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The Olympics should be scaled down.

The Olympics have often been billed as 'the greatest sporting show on earth'. The origins of the Games go back to Ancient Greece. In the meantime, over the centuries having fallen into desuetude, in 1894, a French aristocrat, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, revived the idea of the Games and, in 1896, the First Olympics of the modern era returned to their roots and were held in Athens. And so, as a result of the noble Baron's initiative, modern Olympism was born.

Nowadays, the Games cost mega dollars to organise and stage and involve thousands of athletes, officials and volunteers. The 2008 Beijing Summer Games involved 302 events, 10,178 athletes; a further 6,000 or so officials; and some 70,000 volunteers. All having to be housed and fed, apart from the costs of getting there. Beijing cost billions of dollars and lasted for 16 days. The next edition of the Summer Games will take place in London in 2012, and already the budget for organising them amounts to 9.3 billion [pounds sterling], and this cost is escalating. Some commentators expect the cost to rise to over 12 billion [pounds sterling] by the time the Games are held!

The Olympics are administered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, under the provisions of the Olympic Charter, the present version of which dates from 7 July, 2007. For each edition of the Games, pursuant to article 46.1 of the Charter, the IOC establishes the so-called Olympic Programme. In other words, the sports that will be included in the Games. Under article 46.2 of the Charter, the decision to include a discipline or event in the Programme falls within the competence of the IOC Executive Board--the so-called IOC 'Cabinet': a very powerful and influential body indeed within the Olympic Movement as well as in world sport! There are currently 25 so-called 'core' sports and 3 additional sports in the Programme.

These sports include such 'sports' as beach volleyball, tennis, association football, basketball and various disciplines of cycling, including BMX cycling. They also include the more traditional sports, such as the marathon, the long jump and the javelin, which, in the opinion of the author, more fully reflect the ancient Games, which comprised running, jumping and throwing.

By any and all accounts, the 2008 Beijing Summer Games were the most successful Games ever--but then every IOC President so pronounces and describes each of the Games! They were also remarkable for their spectacular and lavish Opening and Closing Ceremonies! Not least the pyrotechnics, for which the Chinese are world renowned. So, London has a hard act to follow. A correspondent writing in 'The Times' newspaper following the end of the Beijing Games, suggested that London should not try to emulate these ceremonies, but that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, a larger than life and colourful character, should cut a ribbon to declare the London Games open; and to close them merely hand over the Olympic flag to a representative of the Host City of the 2016 Summer Games, yet to be decided, without any further ceremonies! Low key, but cost-effective!

For some time, within and outside the Olympic Movement, many have thought that the Olympics had become too big and unmanageable. And that the number of sports and events should be scaled down. Amongst them, is the present IOC President, Dr Jacques Rogge, who described the 2008 Beijing Olympics as being the end of an era. In other words coded language that future Games should be on a smaller scale.

I would entirely agree with him and would suggest that the Games go back to their roots and include only the original running, jumping and throwing sports of Ancient Greece. Apart from the fact and the farce that the Olympics are supposed to be for amateur sportsmen and women. How tennis qualifies and the likes of Venus Williams, who is a professional tennis player is able to participate and, moreover, win a gold medal, defeats logic and credulity! After all, as the Preamble to the Olympic Charter declares sport is a human right and every individual should have the opportunity of practising it. Not just multi-millionaires. What a farce!

However, such calls for scaling down the Games will almost certainly meet with opposition from several quarters--not least the 'TOP' Olympic Sponsors, the likes of VISA and COCA-COLA, who pay some US$100 million for the privilege; sports marketers and commercial and public broadcasters; as well as powerful political forces and players in international sport, such as the likes of Sepp Blatter, who runs the world's most popular and indeed most lucrative game association football! They would not like, I am sure, to see their power and influence eroded.

Call me old-fashioned and a crank, if you like, but, if it is not too late, we should inject more sanity into sport and its organisation and protect and safeguard its essential integrity--not only for the benefit of the present generation of sportspersons, particularly at the grass roots, and fans alike, but also for the benefit of the generations to come. Baron de Coubertin must be turning in his grave at the present state of affairs!
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Title Annotation:OPINION
Author:Blackshaw, Ian
Publication:The International Sports Law Journal
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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