers, imported from throughout Canada, seemingly patrol every street corner.
Volunteers wearing powder blue ski vests or jackets answer every question with a smile whether they're providing dinner suggestions or directions.
Vancouver, as beautiful as any city in North America, wants us to see all it has to offer during the 2010 Olympics.
The city does not want us to see the Eastside, about a 15-minute walk east of the exclusive waterfront area and the fashionable shopping district on Robson Street. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games (VANOC) doesn't want us to see the Eastside either.
It doesn't want us to see its homeless. Or its drug addicts. Or its mentally ill.
That's really the problem with any mega event that descends upon a city, whether it's the Olympics or the Super Bowl coming to North Texas next year.
Local governments and organizing groups pour so much money into making the host city look its best that the less fortunate among us get overlooked.
To be fair, the organizers of these massive productions typically do include a philanthropic component to the overall gameplan. These often involve major non-profits and their regional affiliates working with league officials and players to benefit the community in the days leading up to the event. But is it enough given the tremendous windfall generated by the event? And I for one cannot find any cause related or social activities tied to the Olympics. While it’s OK not to go above and beyond, according to this report, the principals involved with the Olympics and Vancouver as host have not lived up to basic levels of decency. Or to their own ideals.
The Olympic ideal is all about the human spirit that crosses all boundaries of race, religion, and politics and allows all to compete on a balanced playing field. The official Olympic creed is as follows: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
We owe it to each other to ensure that the human spirit can thrive, and that everyone can play the game of life on the same balanced field where can they can at least have a shot in the struggle, even if they can’t win.
[read the entire column here ]