The True Benefits of the Olympics

Aryan's picture writer Aryan looks at the differing opinions about London hosting the Olympics and comes to a novel conclusion.

"So it looks like the summer is finally back. While many of us may not have seen our beloved Sol since way back in April, its timely return has coincided with the dawning of the grandest worldwide event of the year. The sun is shining brightly on the British Isles, the athletes are warming up, and thousands of spectators from all over the world are waiting eagerly in gates of Olympia!

Well, Stratford.

I am, of course, referring to the Olympic Games, the longest running international sporting event in history, its inception dating back over two thousand years. Granted there was a fairly lengthy hiatus during its run - several hundred years, to be precise (longer even than Doctor Who was off the air) - but since its revival in 1896 it has been going strong, developing into a global event in which almost every nation in the world participates, an impressive feat in itself.

Split Opinions

Despite the impressive history of the Games, opinions on the 2012 edition seem to be divided, particularly in the UK. There tends to be a split between those who embrace the honour bestowed upon Great Britain in our hosting of the event, and those who believe the whole endeavour is a complete and utter waste of time, money, and effort, particularly in these times when we do seem to have other things to be worrying about, particularly on the financial side.

Not being an economist or a big sports fan myself, I can hardly pass judgement without bias.

But here goes anyway...

The polar opinions each seem to have merit on their own grounds, though it doesn't seem that they have to be mutually opposed. Sure, we are still trying to pull ourselves back up from the recent "recession", and whether or not the country will profit or lose from this endeavour seems so far unclear, but is that always what really matters? Did we really put in our bid solely to make profit? Doubtful, as that has never proven to be a sure result (see: Athens 2004). But even if it was a sure thing, surely there is something more symbolic about a millennia-old sporting event that brings together all the nations of the world to compete in games of physical prowess and skill.

That's compete, not fight. It has always seemed to me an ironic contrast that, in a world where human beings fight and kill each other based on artificial boundaries and cultural variety, members of these same nations can come together in one place, in one land, and basically play together.

"Ancient Symbol of Unity"

In a way it distantly echoes the historically engrained "Christmas Truce" of the First World War, where soldiers of both British and German armies put down their rifles during Christmas 1914 and walked out into the cold of No Man's Land in order to exchange gifts and play football. Even now, this story sounds like a joke. It so effortlessly highlights the ridiculous dichotomy of mankind's ability to fight and to get along.

Perhaps the Olympic Games serve to highlight this in a similar way? More members are represented by the International Olympics Committee than there are recognised nations in the world, including the likes of Palestine, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, many of whom are at odds with one or more of their close or distant neighbours. Yet they can all run, swim, and jump alongside each other in a spirit of friendly sportsmanship, regardless of the political conflicts attached to their native homes.

Perhaps with this idea in mind, we can overlook the disruption to London town, or the worries of losing money on the whole affair. We can cope with a bit of extra traffic for a month or two. We can manage a small loss; it won't likely break the bank (so far as the banks can be any more broken). But what the world surely needs is another reminder that we really are all the same, that we really don't need to conflict so much, and that we really can all get along without as much extraneous effort as some might think.

The Olympic Games are a complicated mish-mash of planning, finance, and international co-ordination, but beneath all of that it is an ancient symbol of unity in diversity, one that embraces all the peoples of the world without discrimination, and with this perspective in mind any Briton should be able to feel pride for their part in hosting the Games this summer.

Given that we probably won't win many medals, it's comforting at least to know we have that!"

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